The midtown bus lurched along, carrying its random assortment of humanity.
“Someone should do something,” muttered the old woman, squeezed between two middle-aged businessmen on the seniors’ bench near the front.
The driver, balding with a spreading middle, hunched over the wheel, his eyes on the road, his ears closed to what was happening behind him.
A line of swaying passengers, dangling from hand straps, stretched halfway down the aisle.
A 30-something man with tattoos on his bulging arms sat stoically on an outside seat, no one daring to squeeze past him to the empty inside seat.
In the back, a half-dozen older teens in jeans and black T-shirts lounged on the benches.
“Hey, Paki! What you doing on our bus? Why don’t you go back to India where you belong?” one of them called.
Their target was a wiry, middle-aged Latino with a brown face and black hair, last in the line of swaying standees. He kept his face down, staring at the floor.
“Hey, babe! Want to come back here and give us some honey?”
Their target had switched to a young woman in a black skirt and a white sweater. She glanced up, horrified, then turned her face away to stare at the back door.
Two burly men in a middle seat glanced back at the commotion, then turned up the volume on their iPods.
“Paki, when you get off this bus, we’re going to stick you real good. You should’ve stayed where you belong.”
“Somebody should do something,” muttered the old lady again, perhaps a repetitive phrase of burgeoning dementia.
The bus lurched to a stop to let on one more passenger, a middle-aged woman in a wrinkled business suit. She joined the line of standees.
In the pause, an old man near the back doors slowly pulled himself to his feet, leaning heavily on a wooden cane. He lurched out of the row into the swaying line. He looked back, into the face of a dowdy, middle-aged woman in green slacks. He bowed slightly and waved his gnarled free hand toward the vacated seat.
“Ma’am, would you like to sit down?” he said.