The bus that stopped

After work, it's a ten minute walk to the bus stop, at a busy park-and-ride facility, where I catch the bus from the island to Seattle.

It runs every ten minutes, exactly matching my walk, so most days a bus I could've been on goes past as I'm walking toward the bus stop. Oh, well. It's only frustrating when I miss a bus by half a block or less, and anyway, it's never a long wait for the next bus.

A couple of times, when I've been waking toward the bus stop, the bus hasn't driven away without me. Both times it's because the driver was in the drivers-only restroom at the park-and-ride, and that's perfect bus luck. Give me more drivers who need to pee, please. The driver steps out of the john, I flash my bus pass, and away we go.

That's what I thought was happening on Tuesday, as I walked toward the bus stop. A bus was already there, but instead of leaving it had its flashers on, and as I walked closer the bus continued not leaving. Awesome, right?

When I got to the bus, though, the driver wasn't away in the restroom peeing, he was in his seat. He smiled at me, I flashed my pass, took a seat, and still the bus remained.

Some people were complaining, asking why we'd been idling for so long. The driver answered, but Sound Transit is an equal opportunity employer. What he said was probably in English, but nobody on the bus could make sense of it.

One lady said loudly, "I've got to pick up my kid at day care in twenty minutes. Let's go, driver!"

Her shouting triggered others to shout, and pretty soon the bus was raucous, but still not rolling. Just idling at the bus stop.

Then the next bus arrived, pulled in behind our bus, and several of the grumblers got off, walking back and get onto the second bus. I asked the driver nice as I could, "Why are we waiting?" He shook his head yes and smiled, and said something about Superman's foe, Mr Mxyzptlk.

"I'm going with the others to the bus behind us," some white lady said, and some black lady followed her off the bus, and I followed the black and white ladies, but we were too late — the bus behind us had pulled into traffic.

The three of us waited, and so did the bus we'd left. In ones and twos, more people got off the waiting bus to join us, muttering what the hell.

The white lady and the black lady seemed to be flirting with each other, and the bus that had just left must've been late, because it was only a few minutes before a third bus pulled up. 

We got on, and more refugees from the first bus got on, and our new bus left the station. But then, as drivers do, our driver stopped in the street and opened the passenger door, right next to the first bus's driver, and asked, "What's the problem?"

Out his window, the first driver said twenty syllables that stretched about five seconds, and he pointed at his radio phone dookickey, which I guess means he was waiting for guidance from Dispatch?

Our driver replied, "Got It, man," and waved and closed the door. She didn't chuckle until after we'd driven off, which is only good manners.

Before we'd rolled along, though, toward the freeway and the bridge to Seattle, being briefly stopped in the street had given me a good view inside the bus I'd left. There were still about twenty passengers on board, though I'm not sure they count as passengers, since they weren't going anywhere.

Out of all of this, they're the mystery that's left me stumped. Why would so many people stay on the bus, when the driver was refusing to drive it?

I've spent a kooky amount of time wondering about it, since that afternoon on the island. Twenty people stayed behind, perhaps 'loyal' to the driver, and wouldn't budge off a bus that wouldn't budge. That's about a third of the bus's population when I first got aboard.

If anyone else has ideas, please share. The only explanation I can come up with is — and I'm sorry, but this fits with a longtime observation — that about a third of Americans are really, really stupid.


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