Saturday, September 29, 2012

BUS STORY # 308 (Gettin' My Kicks etc.: The Sequel)

Gun On Bus by busboy4
Gun On Bus, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

Last week, I wrote a story about a troublesome event I witnessed on the # 66. If you haven’t read it yet, you probably should before reading this post. You can do that here.

The day after, same time, same station at The Frontier, waiting for the same Red Line, I catch sight of a little guy in one of those mesh, foam-front baseball caps I’ve never seen anyone wear except old men. He’s working the stop for, as it turns out, a cigarette. When he gets to me, he stops, squints, then says, “Hey, you were on that bus yesterday.”

“You mean the 66?”

“Yeah, with that crazy guy.”

He says he was sitting right across the aisle from the girl who told that guy to get off the bus. He cackles at this.

I ask him if he knew what the argument was all about. I was too far back to hear.

Yeah, he saw me back there by the back door. He was wishing he was sitting where I was. The crazy guy said he was packing a 24.

A 24?

Or a 25. Some kind of pistol. Old guy here was getting ready to hit the floor if he saw any sign of gun.

A gun, I am thinking to myself. A gun? In my calmest indoor voice, I ask him why the guy was so angry.

Cuz the driver wouldn’t let him ride for free.

So now I am wondering anew, knowing as I do now that the kid might have been armed, would I have done anything if he’d started toward the young mother who told him to get off the bus.

It makes me uncomfortable to think about having to live with the consequences of the choice I might have made.

On the other hand, we never really know what we’d do in such an extreme situation until we are there and make the choice we make, whatever it is.

Some of us have lived to tell about it.

And feel good about it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

BUS STORY # 307 (Gettin’ My Kicks On The Ol’ 66)

66 Central by busboy4
66 Central, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

I’m going home.

The 50 is on time and is smokin’ up Yale. I get off on Central and head for The Rapid Ride station at The Frontier. Depending on when the Red Line arrives, I have a shot at actually getting home 20 minutes early this evening.

I’m walking past the Olympia Cafe when the Red Line goes zooming by. If the light at Cornell will turn red, I have a shot.

The Green Line goes roaring by seconds later. Both buses clear the intersection and pull up at The Frontier.

The light turns red just before I reach Cornell.

The Red Line is still there, and there is no traffic.

I cross against the light.

I’m at the very back end of the Green Line when the Red Line pulls out.

It’ll be another 15 minutes or so before the next one arrives. I’m definitely gonna miss that connection at Louisiana and Lomas that might have gotten me home early.

About the time the Green Line pulls out, the Central bus pulls in. Good old # 66. I decide to take it. I figure there is a chance it will get to Louisiana before 15 minutes has gone by, and then I have a chance to catch either the 3 or the 157 to Lomas before the Red Line reaches the same intersection.

Also, the 66 being the legendary route that it is, I figure there’s a good chance I’ll get a bus story out of this.

Be careful what you wish for.

I board with a bunch of other folks.

No surprise it is crowded. I’m lucky to find an aisle seat by the back door. The guy sitting in it gets up and changes seats just as I arrive. I sit and hoist my backpack onto my lap.

Up front, the guy that was behind me is discussing something with the driver. It doesn’t take too long to figure out they are at odds over the fare. The guy steps away from the till, takes off his shirt, remonstrates with the driver, puts his shirt back on.

Oh, boy.

He’s early to mid-20s, solid, buzz cut. His body language is aggressive. But sitting where I am, toward the back, with the motor and air conditioner running, and a bus full of adults talking and kids squawking, I can’t hear his voice at all.

I can’t hear the driver’s voice, either, until he says, “You need to get off the bus.”

We all hear that.

More angry gesturing, followed by the driver’s “You need to get off the bus now.”

No change in the guy, and the driver says, “If you don’t get off the bus right now, I’m gonna call security.”

The guy continues to argue and gesticulate.

The driver picks up the phone.

The guy carries on through the phone call and after.

A young woman in the front row calls out that people need to be places and make connections, and he’s making them late.

He stops, looks at her, looks back at the driver, and resumes arguing and gesturing.

Then the young woman hands the woman sitting on the bench seat in front of her a tiny baby. I had not realized until then that she had a baby with her. What I had realized is that the woman she handed her baby to already had a tiny baby of her own. The second woman is also young, and the two babies look to be the same tiny size.

