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.


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