Friday, September 18, 2009

The End of an Era

I have given up on the bus blog only because my material is seriously lacking. And that's due in large part to the fact that I've been driving into work a lot more these days. Before I "exit" the bus entirely, I can't go without relaying one of my all-time favorite bus stories from the past. To understand this story better, and my old driver who stars in it, you might need to jog your memory by reading I'm thankful for the memories. I also need to preface this story with a warning that my bus driver had a foul mouth, so please don't be Okay: It was a nice spring afternoon. I board the bus like any other day, wildly looking around for a seat that doesn't have some sort of sticky spill all over it, or a Band-Aid or food crumbs.... After I am safely seated and we have gone two blocks, my bus driver pumps the brakes like she has never done before and we all lurch forward in an aggressive motion. I can tell the driver is shaken and she mumbles something loudly to herself, head cocking left then right. The only thing I can make out is an expletive that rhymes with "nuther trucker." We come to the next intersection and stop at the red light. At this moment, in the middle of the road, bus driver whips the door open so fast and starts yelling at the truck next to her, "You know it is the law to yield to a city bus!" Ah okay, it makes sense to me now. It seems a few stops back my bus driver tried to merge back into traffic and instead of yielding to the bus, the pick-up truck cut her off. The man in his puny pick-up truck starts yelling back something I can't make out. Bus driver: "You have to yield to me, JACK ASS!!" (Truck driver is still talking back while bus driver continues to yell over him.) "JACK ASS!! JACK ASS!! JACK ASS!!" At this point my bus driver is now flipping off the truck driver and I finally get a clear glance at the severity of her 3-inch fingernails. Wow. I would stop talking if I were him. But he doesn't. And he says something to really piss her off now because she starts yelling- oh and by the way, the entire 22 bus which happens to be full on this day has gone dead silent. Bus driver starts yelling, "SUCK MY **** WHITE BOY!!" (Head swaying, eyes bulging, finger going....) All this in one red light. But then the light turns green. Bus driver slams the door closed, turns to face forward and begins to drive like nothing happened. Silence. About ten long seconds after we begin to roll forward, bus driver says calmly, "I'm sorry everybody." Clapping. The bus begins clapping! We all did...and I start laughing. Then the middle-aged woman in pigtails and blue eyeshadow sitting closest to the front says, "You go girl" and continues on some girl power rant for the rest of the ride.

Sadly, those days on the 22 are gone but I've come away with some useful knowledge from riding the bus. Notably, wear a high collar when possible so you can discreetly hide your nose from the stench. Be polite to a bus driver with 3-inch fingernails. Pull out your phone to faux text and appear busy when a crazy person looks your way. And now that I'm driving more, always yield to the city bus!

To all my homies on the 22, "Peace, I'm out."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sorry... have to ride this sorry bus. My co-worker's son took this photo. If you can't read it, the back sign reads "sorry," and I certainly am every day I board it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Danger Zone

I think the increased bus fare is weeding out some of the crazies on my bus. People have been quiet lately ... really quiet ... actually asleep, many of them. I've encountered the snorer and Cousin Prince Barkley (with bright pink helmet hair this time) but some of the oldies but crazies on my bus have gone missing. Today, however, I happen upon a new character: crackhead skinny. I take a seat in the mid-section of the bus nearing the danger zone which is the far back. You just don't go there unless you really have to, and this is why: As soon as I sit, I start to hear this soft wheezing sound behind me. I pay no attention to it. Next stop, two teenage girls walk on the bus and head to the back. The wheezing sound begins again but this time I can make out words in the wheeze "Heeey girls" and the rest of the sentence is nonsense (to me, anyway). I shift to my right just enough to realize the wheezer is sitting right behind me and actually trying to make out real conversation. I realize it's a woman. And she sounds like she's smoked five packs a day since birth. Imagine a loud whisper with a hint of rasp -- that's how this woman speaks. I hear the two teenage girls respond to her hesitantly and then wheezer and her friend get off at the next stop. I notice wheezer is scary skinny. And she is wearing jeans from 1980-something that have neon, multi-colored paint streaks all over them. I'm thinking they were bought like that, sadly. She stumbles to a stop just before exiting to make some incomprehensible remark to the girls and they sort of nod and smile in confusion. Something she said was funny because she laughs (coughs) as her friend ushers her off the bus. Here is the conversation that follows between the two girls:

Teen 1: I wish I could be that skinny.

