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

Friday, March 2, 2007

Ghost riders

Beyond the vagaries of traffic, relying on transit to get around means relying on the mechanical soundness of the vehicles.

Ghosts were riding with me today.

This morning at one of our regular bus stops, a rider exited from the door in the middle of the bus. The door wouldn't close. It was if someone invisible were holding the door open. The driver had to turn off the bus, which caused a shrieking siren to sound. Only then would the door close. This happened two more times, with each occurrence taking longer to fix. (Why, I thought to myself, do these people keep using that door? They know it's broken.)

Even with the mechanical delays we made it to the 65th Street station just as the train arrived. I made the dash and boarded the train. Immediately behind me arrived the bus driver. He apparently had an appointment at 59th Street. Helps to explain how we arrived 6 minutes early.

But back to the ghost stories. On the way home I had my head buried in my book. I was riding on one of the "modern" buses that have the stop location display in the front and the female voice announcing each stop. "Stop requested," the lady announced. The bus driver pulled over and opened the door. I looked up. Everyone else looked up. No one got off.

The driver closed the door and moved on. A half-block down the street the lady announced, "Stop requested." And the bus stopped, the door opened and no one got off.

The driver closed the door and drove on. This time all of the passengers watched to see who was messing with the driver. "Stop requested," said the lady. Ghosts. No one had touched the stop request ropes.

This time when the driver stopped he got up and walked back into the coach pulling forcefully on each set of cords. Being new at commuting on the bus, I assume this behavior is supposed to cast out the troublesome spirits. In any case, it worked. No more mystery stop requests.

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