There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The gentleman on the bus

It was a grand, cheerful day on the bus today.

As I boarded and made my way to my customary seat in the back, I heard the little girl in the front of the bus cry out, "Hiiiii." I turned to see her and her mother both smiling. The kid is just tall enough to stand and see over the back seat. I waved. The girl let go of the back of the seat with one hand, tottered, waved, and then quickly grabbed the seat. "Hiiii," she repeated.

The mother and daughter get off at the stop after I get on. As they left the bus, the little girl said bye to the driver and babbled on about whatever and everything as she was carried down the street in her mother's arms. So cute, and then they become sullen teenagers.

Today was mommie bus redux with a twist.

As I was settling in with my book I caught a quick movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see a man racing to the front of the bus and out the door. Seemed odd, since I hadn't heard the stop request. But then I heard a woman's voice say, "Thank you very much."

There was a shuffling noise and the man reboarded the bus, lugging the woman's collapsed stroller. "Over here is fine," the woman said as she directed the man to put the stroller by the bench behind the driver. She thanked him, and the man nodded and returned to his seat back in the middle of the coach just in front of the door.

Now that's something you don't see every day.

The man, who wasn't a regular on this bus, was dressed in a solid red sweater and clean, loose-fitting jeans. His pants were folded back to create 3-inch cuffs just above his brown leather slip-on shoes. He wore a navy blue ball cap with "New York" stitched in an arc across the back. I couldn't see what it said on the front.

A little while later when the bus took its left turn from Whitney onto Watt, the stroller flew across the aisle and slid into the far wall.

"Oh, sorry," said the woman. The apology was probably meant for the driver but everyone had been startled by the racket the stroller made. The man who had helped her lug the thing aboard popped up from his seat to retrieve the stroller. He and the woman worked out a way to wedge it so that it wouldn't move again.

As we rode on, the woman chatted with the driver about bus options. She had a connection she wanted to make but wasn't sure which bus would be best. The driver was as helpful as he could be. There ought to be a way to create a book that each bus would carry that would illustrate connections for its routes. After my experience with 321-BUSS, I'm hesitant to recommend it to people I want to help.

Eventually, the woman lugged her stroller off the bus and a few stops later the man who had helped her got off. Most of the rest of the riders got off at Sac State.

For the dash to the light rail station I had the company of a man who travels with two kids. I have seen the trio on many homeward-bound trips, but today and yesterday they've been traveling toward downtown on the bus I take.

I was puzzling over different theories about why the kids aren't in school as the bus turned into the parking lot across from the 65th Street light rail station. As the bus approached its parking space, the train was just entering the station.

The man told the boy to get ready to hold the train. As soon as the bus stopped, the boy was running for the train. The man and the girl nearly didn't make it when they ran into the path of a car of Q Street. Luckily the driver was paying more attention than the runners.

I jogged across the street to find the boy still holding the door open for me. As it turned out, the train operator was busy with the ramp at the front of the train. This gave our bus driver time to join everyone.

"Hey, we made it," I said to the driver as he dashed onto the train.

"Yes, we did," he said with his biggest grin.

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