Teen 2: You wanna be crackhead skinny like that? Pleeeeze.

(Then something I can't make out)

Teen 2: You know, yer gonna have to stop drinking after you have your baby. Because if you go to jail yer mom is going to be pissed!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Memorable Bus Quotes II

Heard on the bus today by a tweenie bopper:

Tween: "I think sheep are the cutest animals alive, and they taste even better."

(Later on, discussing sun tanning)

Tween 1: "I get so dark so fast, it's the Indian in me."

Tween 2: "Ya, you get brown like a brisket."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Memorable Bus Quotes

There have been so many, but here'r two more:

Woman: "I broke my nose once but I don't know how."

Man: "Yeah, I haven't broken any bones but I've had a lot of flesh pulled off my body."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Picking up the Piec- Pennies

I plop down on my seat, thankful the bus odor is not gag-worthy this morning. I don't need to breathe into my shirt or my hair, which is often the case. Immediately I hear "S'cuze me ma'am. D'yu have a dollar? I dunno wha happen, I lozmy ticket." I look up and tell the slurrer I don't carry cash on me, which is true today and most days. I look around. Of course I'm the one being targeted. It appears I'm the only one who brushed my hair today, that must be how she discriminates the cash holders v. non. She asks me if I have change. Actually I probably do because that's what becomes of my cash whenever I have it. I hand her what I have: probably 20 pennies, a dime and a nickel. She gladly accepts it. For the next five minutes she proceeds to count all the change in her hand, and I can hardly bear watching her count pennies, drop pennies and recount.... I scrounge the bottom of my purse and find a quarter and a dime. Done. I give it to her. Then she starts over with the counting. Pennies are dropping and rolling all over the bus floor. I can see she is having a really tough time leaning down to pick them up so I pick up a couple in disgust. I decide the floor of the bus should be in some top 10 list of dirtiest places ever. I pull out my cell phone and pretend to text ignoring the rest of the pennies that keep falling. I'm not going there again. We arrive at her stop. She has now dropped some coins -- or maybe just one of the important ones -- between her seat and she's having trouble finding it. She tells the driver "Hold'n pleeez." She starts walking toward the front with a wad of coins in one hand, and picking up runaway pennies she didn't realize she lost. I actually grab another one for her in a hard (for her) to reach place under the seat. Let me just say this: It's hard to pick up something as thin as a penny without scraping your finger along the ground. I think I actually got bus floor under my fingernail that time. I hand it to her as she says "Ev'ry one counts." I smile and count the minutes till I can wash my hands again.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oddities in Motion

My last text conversation at the bus stop went like this:

Missy (to Dee Dee and Donna): The dark lord just walked by me in too many chains to count.

Donna: You still have your purse-sized light saber, don't you? No prob ...

Dee Dee: Lol ... why am I hearing "Chain of Fools" ... he'd be great fun at the airport eh? "BEEEP!"

Missy (in response): I told him the sacrifice of little kittens has been moved up a week. Wow. That was bizarre! Skulls chains hooded trenchcoat.

Donna: You speak goth?

Dee Dee: I'm reading the dark hunter series right now ... he's probably a day walker ... vampire killer!

