A New York bus driver and my snowball

Osso

Darrow, Freddy, Pete and I were standing on the corner of Ditmars Boulevard and 77th Street in Queens, New York.

The snow had tapered down to a light flurry, but there had been significant accumulation. Our entertainment for the evening was throwing snowballs at passing city buses.

Ditmars Boulevard was a main thoroughfare in Queens, where we grew up.

Chucking snowballs at buses was one of several urban sports we participated in. Pete was winning the contest; he had about a dozen direct hits.

I, on the other hand, was woefully behind, maybe five at best. I think my low score was because I knew what we were doing was wrong. But then Pete said something to me, something that young boys hate to hear.

“Come on man, what’s wrong with you?”

Those words were my catalyst. I looked to my right and coming up the hill was our next target. Great plumes of white smoke billowed up from the vertical exhaust pipe of the red and tan bus.

It was on the far side of the boulevard, which made the throw farther and more difficult.

I waited, took careful aim, wound up and threw. As I watched my snowball sail across the street, I noticed the bus driver’s window was halfway open. It was at the last second that I realized the snowball was going to go right through that opening, which it did, and hit the driver in the side of his face.

At first, my friends and I laughed, but it was short lived as the startled driver wiped off his face, and turned to look at us. There were no passengers on the bus, only him.

I heard the hiss as he set his parking brake. We watched as he opened the door, and we all started to run in different directions when he got off the bus and began to chase us.

It was difficult to run very fast because it was so slippery, but I had a pretty good lead on him and thought he had little chance of catching me.

I turned around to see how far behind he was, and that’s when I lost my footing and went down. I quickly got up, now he was only 25 or 30 feet away.

I started running again. I got to the corner of 21st Avenue and 78th Street, paused and that’s when I felt his hand on the collar of my jacket.

“Gotcha!” he said.

He grabbed me, I fought him off. He took me by the shoulders and moved toward the red brick wall where we played handball. It was full of graffiti surrounding a sign that proclaimed, “No Handball Playing.”

He lifted me up by the shoulders and threw me against the wall. I was screaming at him, telling him to put me down, to leave me alone.

I was scared. What was he going to do? His face was only a couple of inches from mine, he was snarling.

Then the most unexpected thing happened. He set me down, the anger melted from his face.

He looked straight into my eyes and said, “Sorry kid, I got a little carried away, please don’t throw snowballs at bus drivers anymore.”

He turned and walked away, back toward his bus. I stood frozen. A minute later, Darrow, Freddy and Pete came around the corner.

“You got away?” Pete asked.

“Nah, I slipped and fell, he caught me.” I replied, regaining a bit of composure and a speck of pride.

“What did he do?” Freddy asked.

“He told me not to throw snowballs at bus drivers anymore.”

“That’s it? I thought he’d kill you. What a chicken he was,” added Pete.

“No, Pete, that dude was no chicken, man. He was cool. I’m goin’ home,” I said to my friends.

I turned away, they were all looking at me, question marks on their faces. I crossed 21st Avenue and walked the four long blocks to my house. I felt lucky, repentant and decided to just leave it at that.

Ron Osso, a resident of Charleston, was born and raised in New York City. He served in the Army and later worked as director of photography shooting TV commercials and corporate film, and video in Chicago. He has recently completed his first novel and a memoir.