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Good Name Gone Bad:

It felt good to be back on the job. Bus driver Ben F. Duffy had been driving a bus for twenty years; twenty years, five times out and five times in, every day. However, for the past ten days he had been on suspension without pay.

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He was being punished for having foolishly recommended to a ten-year-old boy that there would be no harm in the boy viewing the solar eclipse--the first one in years--through what Ben referred to as the "double smoke" of Ben's sunglasses and the tinted window of the bus. Not knowing any better, the boy did as Ben suggested and, the next day, he was seeing spots before his eyes when he tried to read. It seems he was able to see the words running off to either side of his focus, but he was unable to focus on individual words.

To Ben's credit, he had advised the boy against looking directly at the sun, advice the boy took; nevertheless, some damage to the boy's vision had occurred, and it could only be hoped that that damage wasn't permanent.

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Ben's punishment was suspension without pay, "until the matter resolves itself," as it was nicely phrased in a letter to Ben from the highest city transport officials, which was their way of saying that the boy's parents had better not sue the bus company, or Ben's suspension would be rescinded, after which would follow a second letter, one informing Ben of his immediate dismissal from service. To everyone's relief, the boy's vision cleared up after eight days, clearing Ben, too, as it were.

Yes, it felt good to be back on the job, and jolly Ben had bounded up the steps and into his seat with all the buoyancy a 280lb man could muster. All of his regular passengers were glad to see him back, and things rolled along as usual, until Ben stopped in front of the elementary school and picked up the boy who had been temporarily partially blinded.

Ben told the boy how good it was to see him well again, to which the boy replied: "You big fat dummy," and went and took a seat in the rear of the bus. What the boy had said cut Ben to the quick, for he knew all of the passengers within earshot had heard. Ben was embarrassed by it. He had always had an excellent reputation as a bus driver.

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All conversation on the bus ceased, and an uncomfortable feeling prevailed until the boy was let off at his corner; he left through the back door, so he didn't have any more unpleasant words for Ben Duffy. Gradually the day-to-day chatter among the passengers resumed, and things were largely back to normal. Ben tried to put out of his mind all the recent events that had left him unsure of himself.

There were certain landmarks that Ben passed along his route each day--a fire hydrant here, a grocery store there--and upon passing these landmarks, he would always glance down at his watch to see the time; that was how he kept on schedule, and he always made his stops right on time. But now, whenever he glanced down at the watch encircling his tight, thick wrist, out of the corner of his eye he saw his identification tag pinned to his chest; it read: Ben F. Duffy, but looked so much like Big Fat Dummy as to become a distraction he could not ignore. In fact, he grew so aware of his identification tag, he became obsessed with it, even to the point of driving his bus through the occasional red light or stop sign, and passing riders he hadn't noticed flagging him from the curb.

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Ben became such a menace behind the wheel that even his regular passengers, riders he had known for twenty years, reported him to the transport authorities, who immediately fired him. By the time that happened, Ben was more than happy to turn over to them his identification tag, the root of his trouble, scratched by age, the thing that had caused him to lose his good name as a bus driver.
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