Walking to my bus stop yesterday I passed a kid in one of the most ridiculous-looking outfits I've seen yet. Or maybe it was a costume, making it somewhat more acceptable in my eyes. As I sauntered reluctantly to my bus stop perch to wait, I saw him coming from a block away. His black, cloth trenchcoat swaying behind his slightly hunched body, he took aggressive, long strides toward me. I had to look long enough to take a mental picture but other than that I stepped aside, eyes away, making certain not to turn around until he was a safe distance behind me. His black trenchcoat hood drooped over his forehead as he looked toward the sidewalk. The chains were many. They went from sleeve to sleeve, chest to knees, some parallel, some cris-crossed ... it was like a puzzle you might be challenged to untangle. I guarantee it put another 20 pounds on this guy, who couldn't be more than 17. He wore boots, gloves, makeup, the whole getup. He was successfully scary -- except for that darn skull on his hood. If I were a goth critic, I would knock him for the skull. It wasn't very "dark," in fact, a little cartoonie for the look I think he was going for. Oh- he also wore a backpack. Probably full of that homework he was rushing home to do. Anyhow, this guy was one among a few interesting things I saw this week while riding the bus (this one the only exception since it took place at the bus stop). Here are the others in no particular order:

The mini poodle in footie pajamas. I'm not sure how that works when your dog needs a pottie break, but then again, I didn't notice if the tail end was open. The dog wore bright red pajamas with all all four paws covered. It was odd.

The man who met the ice. It was icy this week, and I turned my head just in time to see a young man, dressed for work with latte in hand, take a slippery step off the sidewalk and fall flat on his back in front of a crowd of pedestrians waiting for the bus. His coffee went flying in the air and sprayed all over him. I was glad I didn't miss that moment and imagined what it might it look like in slow-mo. Appeared he only hurt his pride, poor guy. At least he has a story to tell.

The imaginary sign. For the past three weeks, one man has occupied a certain stoplight corner, I think, begging for a handout. I'm not actually certain because he stands there holding up his hands like he's holding a sign, but there is no sign to be held. Then he widens his eyes and burns a stare directly into driver nearest to him. This is one moment I am truly happy to be on the bus, tho as far as I'm concerned, his imaginary sign could be offering me money, or a hug, or some sound advice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Steve's 17 Bus -- A Portland Tale

Steve is a newbie to the 17 bus in Portland, which appears to rival the 22 with its colorful patrons, and he's quickly figuring out some experiences are worth documenting...

Let me give you a little background. My office recently moved downtown (a little over a year ago) to the Portland State campus. Since parking downtown is insanely expensive, I do my best to take the bus as often as possible. So, last year when my wife and I decided to purchase our first home, I had very few restrictions. First, price. I didn't want to make the same mistake that so many people made (economic collapse anyone?) and buy more than we could afford. The only other thing I wanted was a one bus commute, door-to-door. Now, fast-forward a few months. We bought our house and its absolutely wonderful. Everything both of us could ask for and more. This includes my precondition of a single bus commute. You may be asking, so Steve, what bus do you take? Ah, the Portland Trimet #17-Holgate. The fighting 17. Never was there a more deserving bus to be called "17." Not sure why, but it just seems "seven-teeny" to me.

Most days, or weeks for that matter, pass uneventful. However, last week proved the most interesting to date.

