Heroes, and a hardass

"Would you like a seat, sir?"

It's not the first time I've been offered a seat on the bus. This time it was offered by a man, which is better than when it's a pretty young woman. It's happened more often the past few years, as I've gotten more wrinkled and gray, and especially in the past month or so, as I've shakily rehabbed myself after too many months in the recliner.

Click to embiggen.
Never yet have I accepted anyone's offer of a seat, and I like imagining that I never will. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Oh, wait. It hadn't occurred to me until now, that gentleman's offer of a seat was in the afternoon after I'd slipped on the ice in the morning, and landed on my keister. It scraped me up and probably amplified my limp.

But a week later, the limp all gone, another man offered me his seat. Where are all these people with good manners coming from? And why are they targeting me?

Buster, I've been surfing transit since before you young whippersnappers were born, and anyway, some days I frickin' prefer to stand.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

One of the regular riders on the bus is an bald man about 45, and mentally shortchanged. I've seen him a hundred times, riding the #H or #99 buses, or waiting at the Burien Transit Center, and always whatever t-shirt or jacket he's wearing is superhero-themed. 

The first time I saw him he was wearing Batman, so I said, "I'm a great admirer of your work." He didn't smile, just turned away, and that's when I figured out about his head.

I've since seen him as Superman, Aquaman, Spider-man, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and The Hulk, but every time I say hello, he only blushes and turns away. Which I understand, I guess. If you're a mentally challenged 45-year-old bald white guy who wears superhero t-shirts and jackets every day, you probably get teased, bullied, beaten up...

Last weekend, he was wearing the Legion of Super-Heroes, and it wasn't the modern abomination, but the Legion of my era. When I was a kid, I didn't have a t-shirt, but I had the Legion of Super-Heroes lunchpail.

So I asked the superhero guy about the sacrifice of Ferro Lad — a heartbreaking moment from a grand three-issue adventure I vividly remember and wept about, circa 1967.

"I don't know," is all he said, and looked the other way.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Most bus drivers learn to be laid back, because dealing with the public, especially the class of the public that rides the bus, lots of the passengers have faulty wiring under the surface. Some drivers, though, want to be a hardass.

At the Burien Transit Center, my bus pulled up and I stood in line behind a homeless-looking guy carrying a double-plastic bag of stuff over his shoulder. Most homeless passengers don't pay, and this guy didn't pay, and most drivers don't say anything, but this driver said, "No. Not with that bag."

The homeless guy didn't argue. He simply turned around and said, "Excuse me," to get me out of his way as he stepped off the bus instead of on.

I stepped aside, and thought of Martin Niemöller. 'First they came for the garbage-bag-toting homeless guy, and I said nothing because I'm not a garbage-bag-toting homeless guy...'

But bus drivers see all sorts of craziness every day, so in such situations I try to assume the driver has some reason for being a hardass. Maybe he and that passenger have a history. Maybe that harmless-looking homeless guy is on the Do Not Ride List. Maybe something else explains it, so I said nothing, simply flashed my pass and took a seat.

The garbage-bag-toting homeless sat again on a bench in the bitter cold, to wait another half an hour for the next bus that hopefully won't have a hardass driver, so he can get on.

Then the driver pulled away from the curb at the bus station, and drove to the traffic light, where bus traffic merges with the street's traffic. We were still entirely in the bus station, though, waiting at the red until it turned green, and that's when a youngish black guy on the bus spotted an #H bus behind us, pulling up to the station.

"Let me off please!" the shouted, "I'd rather take that H bus!"

But the driver ignored him. Didn't open the door.  Didn't even reply.

The guy came up and asked the driver again, loudly but not rudely, "Hey, please, let me out, man."

"I cannot," is all the driver said. The man asked again, said please again, and explained that he was headed downtown and in a hurry. The #99 we were on goes downtown, but takes slow streets getting there, while the #H bus goes downtown via the freeway. It's ten minutes faster.

But the driver said "No" again, and the passenger punched the plexiglass shield that separates the driver from the passenger, and started screaming obscenities.

"Let me off, fucker!"

But the driver said "No" again, softly, not angry, but absolutely no.

There's a rule, see: Drivers are only supposed to let passengers on or off at specifically marked bus stops. If they let passengers on or off anywhere else, and someone slips and falls, the bus system could have an insurance claim denied, because they broke the 'bus stop only' rule.

Well, our #99 was not at the curb, not at a marked bus stop. We were waiting at the stop light, mere footsteps from the curb, and there were no other buses rolling around near us. There would've been no danger from letting the man off the bus.

And a little common sense please: What's more dangerous — letting a guy off the bus in a perfectly safe situation that technically violates a rule, or driving all the way downtown with a man on the bus who was furious, screaming, pounding on the plexi shield and the windows, and trying to pry one of the side doors open?



  1. I get some news from CNN.com. I don't have cable TV, and I won't watch Fox so sometimes it's CNN. There were a dozen stories on CNN's front page this morning. Three of them (three of them[three]) featured Taylor Swift. The world is at war, children and old folks are starving, and I'm a little hungry for Walter Cronkite, and Taylor Swift is 25% of the news. OK, she can make the Stratocaster hum like Hendrix and play somebody's national anthem with her teeth. Maybe she can even sing, although I've never heard her try. She's apparently blowing somebody who's playing football next Monday night and I guess that makes her famous. If six turned out to be nine, I don't mind, I don't mind, but 25%. We're lost in a Marshall Stack of madness.


    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRJLKd33gdE


    2. Lennart Ljung is a Swedish professor in the Chair of Control Theory at Linköping University since 1976, and I wonder what he had to do with the video. It's sorta surreal and sure fits the song's mood. Thought it was CGI at first, it looks so strange.

      Most of journalism isn't about journalism any more, and CNN is such a swamp. When it started it was genuine journalism, I though, though I was more stupid and maybe it was shallow shit even then. They covered pop stars, but only in their shallowest celebrity shows, half-hours dedicated to such nonsense.

      If I've ever heard a Taylor Swift song, it was accidental on the radio or in a supermarket. There's little journalistic reason I should even know her name. All I really know, from headlines glimpsed but certainly not articles read, is that she's not a MAGA believer, and for that she will be punished.


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