Favorite White Trash Moments #3

3. Place: Same bus station, same summer. As a “baggage agent,” my side duties included spreading kitty litter on the many puddles of oil leaked beneath parked buses, helping to clean drunken men’s vomit from the restroom floors and (least frequent but most entertaning) rousting intoxicated bums from behind the dumpsters.

One sweltering evening, at the end of the 10 p.m. “run” — a cluster of bus arrivals and departures — some passengers complained to me and a coworker of a yelling voice coming from behind one dumpster located alongside a nearby freight dock.

Usually one of us would scold the winos, or nudge them with a foot if they were sleeping, to tell them to vacate the premises or else we would get a cop to make them do so. Malevolent behavior toward the passengers was a definite no-no and, in the mind of my shift supervisor at the time, was free license for one of us bigger freight-handlers to appear on the scene and take additional action.

This one, however, got belligerent with me also, cussing loudly, waving a long green glass bottle at me, and banging it on the side of the dumpster, as if trying to break it for use as a weapon. That’s an even worse no-no. With no law enforcement officials nearby and a belligerent drunk at hand, use of force was necessary. Without saying one word, I relieved him of his bottle, pitched it into the dumpster, spun him into a hammerlock and tossed him halfway across Browder Street. He sat there on the centerline and gazed at me, head tilted askew, drooling, with the biggest bloodshot cross-eyes imaginable. I offered more of the same, but instead he wisely staggered away in the general direction of the Federal Reserve building. Man, that dude stunk too. I still smelled his body odor in my work shirt at home the next morning, through all the usual sweat and diesel smoke.

The reputation of the bus station as a hangout for drunks was overblown. His whole sixteen years there, my dad (who wasn’t quite as big as me but far more short-tempered) only altercated with a handful. They were mere entertainment to us working grunts; but to passengers, they were nuisances at least, menaces on occasion. And to all of us, they were poster children for failure to take personal responsibility for one’s weaknesses, addictions and/or mistakes in life.



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