Sunday, December 29, 2013

BUS STORY # 373 (Some Kids These Days)

We’re picking up a wheelchair rider. The driver activates the lift, then goes and pulls up the bench seat where the chair will be going. Once the rider is aboard, he wheels quickly into place and reaches down for the front straps himself. The driver finishes with the rear strap, then heads back up to his seat.

The rider gets the front straps hooked up just fine, but he seems to be having some kind of problem. It looks like it might be with tightening up the slack.

A kid boards the bus after the lift has retracted back into place. He looks late high school, maybe older. Backpack. He swipes his pass, then turns toward the back. He notices the wheelchair guy bent forward and fooling with the straps. The bus is already underway when he squats down, says something to the wheelchair guy, and the wheelchair guy sits back up. The kid does something -- it sounds like he’s cranking something, like a manual wind-up device -- and then he stands up and takes the bench seat across the aisle.

Later on, we get to the place where the wheelchair rider is getting off. I can see an old guy waiting by the bus stop sign. He starts to move toward the door when it opens, but the driver calls out for him to wait. Then he activates the lift.

The wheelchair guy has already disconnected himself from the front straps and is working on the back one when the driver finishes the job for him. The driver follows the wheelchair toward the front, but he leaves the bench seat up against the wall.

Once the wheelchair has reached the sidewalk and the lift has once again been fully retracted, the old guy waiting starts to board. He’s got a cane, and he’s slow and a bit unsteady.

He puts his change in the till, then turns to find a seat. Just as he realizes the bench seat is up, the driver starts to pull out. The old man catches a pole and braces himself.

The kid sitting on the bench seat behind the driver -- the same kid who helped tighten the front straps for the wheelchair guy -- jumps up and pulls down the bench seat, then helps the old guy over to it.

I’m feeling like I should go up front and say something to him, acknowledge what he did and thank him. Something. But then I think that would probably only embarrass him. He doesn’t deserve that, and so I leave it alone. But, hey, kid, thanks. And, yeah, it’s a big deal.


The photo at the top of this story is downloaded from the website for the City of Charlottesville; Customer Service: Paratransit.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

BUS STORY # 372 (The Kindness Of Strangers)

I’ve been posting bus stories weekly through seven Christmases now -- the eighth is just a few days away. I’ve always tried to have a Christmas bus story for Christmas week, but finding one -- mine or someone else’s -- is the hardest thing about Bus Stories I do. They are not easy to come by.

This year I’m having to settle for a generic, non-denominational, “nice” bus story that at least evokes some of the human warmth most of us associate with the holiday spirit. I’ve also tried compensating for the lack of a Christmas story with the fine Christmas bus photograph at the top of the page.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ride.

I’d been reading at the bus stop. The article was absorbing, and when the bus did come and I got on and took a seat, I continued to read.

I try not to read on the bus because when I do, something might happen that would have made a good bus story if I’d been paying attention from the start.  I've lost a few that way.

But it was an absorbing article, and this morning I kept reading.

I was still reading when I realized we’d been at another stop for a long time. I looked up. Through the front windshield, I saw a guy trying to load his bike into the rack. He had to have been at least 70.

He had the bike lifted just above the rack, but he was wobbling and the bike was going this way and that, and I thought he’d topple over with the bike on top of him before he’d get it fitted into the narrow tire slots. I thought maybe I should get up and go out there and help him, but while I was considering this, he landed the bike where it needed to go.

He had to bring the bar up over the front tire to secure the bike, and that turned out to be a challenge, too. Once again, I thought maybe I should get up and go out there... He got it in place.

He literally staggered onto the bus, leaned up against a pole and pulled his wallet out, then fished out a dollar. He’d already fed the dollar into the machine when the driver asked him if he wasn’t a senior.

The old guy cupped his hand behind his ear. “Say again?”

The driver said again, then explained he only needed thirty-five cents.

The old man said all he had was the dollar.

It was roughly three minutes after I started watching before the whole process was completed. The driver made sure the old fellow was seated before pulling out.

Several stops later, at one of the announced intersections that had “near side, far side” stops, he stood up and went over to the driver and asked if he stopped on the far side. The driver told him he did. The old man told the driver that’s where he needed to get off.