After handing off the baby, the young woman goes to the back of the bus. I have no idea what is happening. The driver puts the bus in the kneeling position, then picks up the phone again.

A kid comes from the back of the bus and heads for the front. I recognize the kid from the 50. He’s thin and looks exhausted. He has a large backpack and a smaller bag, and I’d figured he’d just come from the airport after a very long flight. I remember he sat in his seat absolutely motionless, staring straight ahead out the front window.

Now he’s working his way up the aisle to the till. When he gets up to where the guy is still arguing, I see him reach in his back pocket. I figure he figures it’s gonna be easier and faster just to pay the guy’s fare.

But the guy doesn’t want his money. The wallet never clears the kid’s back pocket. Eventually, he drops it back, then pushes past the guy and exits. I watch him head wearily eastward along the sidewalk.

The young woman comes back to her seat and, still standing, calls out, “There are premature babies on this bus that need to make their appointments. Now get off the _______ bus, you _______!”

The guy stops again. He keeps his eyes on the driver, but after a pause, he turns and walks out the door.

Go figure.

The driver closes the doors, raises the bus back up. The guy returns to the front doors and stands right up against the glass giving the driver the finger until the bus pulls away.

I am thinking to myself we have all been remarkably blasé throughout this encounter. No hush in the conversational hubbub, no stiffening in the seats, no raised eyebrows or meaningful looks passing between riders. I’m thinking this is just another happens-all-the-time day on the 66.

The bus has begun to roll once again. I am processing my own suspended state of animation throughout the whole crazy tableau, and I am just beginning to wonder if I would have done anything had the guy started toward the young mother who told him to get off the bus.

That’s when the next Red Line goes blowing right by us.

I get home 20 minutes late.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

BUS STORY # 306 (The Superheroes Who Walk - And Ride - Among Us)

Homepage photo for the website TRANSiTMAN © 2007 Transitman by busboy4
Homepage photo for the website TRANSiTMAN © 2007 Transitman, downloaded from the website TRANSiTMAN. Photograph by Julie Ross.

Investigating the power of everyday actions, artist Christian French has discovered an unlikely venue for salvation: public transportation.

Exposed to freakish Bureaucratic Radiations while serving as Artist-in-Residence at Sound Transit, the mild-mannered artist was transformed into a rogue SuperHero with a mission to save the world by riding the bus.

SuperHeroism: the Adventures of TransitMan catalogues the artist’s/Hero’s experiences to date and explores the questions that face us all with regards to the choices we make on a daily basis. If it is possible to change the world through simple acts, do we then have an obligation to do so?

Before you answer, ask yourself  “Do I look good in Spandex?”


He boards, takes the bench seat behind the driver and in front of me.

He’s a big guy, in an even bigger gray T-shirt that covers most of his Los Angeles Lakers long shorts.  A blob of white knee between the shorts and the thick, rolled cuff of ribbed knee-highs.  White sneakers.  A Blue Tooth on his right ear. And a cap which captures my attention because it is a regular baseball cap without an adjustable band and without anything on the front.

He might be late 50s, early 60s.  Hard to tell, really.

He sets his tote bag on the empty seat beside him, then looks around, smiles at me, and extends his hand.

“How are you this morning?”

I tell him I’m fine, thank you, and ask back.

Oh, he’s busy.  Busy.  Got a lot to do this morning.

 First, he’s gotta go down to the University Hospital pharmacy to pick up some meds for his neighbor.  “That’ll be a zoo,” he says.

Then he’s gotta catch the 5 up to Menaul and catch the 8 to go pay his Comcast bill.

Then he’s gotta take the 8 to Eubank and wait for the 2 going south to Sam’s Club to pick up some other stuff his neighbor needs.

He needs to get all his shopping done before the 2 turns around and comes back to Sam’s Club, because if he misses that one, he’s gotta wait another hour for the next one.

He’ll take the 2 back up to Lomas where he can catch the 11 home.

He’s hoping he can get all this done before the afternoon.

Busy indeed.  I wish him good luck with that.

Shortly afterwards, a woman boards and takes the seat directly across from him.

He reaches out a hand, asks how she’s doing, and she asks back...

