Arrivals and departures

Two ladies who work at Haugen & Dahl usually wait for the bus with me, and I don't know them, so we rarely speak. Usually we nod at each other.

It's a large park and ride facility, so there are actually benches at the bus stop, and if the ladies get there before me, some afternoons they've both risen to offer me a bench seat.

Which is weird. "I'm old, but I'm not that old," I said to them on Friday, declining the bench. Jeez, how decrepit do I look? I can still stand and wait for a bus.

When the #550 comes, they sometimes step aside and wait for me to get on, but I motion that they should get on before me. Ladies first and all that rot, even though they tend to get the very last seats and I end up standing all the way across the lake and into downtown.

They're of an ethnicity unknown to me but definitely not white, so it's slightly unsettling that they're so deferential.

On Friday I stood for the ride, and thankfully, neither of the ladies offered me their seat on the bus. I would've declined, yet again.

Standing on the bus is actually kinda fun, if it's not too long a ride. The bus to the city is entirely on a freeway, and anyway I sit on my ass at a desk all day, so it's nice to hang from the straps and let myself twist a little as the driver switches lanes.

It's fun for that first ride, anyway. When we get downtown, and I walk two blocks to the next stop, I want a seat on the bus that takes me home. Half the time I don't get a seat, and the strap-hanging is far less enjoyable when it's half an hour in stop and go traffic.

♦ ♦ ♦   

For the first three days of last week, a woman rode my bus who looked a little like my beloved Stephanie. A young Steph, though, in her 20s — the age she was when we met, so it was like looking at her through a time portal.

Back then, Stephanie was healthy, full of attitude and well-deserved self-confidence, and overflowing with dreams. Then came me, and she always said that her dreams came true.

But then came kidney disease. How or why she got it, the doctors never explained or even wondered. To them, it was irrelevant, as was everything about Stephanie that wasn't her kidneys.

She was the luckiest woman alive, she told me, before and during her health issues. Now that she's dead, she still tells me that, now and then.

And I am the luckiest man alive, to have had 21 years with her, but if there's a God in Heaven, He'd better be wearing a protective cup when we meet.

And that woman on the bus? Haven't seen her since Wednesday.

♦ ♦ ♦

At the other end of the spectrum, there's a very young woman who's on my bus after work once or twice every week, and it saddens me every time I see her. I don't think she's even 18 years old, but her entire presentation — ridiculously short leather skirt, unruly hair, bloodshot eyes, no facial expression, and enough makeup to paint a house — suggests that she's a prostitute commuting to the night shift downtown.

On Friday, though, she surprised me, as people sometimes do. When she stepped off the bus near Pioneer Square, she gave the driver a very cheery, "Thank you, sir," and I noticed that she'd combed her hair and tidied herself nicely during her ride.

It's a reminder, to keep my snap judgments in check. I'm ignorant of present-day fashions, can't guess the girly-woman's story, or anyone's really, and it's a bad habit to try.

Anyway, I believe that people in general and especially women shouldn't be judged on appearances. It's a habit that's unbreakable, though, so my new theory is that instead of trashy that woman is actually chic. Maybe she's a model, or a waitress at Canlis.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Riding the morning bus to downtown, a man shouted from the front, "Ouch, ouch, ouch!" Not like he was in mortal paid or anything, not an enthusiastic ouch, a bored ouch, but still unusually loud.

He said it a few more times, and a woman sitting near him asked if he was OK.

"Ouch," he answered, and unlike me she left her seat to approach him and see if she could help.

After the fifth "ouch," a man from the bus's accordion middle got up to help, and finally the driver pulled the bus to the curb, and he came back, too. The three of them leaned over the ouchy guy, but I couldn't see whether they were offerings actual aid. Too many heads were in front of me, poking into the aisle like my head, blocking the view.

We were stopped on a freeway on-ramp, which isn't ideal, but I guess the situation required it. Cars honked at the bus as they swerved around us, like the bus driver had simply decided to take a cigarette break or something.

I didn't get involved, of course. Never got out of my seat and joined the chorus of, "You OK, mister?" After a few minutes I didn't even watch. I napped, as is my habit on the morning bus, even when it isn't moving. 

There was no CPR. No ambulance came. Nothing interesting happened at all, as you may have noticed. It was just ten minutes of, "Should we call someone?" and "Would you like a drink of water, mister?" and mostly "You OK?"

Eventually the man said he was OK for the nth time, and everyone went back to their seats, including the driver, who then drove us the rest of the way downtown. The ouchy man got off at his normal stop and presumably survived the ordeal.

We all arrived downtown a little later than usual, so I missed my 7:36 connecting bus that usually doesn't show up anyway, and took the 7:42 that I usually take instead. Got to the bus stop just as that bus got there, and walked right on with no waiting, so the first morning when I'd had a good excuse, I wasn't even late to work. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Downtown at 7:22 AM one morning, a drunk with a beer in his hand stumbled off the express doubledecker bus from Everett.

"Rowan!" he shouted, waking up a bum who'd been sitting on the sidewalk, asleep against a shuttered storefront. You must be Rowan, I thought, looking at the barely-awake fellow.

The drunkard from Everett hurried over to him, and as Rowan and the bum talked, a can of beer tumbled from the bum's bag, followed by an extension cord. The bum cursed and took the bag of his shoulder, and weirdly it had a zipper at the bottom, and the zipper had been unzipped, so more junk fell out — earbuds, Twinkies, a jackknife, a baggie of weed and a can of mini-weenies… 

He picked up stuff at about the same pace stuff kept falling out, and maybe I smiled, sorry. The bum caught me smiling, dropped his bag, and approached me, but not angry-like. "I know you, bro," he said, but I didn't know him and said so, smiling fakely.

He insisted, as my bus approached, and I excused myself without saying anything.

Stepping onto the bus, I flashed my Orca card at the device, but as happens half the time, it didn't work. Great tech. I flashed it again, as the drunk shouted after me, "I'm sure I know you, bro." When the device didn't recognize my card the third time I gave up, walked toward the back, and took a window seat on the sidewalk side.

Looked over at that drunken bum one more time, and he was looking back at me, waving.

And you know, he did look a little familiar. Did I know him once? I lived in Everett, late 1980s… but, nah. He only looked familiar because I've seen ten thousand drunken bums, but I waved back as the bus rolled away.



  1. I'm ON to you! Haugen and Dahl? You pulled the fake name right off of a Hagen-Daz carton!...Eel

  2. Could've sworn I pulled it outta my fat ass, but now I'm confused. Isn't Hagen-Dahz an ice cream? Is it also a cartoon?

    1. Oh, wait, I get it. Haugen & Dahl sounds kinda like Häagen-Dazs. Just a coinkidink, I assure you. Haven't done ice cream for months, but if I did it would be Halo Top.


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