I was sitting two seats behind his, and I knew I was gonna follow him out and get his bike off the rack for him. But when we got to the stop, someone else in front of me had the same idea. He told the driver what he was going to do, and then went outside and lifted the bike right out and set it on the sidewalk. Then he fumbled with getting the empty rack raised up. I saw the old man point. I heard the driver honk the horn and point. But it took a bit before he figured it out.

I saw the old man thank him, and when he got back on the bus, I heard him tell the driver he was sorry about that, he was hoping to save the driver some time.

I kind of liked the way he made it sound like he was just trying to keep the bus on schedule.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Holidazzle Twinkle Bus 2009,” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the permission of Doug Wallick.  You can see all Doug Wallick’s photos on Flickr here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

BUS STORY # 371 (An Apple For A Teacher)

The rain drops have just started to splatter when the bus pulls up. “You got here in the nick of time,” I tell the driver, who’s turning on the wipers.

Two stops later, a woman gets on who obviously got caught in the rain. But she’s excited. “It’s raining! Whoo-hoo!”

She takes the bench seat across from the driver, directly in front of me. She reminds me of my school teacher sister-in-law. Same haircut, same glasses, same cheerful disposition.

A few stops later, a handful of junior high students board. All but one head straight for the back. The holdout takes the seat facing forward, across the aisle from me.

He’s wearing jeans and a dark, plain-front T-shirt. Burr haircut, recent.

The woman leans forward and asks him if he skateboards.

“No, ma’am.”

Does he ride a bike?

“Yes, ma’am.”

She asks him if he’s from here.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Well, Lord have mercy, you have good manners. Who taught you those manners?”

“My parents.”

I sense he’s a little uneasy now. The bus is relatively empty, and everyone can hear.

The woman says she could tell right away he was raised right. She was a teacher, and she could always tell the ones who were raised right. They were polite and made good grades and stayed out of trouble.

He’s a good kid, brave. No wincing, no ducking. Nothing to do but get through it. Once, he starts to look back, then thinks better of it.

Another stop, and the bus fills with high school students. They fill, as always, back to front. Two students last to board take the bench seat across from the retired teacher. Both of them are wearing the oversized shirts and shorts. Her hair is dyed white-blonde; he’s got a lip ring and a sideways cap. He puts his arm around her.

The teacher leans forward and asks them how school is. The girl answers, politely, pleasantly. They begin a conversation.

I am thinking the teacher genuinely likes the kids, and that they sense this. Either that, or they have been as well raised as the kid in the first row facing them. I can’t tell from his expression, but I am guessing he’s grateful for the new couple.

The girl reaches in her backpack and offers the woman an apple.

I am twice struck by what has just happened. Even though the girl had not yet boarded the bus when the woman told us she had been a teacher, here she is, a student offering a teacher an apple. More: she’s one of the high school kids from Manzano. “Manzano” is Spanish for “apple.”

The teacher is gracious and appreciative. And concerned: she hopes this isn’t the girl’s snack she’s taking.

Oh, no, explains the girl. “They donated a bunch of apples to the school, and we could all take as many as we wanted.” She opens her backpack and shows the teacher a bunch of apples. Then she looks all around her and asks the rest of us if we want an apple.

“You are so sweet,” the teacher tells her.

A girl and her toddler board at the next stop. She looks high school. The toddler’s in a hoodie. The polite kid stands up and offers them his seat, then heads for the back. That’s a win-win; he’s safely out of range, she’s seated thanks to him.

The girl puts the toddler on her lap.

The teacher leans forward and ask how old he is.

A conversation begins.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Red Apple New Look Flx !07 Ex AC Transit 35 ftr” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the permission of remie4494. You can see all remie4494’s photos on Flickr here.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

BUS STORY # 370 (Shorts 33: Other People's Shorts 2)

Downloaded from Muni Diaries; originally posted by Fionna Escalona on Twitter. by busboy4
Downloaded from Muni Diaries; originally posted by Fionna Escalona on Twitter.


On the M100 bus in Inwood with about 30 obnoxious Tweens -- the bus driver pulled the bus over, got on the mic, stood up and gave them all a stern talking to about all the swearing and bad behavior. Dead silence. Then thunderous applause and church meeting callbacks from all the adults. Awesome.

