Sunday, August 30, 2009


BUS STORY # 148 (Dry Heat)


It’s somewhere in the upper 90s when we board the eastbound Rapid Ride at Nob Hill. A few steps inside the bus and it’s obvious the air conditioner isn’t working. But it isn’t until I take a seat by the window that I realize the blower is on and it’s blowing hot air. I quickly move to the aisle seat.

Across the way, the guy sitting opposite me has just made the same discovery.

“They’ve got the heater on.”

“Sure feels like it.”

“Somebody ought to tell the driver.”

I guess that means somebody other than him. Right now, it means somebody other than me, too. I figure the bus driver’s been on this bus long enough to know exactly how hot it is.

Still, it surprises me that no one is shouting out stuff like “Hey, driver, it’s hot in here!” or “Hey, driver, turn on the air conditioner!” Is it possible every single one of us has come to the same rational conclusion and opted for intelligent adult behavior? Hmmm. OK, then it must be too hot to muster the effort.

Between Nob Hill and San Mateo, I decide it wouldn’t be so bad if the fan weren’t running. I think about getting off and waiting for the next bus. I calculate that would cost me around 20 minutes.

At San Mateo, the first two boarders are young girls in shorts and tank tops. They head straight for the back of the bus. In no time at all, I hear one of them exclaiming how hot it is. Next thing I know, they are working their way toward the rear door against the incoming stream.

“Let me outa here! It’s too hot!”

They exit. I stay. I figure I have something in common with those stable rent-a-horses who will not be deterred by anything when they’re headed for home.

At Louisiana, the driver gets up and starts opening all the windows. He pops the lock and pushes the window out. As soon as he lets go, the window, hinged at the top, falls back into the closed position.

When he gets to my window and unlocks it, I ask him if the blower is stuck. He answers in a thick, Middle Eastern accent. All I can make out is “air conditioner” and “broken.”

I push my window out. It closes when I let go.

When he’s done with the windows, he pops the emergency exits in the roof. There are two of them, and they look like they’ll work as air intakes when we get going again.

Once we get going, I can’t really feel much difference in the heat. I wonder why the blower is still running. Then I wonder if hot moving air is better than hot dead air.

It could be worse. This could be Houston. Or Atlanta. Or New York City. Or anywhere else not here in the desert where the heat is dry rather than oppressively humid.

Venting the bus has taken a good five minutes. We finally get to Lomas just in time for me to see my connection roll on through the intersection. Great. The next bus doesn’t come for another 20 minutes. 20 minutes of waiting in the heat of the afternoon. In the unshaded heat of the afternoon. Well, thank God it’s dry heat . . .

1 Comments:

Blogger JM said...

Perfect photo to go with your story.

Here in NYC you learn to view a sparsely-populated subway car next to a crowded one with suspicion. 8 times out of 10, the AC's broken. (Don't ask about the remaining two. Sometimes you're rewarded for your risk, other times you've got a body fluid issue to deal with until you can switch cars at the next stop.)

12:07 PM  

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