City Bus Poetry

I am a very social bus driver. I like to chat about during my rounds, preferrably with some of the many foreign tourists. For they provide me with an extra window to the outside World. I am blessed with a somewhat photographic memory when it comes to conversations that had become interesting. As occurred tonight. Very interesting for my American Facebook friends in particular. The message is my sincere hope that what I encountered is not a role model for the current American generation. That there are more brains involved. I have no illusion that I can educate people. But every now and then I try. I just can’t help myself.

During one of my trips to Amsterdam Central Station, eight American guys, age about 25, came in almost at the start. As just about everybody, they used my bus line to get to City Centre. Very loud folks, they stayed way up front in my vehicle, dominating about 45ft of bus space behind them. Focus of their conversation was whether a pay raise to, I believe, about 10 Dollar per hour at McDonalds was in order, apparently inspired by some Facebook meme in which that raise is criticized. I suspect that some of them indeed are flipping burgers in that fine Scottish establishment. They seemed in agreement that they were entitled to a raise.

Almost immediately, they dragged me into their lively discussion. One of them asked “Sir, what do YOU think?” I answered “I suspect that you’re asking the wrong guy.” He: “Why?” Me: “Do you really want to know?” He: “Yes.”, Me: “OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you. You may not like my answer.” He: “I wanna know anyway.”

From then on, it almost became a monologue by Yours Truly. It’s amazing how much ground you can cover in about 25 minutes. Here it follows:

“Who is entitled? What is entitlement? Like my job as a bus driver, working at McDonalds is an honest job. There is honor in flipping burgers there. It’s not for me. I’m glad you are doing it, so I can eat it. Are you entitled to a pay raise? I don’t know. You guys are what I call “fighting age”. Your peers of the very same generation can be found everywhere. Let me take you to a remote area, half way around the World for example. A huge sandpit you may call Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Libya. Let’s call it Afghanistan. Let me introduce you to guys who are, like you, in the prime of their life. A platoon full of them. Foot soldiers, about to do battle with an elusive enemy called Taliban in the Chora Valley. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

The guys in that platoon have been together since Boot Camp. They’ve become intimate friends, they’ve come to know each other better than their own brothers. That’s what happens in a phenomenon called “war”. A war they were sent in by incompetent politicians who know Jack Shit about what it’s like to put your boots on the ground there, since almost everyone of them managed to dodge military service. Instead they made it through College and University, by their parents’ money, and flipping burgers at McDonalds.

Down in Chora, all hell breaks loose. Bullets and explosions everywhere. One thing you’re sure of at that age of about 25, the others across that ridge are trying their damnest to end you. One moment you’re eating rations with you brother, the next moment he falls down. Blood gushing out of his temple. Your brother is dead. Another one accidentally steps on a dead cat on the road side, blowing him to pieces. Body parts everywhere. Apparently that little carcas was an IED. You know what that is? Improvised Explosive Device. KABOOM!

Those guys of the same generation as you never know if they will ever come back to the USA alive. “We are already dead.” Especially when they do a door-to-door sweep, never knowing whether half a dozen AK-47s will open up on them once they enter each house. Can you grasp the feeling? If not, I have a few movie titles for you: When Trumpets Fade, Hamburger Hill, Full Metal Jacket, We Were Soldiers, Home Of The Brave. Watch those, and learn.

Did you know that a foot soldier, you know, the one who is doing that lethal dirty work, so you can go to college, flip burgers, leave for home and go to sleep peacefully, can not leave that war overthere when he returns Stateside? He takes it with him. Inside. He has to wage another war, to become civilized again as a civilian. To function. To be normal, for his woman, eventual kids, family, neighbors, society. A battle to stay sane, because he has seen, touched and felt too much for one human being to bear alone. All this haunts him for the rest of his life. Especially at night, when that war revisits him in the shape of a very real nightmare. Causing him to wake up screaming, almost drowning in his own sweat.

Did you know that this foot soldier makes the same amount of money as a burger flipper at McDonalds? Do you think that’s fair? I think you get my drift now. Entitlement. I tell you about entitlement. Not the burger meister is entitled, the foot soldier is. He deserves way more, and your eternal gratitude. Pay raise at Mac? I think not. You have to earn your entitlement. Pay a price for it. Nothing is for free. I have to thank you in a way for understanding at least one thing. Now I know why it is possible to have a clown actually elected President of the United States, whether the name is Trump or Clinton. Because of this “entitled” generation, that is structurally dissatisfied and has an attitude problem, Ronald McDonald may end up in the Oval Office. By the way, Cental Station coming up.”

I park my bus, open up the doors. I have a few minutes left. They greet me. I have to give it to them, no one was angry or even irritated. They were just silent. I seem to have that effect sometimes. I sent them on their way with one last statement, more or less to defuse the atmosphere that I had created: “You guys make sure to paint my town, you hear. One more movie quote for you, the most repeated sentence in Donnie Brasco: Forget about it!”

And yes, you may conclude that I’m a Pacino fan…

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