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"This is the last stop."

Many of my bus rides end at the Burien Transit Center, where I switch to a different bus and ride away. Riding the same routes in reverse on my way back, that line also ends at BTC, where I get onto the bus for home.

When either route reaches the end of the line, an announcement plays over the internal speakers: "This is the last stop. All passengers should deboard at this time."

Hearing that announcement twice on every errand, going and then coming, I have it memorized — a dozen words, the mechanical intonation, the time between the first sentence and the second.

Sometimes I recite the lines along with the recording. Other times, I try to anticipate the moment the recording will play, and ask the ether, "Is this the last stop?" just before the recording says "This is the last stop." Then very quickly I'll ask, "Should I get off here?" before the announcement says "All passengers should deboard at this time."

This I do to amuse myself, but very quietly, so's I'm the only person who can hear me. On a particular ride on the #F bus, though, I was seated near the front, with no passengers near me, so I said my shtick at a normal speaking volume.

The bus driver heard and thought it was hilarious, and who am I to argue with a bus driver? We ended up talking for a minute, even after everyone else had stepped off the bus. High point of my day, it was.

Imagine that — an interaction with some stranger, who didn't annoy me.

♦ ♦ ♦

On a different day, I was in another uncommonly good mood, because I'd found five dollars blowing in the wind. When my bus came, I climbed on and noticed a middle-aged white-ish guy, diagonally opposite my seat. What got my attention was, he seemed inordinately happy, like me.

Avoiding eye contact, I faced out the window, but actually I was looking at this weirdly happy man. He sensed he was being watched, and flashed me a thumb's up. Well, at that I had to smile and actually look at the guy, so I said, "How ya doin', man?"

He smiled a little larger and said something I couldn't understand, couldn't even approximate. Being hard of hearing, by habit I instantly replied, "Say what?" And I do wish I hadn't.

The smiling guy said nothing, kept smiling, and I understood. He's weary of the language or accent barrier, and this particular morning he didn't want to climb over it. Gotta be tiring when it happens every day, right?

So I smiled back at him, then looked out the windows again.

♦ ♦ ♦

Northbound on the #C bus, there was an old, bald black guy sitting in one of the sideways seats up front. There was nothing noticeable about him, except that he babbled briefly — something about the rain. Then he was quiet. Then he said something else about the weather forecast, talking to nobody and everybody.

From my seat halfway back in the bus, he was the most interesting thing to look at, so I watched, and listened. 

At the next stop, a 30-ish white lady got onto the bus, pushing a baby stroller. She sat near the black guy, same side of the bus, and parked the stroller between them.

The black guy waved at the baby in the stroller, while the kid's mom bent over to lock one of the stroller's wheels, so it wouldn't roll away while the bus moved. The stroller's other lockable wheel was closer to the babbler, so he bent over and said, "I'll lock this wheel."

He locked the wheel, the lady said thanks, and for the next mile or so he smiled at the baby, and chatted with the lady, and that's my report.

People can still be decent. Ain't that something?

♦ ♦ ♦

Another day, another bus. I stepped aboard and recognized the driver. He was the same old guy who'd laughed at my rendition of "This is the last stop," but he didn't recognize me.

Which makes sense. He drives a bus, deals with hundreds of people every day. I'm a hermit, having no interactions with anyone for weeks at a time. So I remembered my moment with him from a week earlier, but he didn't remember his moment with me.

And by the way, I ain't sad about being forgotten. Usually I prefer not being noticed. Being forgotten is the next best thing.

A couple of miles later, the bus was idling at a red light, and the driver whistled the first few bars of a song. I recognized it, and shouted the title like Name That Tune: "Toys R Us!" I said, too loudly, and the driver laughed at me again.

"That's right," he said, "but I don't know why I was whistling it. A song from a long time ago."

He's an ancient white man, pushing retirement no doubt, so we're of the same time. "A saner time," I said.

"You're right about that, and with better music."

I didn't say anything else, because the man has a bus to drive and I'm a distraction. I was thinking how evil advertising is, that five years after Toys R Us liquidated itself, me and the driver still know the company's theme song.

Half a block later the driver said, "You're that guy." I looked up, and he was looking back at me in the rear view mirror. "That guy who said, 'This is the last stop'."

I confessed it was me, and we talked for a few blocks about Toys R Us and Christmas and some of the troublesome characters he sees on the bus. Then the conversation ebbed away, because I was tired of talking and also because I don't really know how to keep a conversation going.

We said nothing else except, "So long," to each other when I got off the bus. I don't know his name, which is OK with me, but it's beginning to feel like maybe I'm in the process of having a buddy who's a bus driver.

11/19/2023  

18 comments:

  1. Your story with thr bus driver is really cute. :)

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  2. and I agree with Anonymous. Usually Doug your perspective is very well written but sad, it's a treat to have such a happy page from you!