Posted on Facebook October 10, 2013, by Emily Ackerman, via my daughter.


In my 20s I moved from San Francisco to Manhattan to pursue my (speech-obliterating cough) acting career. The Bay Area is fuzzy and friendly and relatively warm. Manhattan is spiky and cold and exhilarating. I was terrified. And my first few months there were probably the loneliest of my life. I wasn’t sure I was going to stay. One miserable winter morning on the bus, late for the day job I hated, I asked a woman near me what time it was. She looked closely at my face and said with great tenderness, “It’s 9 o’clock, baby.” It was as if she had looked into my soul and saw my self-doubt and fear. And when she smiled at me, it was as if the city itself was opening its arms. I stayed for four years.

From an essay published October 21, 2012, by Carolyn Russell, in The Boston Globe Magazine.


Formal. Everything about her shrieks staid, stiff, and starched. From the top of her tightly wound hair bun to the tips of her perfectly black and pointed shoes, everything fits in her orderly and unembellished look. Her face is not unattractive, although frozen in a completely neutral, Stepford-esque mask. As the bus makes a particularly swoopy turn, her black handbag momentarily swings by my view, and within its depths, I see something rather silky, with a garishly fabulous leopard-print. Somewhere, at some moment, someone is going to encounter the jungle cat that waits, purring, deep inside her formal carapace.

Posted October 13, 2013, 2011, by Richard Isherman, on Bus Stories: Observations on Life In Transit.


I was standing at my stop, sweating in the full sun and trying to keep the wind generated by cars whizzing by from blowing my skirt up, wondering if I should just get out the umbrella to give myself some shade.  That’s when a car with two typical South Carolina preppy, fraternity types stopped at the light nearby.  When one rolled down his window, I was expecting more bus stop lewd/rudeness.
But instead I heard:
Hey! I like your shoes!
I was so taken aback all I could say was, “Thanks!”

excerpt from the story posted June 9, 2009, by Sarah in the collected bus stories from The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo.


The photo at the top of this story was downloaded from Muni Diaries and was originally posted by Fionna Escalona on Twitter.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

BUS STORY # 369 (Old Tex Bus Story # 3)

VA Hospital Bus by FormerWMDriver
VA Hospital Bus, a photo by FormerWMDriver on Flickr.

This is part of a series I call the Old Tex stories. You can read about Old Tex here, and you can read the first two stories here and here.

The last time I saw Old Tex, he was carrying an orange duffel bag. He sat down in his usual seat in the back and shoved the bag under the seat.

I moved up to the platform and sat across from him.

This is it, he told me. They’re shipping me out to California sometime this morning. They’d been working him up at the VA for some back problems, but when they did the MRI, they found things were worse than they thought.

He had some fractures in his vertebrae down at the bottom of his spine, but it was the top they were worried about. It’d started putting out runners, trying to find something to hold on to. What it needed to hold on to was his brainstem.

They didn’t have anybody here who could do the work, so they were shipping him to a VA in Los Angeles.

I knew he’d been in an accident some time in the past, and I asked if this was all from the accident.

It was. He’d been in a terrible wreck. They air-lifted him to El Paso. He thought he was gonna die. But he didn’t. They did an MRI there, too, but his head was too full of blood for them to see what the VA docs saw here.

When he recovered, he was sent back to the VA clinic in Alamogordo where he had a home. Doublewide, on five acres. First time he went inside after getting back, he found it stripped clean of everything he owned. He called the sheriff, but nothing ever came of it.

He followed this detour down another for a moment, explaining some kind of connection between Alamogordo and the notorious Operation Fast and Furious. I had a hard time understanding what he was saying. What I got out of it was the guns came through Alamogordo on their way to Columbus, on the border, and a sheriff there got busted for being involved in gun-running.

He ended up losing his home. He’d not been making any payments when he was in the hospital. But it wasn’t the bank who’d cleaned out his place.

The folks at the VA told him he was in for a long hard three, maybe four months. They were looking forward to seeing him back here when it was all over.

That was almost a year ago. I haven’t seen him since.


The photo at the top of this story is posted in accordance with the conditions of permission to repost from Flickr by the photographer, FormerWMDriver, namely that "the website watermark ( is visible if available AND credit is given to FormerWMDriver for capturing this photo."