Day #1:
The 17 is a very busy bus. Standing room only most nights. Unlike some of the other busy lines, the 17 still uses the old buses. Things feel a little more claustrophobic in there than with the new ones. Tonight's trip was no exception. I entered the bus and was greeted by the usual mass of pissy commuters. Oh, and an incredibly funky smell. The indescribable, yet oh-to-familiar transient funk. Sure enough, sitting right up front was a homeless dude. Now I'm not too sure how other city's public transit works, but Portland has a "fareless square" downtown, where anyone can ride for free. It ends the first stop after I get on. Homeless like to ride the bus, guess its dry and their life sucks. So homeless dude was up front. After getting my bearings, I look for an opening, meandering my way toward the middle of the bus. I grabbed the nearest available hand-rail and began my nightly ritual of zoning out. The next stop came quickly, and the bus driver, in an authoritative voice, bellowed "end of fareless square." He then looked back at the homeless guy and informed him he needed to pay or get off. There was silence and instantly tension mounted. It was at this point that I first noticed the doe-eyed liberal chick sitting across from him. She reached into her pocket and pulled out some cash, pride and satisfaction on her face. She jovially paid for the homeless man's fare (full pass/transfer) and reached across to hand him some extra cash. You could just see her eyes wide, waiting for the gratuity "thank you kind lady, I will survive another day thanks to your generosity." Without hesitation the homeless guy stood up, took the cash from her hand, grabbed the transfer, and walked out the door without even looking back or saying a word. The look of satisfaction remained a little bit longer, although slightly more quizzical, then she faded back into her seat. If I were a caring man, I might have felt bad for her. Instead, I let out an inaudible chort, and thought "tool."

Day #2
It was such an exciting week last week, I don't remember which day this event fell on. It might have been Monday or Tuesday. It may have been during its own trip or on the same bus as another event. All I know is it happened.

Every once in awhile you get on the bus with a talker. Not a mumbler or a singer, a TALKER. Day 2 brought not just a talker, but a yeller. And an angry one at that. Day 2 was the only day I had to get off the bus because I was so unnerved I couldn't stick it out. The bus was crowded, my mistake of taking an earlier, rush hour bus. Once again it required that I initially stand, at least until the bus emptied a bit more once we got to the other side of the river. After I got on, I knew it was going to be interesting. Sitting in the first row was a scary looking man, scruffy, but not too stinky. He had a big black garbage bag at his side. Not sure what was in it, but right now I'm leaning toward human remains. Maybe even dead babies or puppies. I stood near him as he had a very intense conversation...with himself. Midway through the bus ride, he turned and looked through me toward the back of the bus and started screaming and swearing. He then proceeded to jump atop his seat (spider-man style) and either berate someone behind me or possibly chastise the back door for opening too often. not sure. I was a bit too nervous to take my eyes off him, lest he web sling toward me, decapitating me and keeping my skull for a trophy in his black bag of death. Luckily, the bus was pulling to the next stop. However, rather than exit or be forced to leave, another familiar gentleman entered the bus. "The sniffer." Yes the sniffer. He is a slightly autistic, older gentleman with thin lips and a porcelain complexion. Not sure what he shaves with, but I've never been that smooth. He manages to block any escape. He proceeds to stand in front of me (graciously offering himself up as buffer victim to "the yeller"). For a brief instance I was grateful. However, this quickly faded as he began to sniff and lick his fingers. It was at this point I reached my threshold. My "crazy" meter popped and I scrambled to the door and exited the next bus stop. Not sure if everyone else survived the ride, but I followed my instincts and managed to live another day.

Day #3
I love my family and friends. I do good deeds. I don't break laws and I work really hard at everything I do. However, in my mind, I'm a jerk. I'm fairly uncompassionate. So much so, I'm regularly referred to as a "heartless robot." It's with that introduction I tell my next tale. Day #3. War is hell. I respect our troops and in no way EVER want to do what they do. I understand war does things to a man. When troops return home, some never quite return. This can sometimes lead to a separation from society and a collapse into alcoholism, homelessness, and crime. With all this said, try not to judge me too harshly when I tell you the story of the drunken master, "Kung Fu Vet."

