Strangers in a rainstorm

When I was young, Seattle was a city of rain, frequent and sometimes ferocious. The very heavy rains I remember from decades ago don't seem to happen very often any more. Maybe because I don't get out much.

We had a rare doozy downfall a week or so ago. I was waiting for a bus at the Burien Transit Center, and it was raining so furiously I had to come out from the shelter and stand in the deluge. It was excellent, coming down harder than the shower at home, which has a lazy nozzle.

Drenched but wearing a slick jacket that bounced most of the water off me, I stepped onto my bus when it came, settled into a sideways seat neat the front.

I used to hate the sideways seats. If the driver is brake-happy, you gotta hang tight to keep from sliding off. Most drivers have a soft touch, though, and the sideways seats give you a good view of almost everyone on the bus. I enjoy the people watching, much more than I enjoy people. Look at that bum with all his bags, and that old lady all dressed up like she's headed to church...

"Put your shoes on!" the driver shouted before we'd even left the station, and I quickly doublechecked. Yup, I was wearing shoes, but he wasn't yelling at me. With only ten or so passengers aboard, I quickly spotted a barefoot woman, toward the back of the bus.

In the heaviest downpour I'd seen since returning to Washington, she was showing her toes and carrying her shoes. I had two wonders — first, of course, was wondering why a grown-ass human would be out in the rain barefoot, but almost as baffling, why would a bus driver care?

Ride the bus often and you'll see plenty, and the drivers see everything eight hours every day. My guess is, that driver's seen that woman before, and she did something more outrageous than going barefoot in a downpour.

She was black, about 30 or 35, and dressed sexy for summer — but it's November, in Seattle. Most days hit 50°, but some days don't, and she was wearing only a sports bra on her upper half, cargo shorts, and the shoes she was lacing up, as instructed by the driver. No socks. No jacket.

Myself, I had two layers of sweatpants on, a heavy sweatshirt, wool socks, shoes without being told, the aforementioned waterslick jacket, and a hat borrowed from Colonel Blake on MASH — and I was still a bit shivery.

Why was that woman so underdressed?, I wondered, while also wondering why should I give a damn? I am not my brother's keeper even among my own brothers, so I sure can't be caring about kooky black women on the bus.

But jeez, if she goes around like that through a Seattle autumn turning to winter, she'll be dead by spring.

Staring is rude, so I looked elsewhere, but glanced back at her too frequently, wondering, what's her story?

Well, why don't I walk back there, take an empty seat within talking distance, and ask her, "What's your story?" That's the human thing to do, and it might make an interesting page in this diary of a fat slob I publish daily.

Mulled it over for several blocks, but, nah. I'm not a guy who starts conversations. Plus she was fairly attractive and I'm a man, so what could I say that wouldn't sound like I was hitting on her? And I am not hitting on a black woman half my age who's barely dressed in November, and needs a nudge from the bus driver to wear shoes in a rainstorm. 

Plus the floor of the bus was wet and the bus was moving, so I might slip and fall. That's never happened, though — the bus has handrails all along the interior.

Just another rationalization that keeps me from saying anything. That's my whole life, actually. Often I'm thinking I should say something, but saying something risks saying the wrong something.

It's safer to say nothing, so usually I'm the quiet guy in a sideways seat who's hoping you won't talk to him, and who's highly unlikely to say anything to you. Even if you need someone to talk to. Even if I do. 



  1. I'm with you, sadly, and a lifetime of bold statements never made. Only a few times I'cve siezed the day as they say, most times I let the day get away.

  2. This woman reads like a problem, so y.ou probably did the right thing being quiet. As a general rule, though, at least in my experience, when you chance it and say something its usually not the wrong thing. :)

    1. Once in a great while I get it right. Glad you're still out there.

  3. Public transit is a whole world unto itself. Thanks for your jaundiced eye on it all. I can't imagine being a bus driver, what you have to put up with day in/day out. Especially when driving through a storm, with all those riders trusting you to their safety. I rode on a bus from Cotati around 48 miles north of my city of SF during a torrential downfall. It suddenly swerved around a curve and almost toppled over the cliff! I decided then to exit in the next town (San Rafael) and sit things out in a coffeehouse before resuming my ride home. My nerves were jangled, to say the least! My ticket was good for the rest of the day, so no extra expense was incurred. Passengers were mostly Latino day workers, house cleaners, gardeners and the like.

    1. Did you feel the bus skidding? Scary. Sounds like Greyhound, a ride between cities, and I love that too, though I'd rather take a train if one's available.

      Mostly I ride the city bus, rarely feeling unsafe, often feeling entertained.

    2. Good one, Cranky, ava ready fo sho...Finally typed up the story of meeting you, I've been on a roll with the ava myself, may submit the Lucky Donut episode in about a month...

    3. I'm eager to be embarrassed by whatever the hell you thought of me in the doughnut shop. Were you near enough to hear me fart? Did I absentmindedly pick my nose? Inquiring minds want to know.

      It hadn't occurred to me that piece was AVA-worthy, but what the heck you've talked me into it, so I'm sending it.

    4. Yes, your piece is a good one, even the last words, I think...Oh shit, I forgot to say how goooood my donut was...

    5. There was an article locally about the area's best doughnut shops, and Happy did not even merit a mention. An outrage, I tellya.


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