There was no way he could make it in time. He stopped running and bent over with his hands on his thighs, trying to catch his breath. The bus trundled past him and down the road in its partitioned lane. He made a half-hearted attempt to wave at it, as if the driver would even notice, let alone stop. It passed both him and the stop at the end of the block without so much as a hiccup. His boss wasn’t going to be thrilled with this.
He straightened up and pulled his phone out of his pocket. This was the fourth time in as many days that he’d be late if there wasn’t miraculously another bus right behind the one that had just abandoned him. He checked his app to find that he could easily hop on another bus, if he waited here for approximately 87 minutes. He sighed and shoved his phone back into his pocket, hiked up his backpack, and started walking. It was a little more than two miles, so he’d be late for sure, but at least not as late as that damn second bus.
He stuffed his hand into his other pocket and groped around for his headphones, only to come up with nothing but lint. Apparently the soundtrack for this walk would be only the noise of traffic punctuated by the occasional sounds of a neighborhood waking up and dragging itself to work. Much like himself, it really didn’t seem to want to go today.
As he passed the coffee shop, he saw a horde of zombies standing in what could generously be described as a line waiting with dead eyes and relaxed jaws for something they desperately hoped would make the day suddenly tolerable. He wasn’t a big coffee drinker, but he found it pretty hard to imagine that a few sips of latte would work like Popeye’s spinach to transform a person from tired and lazy to ready and eager. He thought they probably knew that too, but were still hoping.
He stopped at the crosswalk to wait for traffic. The orange hand illuminated on the signal told him that it wasn’t yet safe to cross, which he could have guessed thanks to the steady stream of cars fighting through the intersection for every inch of space they could gain. The road ahead in all directions was utterly choked full, but that didn’t stop anyone from forcing their cars into even the slightest openings, knowing full well that they’d still be there when the light changed. Honks and wild arm gestures were in no short supply, but they seemed to him half-hearted. Like they were fully aware of the futility of it, but had to make the bare minimum of effort to cross off some required item on their morning checklist. With everyone essentially parked for the foreseeable future, he decided to chance it despite the signal’s warnings and crossed through the maze of cars and SUVs.
A few blocks ahead he saw the bus stuck in the same mire that had trapped all the other commuters. Its dedicated lane had saved it, but only this far. He waved at the driver as he passed by. She waved back with a smile.