The rules of riding the bus

An old white guy was running toward the bus, looking like he was about to die from the running. Mouth open and panting like a dog, gray hair flopping every direction, he was waving to get the driver's attention. As if anyone could fail to notice death on the run and wearing plaid.

It's futile to chase after a bus, of course. You're not going to catch up with a bus that's ahead of you, unless it's waiting at a red light. Even then, drivers will ignore runners who catch up with the bus anywhere but at the bus stop. That's a rule.

The old man in plaid was running from ahead not behind, so he had some chance of success. The driver might wait for him, unless the bus was seriously behind schedule or the driver was a prick. The driver this morning wasn't a prick.

She's a black lady with purple braided hair, who drives this route regularly. It's the #60 bus, from Broadway to Westwood Village and back, by way of Beacon Hill, and she's taken me to or from the library there, numerous times. She always says good morning or good afternoon to everyone when they get on. Nice lady. Give it a few months, she'll probably know my name. Give it a few years, maybe I'll know hers.

When she saw the skinny old white man running himself to death a block ahead of the bus, saw him wave his arms, she tooted the horn at him, toot-toot, signalling that she'd seen him. He slowed to a trot, and when he got to the bus she stopped and lowered the bus and opened the door to let him on.

As already mentioned, picking up passengers anywhere but at a bus stop is a violation of bus rules, but it's also a kindness, and today I was in favor of kindness so screw the rules.

Even better, we were on a weird set of streets in Georgetown where the bus makes a hairpin turn and briefly blocks traffic in five directions at once, and she'd stopped in the middle of the hairpin to let the plaid runner on. No traffic could move while the bus was stopped, but there wasn't much traffic anyway. Only three cars were forced to wait. When I'm in charge, cars will always have to yield to buses. It'll be a rule.

The runner climbed aboard, very relieved and full of thank-yous for the driver. He collapsed into a sideways-seat, and clearly running so fast and far wasn't ordinary for him. He was sweaty and too old and frail for such effort. We rattled onward, and ten minutes later he was still breathing hard. 

♦ ♦ ♦

A few blocks farther on, the bus pulled into a stop and a young white man, very obviously destitute, hesitated at the door. "I don't have any money," he said very quietly to the driver. "Can I ride?"

She waved him aboard with a huge, happy sweep of her arm, and he said thanks and limped to a sideways seat, with two giant plastic bags in one hand and his dog on a leash in the other.

Something was wrong with the man's leg. It had an odd bend below the knee, like it had once been badly broken and worsely repaired. After noticing his limp, the next thing that registered with me was wow, this guy was filthy — clothes stained in several colors, hair matted, his beard poking out like a city skyline. Probably he stank, but being three rows away and sightly stuffed up this morning, I couldn't say for sure. He was as well-behaved as his dog, though. Certainly no trouble. Just another man with no money.

The driver waited until he was settled, with the dog on the seat to his right, his bags on the seat to his left, and then she gently gassed us forward and into traffic. It's a rule, I think, that bus drivers wait until frail passengers are seated, before moving the bus again. It annoyed me when I was young, but somehow doesn't piss me off so much now that I'm old.

It's definitely a rule that you gotta pay to ride, of course. An idiotic rule. Transit is a public benefit, and anyone who wants a ride should be welcome. Nobody should need money to board the bus, any more than to walk the sidewalk.

Occasionally drivers enforce the rule that all passengers must pay, but they're the same drivers who hate answering questions, and get into arguments with riders, and love quick accelerations and sudden stops. Even people who pay hate those drivers.

The dog, of course, violated yet another stupid rule, because pets are only allowed on the bus if they're caged or muzzled. Like life, transit has some stupid rules, but I say, long as a critter isn't jumping on people or pooping in the aisle, welcome aboard.

In the sideways seat opposite the limping man who rode free and his dog and his bags, the still out-of-breath old man said, "Can I pet him?" and the limping man said, "Sure, he'd like that." Then came lots of "Such a good boy" human-to-dog prattle, and there ought to be a rule against that.

An old lady came up from the back of the bus to pet the dog, too. She was full of questions for the limpy man. "How old is he?" "What's his name?" "How long since he's seen a vet?"

Lady, this guy doesn't have bus fare; he certainly doesn't have money for a veterinarian. The dog looks fine. Butt out.

♦ ♦ ♦

Someone behind me rang the bell, and got off at the Denise Louie Center. As she stepped down from the back door she yelled to the driver, "Thanks, and I love your purple hair!"

"Why, thank you," the driver shouted back, but I don't think the woman heard her. She was already on the sidewalk, headed down the hill, earbuds in and bopping-walking.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Some people say thanks to the driver, when they're getting off the bus. It's stupid, of course. They're just doing a job, but sometimes even this cranky old fart say thanks. My stop was a mile or so later, and I'd decided I was gonna shout, "Thanks, and I also like your purple hair!" It might get a laugh.

The stop is above a subway station, though, so it's busy. Eight or nine of us were queued to squeeze out the back door, and a bunch of people were getting on at the front, and the driver was saying good morning to each of them. I didn't want to holler through that crowd, so I just quietly stepped down and walked on toward the library.

An old guy walked the same sidewalk with me at the same pace, and I suspected so I glanced and yup, it was that wheezing geezer who'd run to catch the bus. The plaid proved it. We crossed McClellan Street together, and obviously he was headed for the library, too.

We walked without saying anything, which is what I usually prefer, and he smiled when I held the door for him at the library. Then we both went into the men's room, which was weird but made sense. We're both old, and old men have to pee frequently. The men's room is right behind the library's front door, so I always pee when entering. Him too, maybe. For old men, it's like a rule.


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1 comment:

  1. That hairpin turn has to be 13th and Bailey and Stanley. I know it well...


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