Today's bus ride was completely uneventful all the way to Milwaukie/Powell. At this point, two men entered. Both appeared wobbly and drunk. One was thin, young. He looked like he was maybe 35-45 years old. Reminded me a bit of Freddy Mercury. Not sure if he was gay or a good singer, though. The other was gray, older, maybe in his 60s. Sort of a stockier version of Frasier's dad (if you ever watched that show). They both sat up front along the seats that paralleled the isle. They kept a seat between each other. I had my headphones on, so I didn't really hear anything. But within seconds of the bus leaving their stop, the old guy starts going a bit crazy. "What did you say?!" He stood up. stumble stumble. "I'll kick your ass." jacket removed and dropped to the floor. stumble stumble. "I'm a Vietnam vet! I know Kung Fu." Then Freddy stands up (stumble stumble) looks to the back of the bus "I didn't do anything?" We made it to the next bus stop. By this time the bus driver is on the radio calling in the disturbance. He politely asks the men to exit because he is speaking to dispatch and they will send the cops. It's at this point that Frasier's dad picks up his jacket and informs Freddy Mercury that Portland is a small town and next time he will be packing "heat." Call my cynical, but I've always considered this a drunken idle threat. However, now, not so much See Day 5). Things got a little more tense, then the old man exited. He grabbed a bike off the front (I can only assume it was his) and rode off. A few moments later Freddy stumbled off, mumbling "I just wanted to go home."

Day #4
By the time Day 4 rolled around, I was fed up, yet entertained. I decided I would start documenting my trips home. I figured just like always, now that I was prepared, nothing strange would happen. Luckily I was mistaken.

Today's ride was almost a disappointment. I was almost home before I got to experience anything bus-worthy. Thankfully, Sasha, the dancing 36 year-old teenager boarded. I don't think I could do justice to Sasha with words, which is why I videotaped her with my cell phone. Since the bus was not busy, I was able to find a seat. After a routine stop I gazed up to see a smallish girl, maybe 5 feet tall enter the bus. Looked like some middle school girl who was being obnoxious and crazy on the bus because it would be funny. She had a shear green vail wrapped around her face and head. I think she had head phones in because every time the bus stopped she would stand up and start dancing. I think she may have been singing at one point too. Not sure, she stared out the window, screamed a few random things, did a head swirl motion, then stood back up and started dancing. I'm thinking to myself that this kid is drunk off her ass. A few seconds before I exit, she sits down, flips back her vail and smiles at me. It's then I noticed that she was old. I'm not sure if it was Greg Oden and Lebron James old, or if it was Fernando Venezuela old. But her face did not match her body or behavior. I left the bus thinking "that was weird."

Day #5
I'm going to try something special for bus commute Day 5. Similar to a bunch of movies, I'll start from the end and retell the story in flashback. Let's start with me walking in the front door. "A frick'n RIFLE!! Really?!?" "What?" Reacted my adoring wife. "A dude had a rifle on the bus," I respond.

On Friday there was a shooting near our house. A 92 year-old wacko gunned down his son and daughter in-law. I think they survived...not too sure. It happened at 7:30am. I'm groggy and cranky in the mornings, so I don't pay much attention. To be honest I didn't become aware of it until an individual on the bus told me about it.

I was only a few blocks from home when a white-trash looking gangbanger want-a-be entered the bus. He entered, carried a large black bag, not a garbage bag like the "yeller" but a briefcase looking bag, only slightly bigger. He walked in, ignored the bus driver and headed to the back of the bus. He placed the bag across from me. Once again, I had my head phones on so I didn't hear the bus driver/passenger dialogue. The man returned up front, sans bag, to confront the bus driver. There was a brief conversation, and I assume the fare was paid. A few moments later, the dude returns and sits across from me. He has this twitchy quality about him. Kind of like that kid that burns ants with a magnifying glass. I did my best to ignore him, but he caught me glancing down at his bag. As we drive past the scene of the shooting earlier in the day, the man informs me that someone was shot down that street. He's not worried 'cause he's protected. It's at this point he zips open his bag to reveal a frick'n rifle. My face must have flashed because he said he had a permit. He was going to go practice, and I quote, "batta batta batta" (visualize him with is fingers in the air rifling down a campus of students from a clock tower). I exit the next stop, making sure he does not exit behind me. I walk the rest of the way home. Checked the news, apparently no one was gunned down on a bus that evening.