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

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Zen and the Art of Riding the Bus

From what I could hear of the woman's cell phone conversation, she wasn't happy. Something was wrong at work. Someone was causing her trouble. I didn't want to listen in. I was actually trying to focus on the book I was reading as the woman took a seat across the aisle from me.

Her conversation didn't last much longer. She put her phone away. For the rest of the trip she sat looking forward. Her expression loudly warned of her dark mood. She didn't need to say a word.

It is just a matter of perspective when riding the bus. It's a mind game of wanting either time to slow down or the bus to speed up. I've succumbed to this before, but I try to discipline myself.

According to Google Maps, it should take about 6 minutes to get from the bus stop at Sac State to the intersection of Elvas Avenue and 65th Street. This is the route the bus takes each day.

Once on 65th Street, it is less than a half-mile to the bus parking lot across Q Street from the 65th Street light rail stop. Google Maps says the trip should take less than a minute.

Riding on the bus, time is distorted. The six minutes from Sac State fly by, with the bus hurtling around the loop from J Street onto Elvas, sending passengers leaning against the centrifugal force. The bus rattles and rocks as it races down Elvas.

And then time stops.

On 65th Street, bus riders can see the position of the light rail crossing lights. As the bus creeps toward Folsom, riders can watch the cars crossing the light rail tracks in the distance and see that the train isn't in the station yet.

To torment riders, the new buses display the current time. It's 9:16. The train is due at 9:18.

Waiting in the left turn lane at Folsom for the equivalent of a perceptual hour, riders can continue to monitor the crossing, trying to will the light rail train to delay its arrival.

Then, finally, the bus turns left and riders can no longer see the light rail station. The bus slowly, slowly rolls the half block to Redding Avenue and turns right into the road leading to the bus parking lot.

As the bus makes the turn, riders can now see that the train is just entering the station.

The bus makes a leisurely right turn into the bus parking lot entrance driveway and, amazingly, slows even more.

The train is rolling to a stop.

A half-block later, the bus makes a stutter-step left turn, coming to a full stop before proceeding in a deliberately slow, looping left turn.

The train doors open and waiting passengers board.

It doesn't really take another six minutes for the bus to come to a stop in front of the 82 sign and open the exit doors. But that is certainly the perception of the bus rider who is now watching the light rail train doors close and the train leave the station.

"He did that on purpose," the woman said. "The driver stopped back there deliberately so we'd miss the train."

I smiled and tried to cheer the woman. I explained that it was all an ironic twist of being early. If the bus was actually on time, you would never see that train.

She wasn't impressed.

1 comment:

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