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    1. Yep, I like all his pages but I really love the happy ones. :-]

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    2. I'm a happy guy. I just don't write about it often, because happiness usually makes for a boring read.

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  3. People who are not employed (for any number of reasons) are society's social glue.

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    1. Huh. Never thought about it that way.

      If I'm holding society together by being out of work, I gotta get a job.

      Delete
  4. Hey Doug, while I'm a flim flam film failure, my wife is a fan. She'd like you to review, when you have time, The Saint in New York. She says this is truest to the original Saint book series and is a terrific movie. She searched the world and found a copy in Russia that the Russians had stolen from American TV before the Americans lost it. The guy who plays the Saint in this film only played the part one more time, like 20 years later when he was too old.

    You will always know more about films than I will, but I told my wife I'd forward her request to the premier film review site on the Web. Dats you.

    as always,

    John

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    1. Me and The Saint don't go very far back. I was always aware of the TV show with Roger Moore, but never liked Roger Moore, and the silly halo always put me off. Then again, I don't think I ever tried watching it when it might've been age appropriate, after 10 yo or so.

      Did I even know it had been a series of movies before Roger?

      It's illegally downloading now, because I'm no saint, and tell your wife I said thanks.

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    2. Thanks, my brother. My wife gets to movies from books, which is how she found The Saint movies. She owned a bookstore for 20 years until she met me and everything went to hell. So if a book gets made into a movie, she watches the movie. Not quite that simple of course. Speaking of which, back to the middle east. . .

      John

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    3. A literary lady. That's excellent.

      Never have I ever walked into a bookstore without buying a book.

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    4. Me too. I ended up with a bunch of books and the proprietor. Of course, there's not much money in antiquarian books (or even used books) so the dowry was a negative number but my wife wasn't.

      I don't have publishing rights to declare songs of the week on your site like you do, so I occasionally insert the wrong day to emphasize my illegitimacy in declaring ditties from my squandered youth "songs of the week".

      Today is Tuesday, you know what that means,
      We're gonna have a special guest today
      'Cause Tuesday is Guest Star Day

      John

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  5. It's Monday morning, time for the songs of the week. Then, back to the middle east without me. Romeo Void was one of the few punk/new wave groups that I really liked. After making three very good albums, their record company dropped them because they didn't think Debora Iyall was sexy enough. Bastards.

    RV wanted to make one more album, so they rented some equipment and an old house in California and got sound separation by each playing/singing in a different room. Home grown recorded music, and it's beautiful. This is one of my favorite cuts from that album, One Thousand Shadows . . .

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J46ITXYwZ8M

    And a slightly rough video of their only hit song (fuck hit songs, but this one is fine) Never Say Never.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G778eNuyjIs

    After they self-published their fourth and last album, I somehow got ahold of Deb's email address out in the California desert. I just thanked her for the great music, not really knowing who the hell I was really writing to. She sent a nice email back thanking me for following their music and telling me she was teaching art in a god-forsaken small town in the American west and having a nice time. We corresponded a little, then we didn't. It was almost 40 years ago; I don't remember much more, but I never stopped dancing to their music, mostly alone in my room.

    John

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    1. Most scientists agree that Monday was several days ago, but I like this Romeo Void's One Thousand Shadows. It doesn't sound like every other pop song, or much of any other pop song, and yet it's musically interesting and not repulsive at all. I am *seriously* considering adding it to my playlist.

      They only had one hit, you say, and because they're very good I'm going to guess it's because, as you say, the lead singer was a big fat girl. I *love* big fat girls so much I married one, but in mainstream music circles the *only* women allowed success have to be young and then and pretty. Seriously, other than Cass Elliot and Susan Boyle, I can't think of any famous female non-opera singers who don't look like they came from the same mold.

      Awesome to come across someone who had success and still remained accessible. You're a lucky pup.

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  6. Doug, if you have time to listen to One Thousand Shadows again, notice that while saxophonist Benjamin Bossi is playing lead during the chorus, he's playing rhythm sax during the verses. I don't remember anybody else ever doing that in a rock or pop song. Hell, they were all amateurs: they were making it up as they went along.

    John

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J46ITXYwZ8M

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  7. No video at that link, but I will take your word that Ben Bossi is multi-tasking. I am eating nuts while typing this, so I know something about multi-tasking.

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  8. Odd, I find two shortish ads, then the song. I've often suspected that I'm living in a parallel universe. In any case, Mr Bossi isn't playing the two parts simultaneously - - he's playing rhythm sax during the verses, sort of like John Lennon did for the Beatles, but with chords on a guitar behind George's lead. Of course, a sax only lets you play one note at a time, making this song a form of modular punk. And before I bore you sillier, I'll just stop here and check the calendar. If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium.

    John

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I hear the song, but see no imagery that moves. Can't see Mr Bossi being impressive, but I do believe it.

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