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"Out out out, please."

"Hey, put that crap away. No smoking fentanyl on the bus." The driver was a black man, with very sparse gray hair, and very little patience for drug abuse.

We were on a southbound A, and everything the driver said was through his microphone, broadcast on speakers all along the ceiling of the bus. Good speakers, too. You couldn't miss a syllable. And you couldn't shut it off.

"I mean it," he said like he meant it. "Please put that crap away."

The bus was half-full, and I was halfway back. If you're wondering, no, I hadn't been smoking fentanyl. Also hadn't seen anyone smoking anything between me and the front of the bus, so it must've been someone sitting somewhere behind me. It's a very long, bending bus, though, and I didn't care enough to crane my head toward the back. Turn around on the bus and your neck might hurt all day, especially at my age.

"No smoking anything on the bus," the driver explained into his microphone, "but especially no smoking fentanyl. That stuff just rots your mind."

He watching the rear-view mirror more than traffic. That mirror is huge, and gives the driver a view of the passengers, more than of anything behind the bus.

"Put it out," he said again, over the bus's speakers. "Put it out now, please, or get off the bus." We waited at a stop light, and everyone watched the driver watching everyone his oversized rear-view mirror.

"Please put it out," he said again, but he drove the bus another block. Still staring into his rear-view, he then announced, "That's it. Off the bus, Mr Fentanyl." At all times, this driver was polite. He never raised his voice. Didn't have to. The PA system made his voice unavoidable.

And he never left his seat. He pulled the bus to the curb, across an intersection from the next bus stop, leaving us directly in front of a public school. And then, still seated in the driver's chair, he pushed whatever button opens the doors, looked in the mirror again, and announced over the PA, "Out out out, please."

We waited, and the bus driver said again, "Out out out, please." He paused a few seconds and said it again. We waited perhaps two minutes in front of that school, kids watching from the sidewalk, as ten times the driver announced, "Out out out, please."

I never turned to see, but apparently whoever was smoking fentanyl was very leisurely gathering his possessions. Finally Mr Fentanyl stepped off the bus, at the front doors to Federal Way High School. He was a white man, maybe twenty or 25, scruffy and wearing no shirt and flipping the driver the bird. I would've liked a picture of that, with the kids laughing behind him, but I didn't have my phone.

Whoosh, the bus doors closed, and we rolled away.

Through the power of scolding, a microphone, and his rear-view mirror, that driver had saved fifty passengers from the scourge of drugs, all without leaving his seat.

He wasn't finished with his monologue into the microphone, though. As the bus rolled on in heavy traffic, he informed all the passengers again, "That stuff just rots your mind," and, "Why anyone would smoke fentanyl is beyond me."

After a moment of relative silence: "You know, this is my third run, and he's the second passenger I've ejected for fentanyl, just today, and it's not even 8:00 in the morning. There were two yesterday, too..."

At another light, he said nothing, but when the light turned green he began again. "It's just evil stuff. It ought to be illegal," he announced to everyone on the bus.

"It is illegal," someone behind me shouted, and in the rear-view I saw the driver chuckle.

"Not illegal enough," he replied over the PA system. "You only have one brain, one life, why would anyone waste it away with that crap?"

The driver continued his anti-drugs and specifically anti-fentanyl remarks for several minutes, and eventually some passengers began giggling. A few seats in front of me, at half-volume like she was talking to a friend or perhaps to herself, an old white lady said, "No, this is not normal bus driver behavior."

Someone behind me said, "Maybe he's on fentanyl," and I joined the smattering of laughter that followed. For the last few blocks of my ride the driver allowed longer and longer moments of silence, which were appreciated by all. Then I got off at HMart to stock up on cheap vegetables and weird packaged Korean foodstuffs.

Some people are afraid of taking the bus, so I should mention that the ride back was uneventful. Most rides on transit are just rides, but I don't write about the ordinary bus trips — all the times everyone simply looks out the window, and the bus takes us where we're going, and nothing happens on the way.

5/18/2022  

itsdougholland.com
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