I don’t believe anybody raised on television and film would ever take this guy for a superhero, even though they are said to move among us in disguise.  Here’s a guy sounds like he might be somebody’s safety net, for no other reason than they are neighbors.  Makes me think twice about this guy and his particular disguise.

And if he does get all this done before the afternoon, well, he’s definitely some kind of  super.


The photo and introduction to this post were downloaded from the apparently (and sadly) defunct website TRANSiTMAN.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

BUS STORY # 305 (Portrait # 19: The Makeup Artist)

She’s sitting on one of the side-facing bench seats, holding a compact in one hand and applying lash thickener with the other.

A high schooler, probably on the way to Monzano, about ten minutes away.

A few minutes later, I realize she’s been working those lashes all this time, and she shows no sign of letting up.

Over and over and over and over and over...

And then she suddenly stops, takes a good long look in the compact mirror, moves the mirror around to catch different angles, then puts away the eyelash app and pulls a makeup pad out of the compact.

She starts applying powder.

A lot of powder. Over and over and over and over and over...

Several minutes later, she has managed to completely replace her skin with a flawless powder mask. “Kabuki” springs to mind. And that’s when I notice her hair.

It’s all poofed up and rolled back over the top of her head like some stylized, black lacquered tidal wave.

Her kimono is a black, lacy sweater thrown over the shoulders of a white, spangly tank top. She displays a bare, generously endowed midriff.

Now she’s got a pencil, and she’s working on the outside corner of the left eyelid. It looks like a smudge to me, but I know that’s because I don’t know any better. She knows exactly what it’s supposed to look like, and she erases with the tip of her little finger and edits the image.

The bus arrives at her stop before she can get to the other eye. She’s gonna have to go to class not fully prepared, an unfinished work in progress.

Unless asymmetrical eyelid accents are now the latest style...


The photo at the top of this story was downloaded from World of Female: “Most shocking ingredients in makeup.” The photo is credited to CulturesDiary

Sunday, September 02, 2012

BUS STORY # 304 (Just Blew In From The Windy City)

Baseball Cap by busboy4
Baseball Cap, a photo taken from the website by busboy4 on Flickr.

I’m on the Rapid, sitting in the aisle-facing bench just before the “accordian.” A boarder takes the seat beside me. The guy across the aisle looks at his shoes and says to him, “Those are different.”

He’s right. They’re tan, with black figures printed on them. At first, I think they’re slippers, but they’re not. The rest of him looks normal: blue jeans, black leather jacket, blue baseball cap. He’s got a Blue Tooth clipped to his left ear.

“I’m not from here,” he answers.

“Where you from then?”

He points to the big red C on the front of his blue cap.

“Ah, Chicago. How long you been out here?”

“Not long.”

“Whatcha do?”

“I’m lookin’ for a job.”

“How’s it goin?”

“It’s not. I’m thinkin’ of goin’ home.”

Turns out he’s done security work in the past, including being a bouncer at a bar. He’s not looking to be a bouncer.

The guy across the aisle asks him if he’s tried the public library downtown. Apparently, there is a big turnover in the security personnel down there.

Chicago says the reason for that is the library doesn’t want security to do its job. It wants security to be nice. “You start being nice and the next thing happens is you get your library all shot up.”

Local asks him if he has a resume. He does.

Local says he’s been told employers are now looking for resumes on video.

“Video? Like, of what?”

Of you, says Local. They want to see how you look, how you talk, how you’re dressed, you know?

Chicago shakes his head. Then he asks what he’s supposed to do, drag a video tape of himself around with him everywhere he goes?

Well, probably a DVD. And you’d send it.

Do you have to get someone to make it?

Nah, you can make it yourself.

What’re you supposed to say on it?

Same thing you’d have on your written resume. It’s so they can see you, see how you present yourself.

Chicago shakes his head, doesn’t say any more.

Local says it’s tough out there. He’s lucky he’s got some security experience, there’s bound to be work out there for security.

We’re pulling into the San Mateo station. Local stands up, reaches out a hand, and says his name.

Chicago reaches out to shake and says, “Nice to meet you.”

“Good luck to you, and God bless. It’s tough out there.”


The photo at the top of this story comes from the website. You can see it and 105 others here.