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, April 19, 2007

Open mike day on the bus

Today's bus driver wins the prize for showmanship.

I had an appointment at 8:20 a.m. at 30th and P streets. Using Sacramento Regional Transit's new trip planning Web site -- -- I discovered I could take the 82 bus that leaves American River College at 7:19 a.m., switch to the 30 bus at Sac State and get dropped off near Alhambra and L Street.

When I boarded today's bus I was surprised to see every seat had at least one passenger. This was one of the older buses, so I took a spot on one of the side benches at the rear. The reason for the crowd became obvious at the very next stop. This bus delivers students who attend Mira Loma, which is just two blocks away.

The driver said, "See you tomorrow" to the students as they disembarked.

As the bus pulled away from the stop, the driver announced the names of the next three stops. The regular riders, especially the Sac State students who would be riding the bus for another 30 minutes, may not have appreciated the superfluous information, but I thought it was great.

I've never been on a bus where the driver did more than mumble the stops, usually just the next one and then just in time to watch it go by.

After the bus had filled with Sac State students, the driver decided to announce a pop quiz.

"All you Sac State students," the driver said. "If a doctor gives you three pills and tells you to take one every half hour, how long will it take to take all three pills?"

When no one yelled out an answer, the driver challenged the students again. This time he caught his fish: A woman passenger said, "An hour and a half."

"Wrong," said the driver.

Several other students, realizing the trick nature of the question, quickly offered the right answer: One hour.

An argument ensued about whether that was too much of a trick question to be a valid test of the students. I suppose you have to be familiar with counting systems that start with zero to understand why there was no trick. Take the first pill (zero). Wait one half-hour, and take the second pill. Wait a second half-hour, and take the last pill. Two half-hour waits; one hour.

I'm tempted to ride this bus again to see if this is the driver's standard floor show.

I got off at Sac State and was walking around the 82 bus looking for the 30 bus when it pulled up at the outer lane of the bus stop. I'm pretty sure the 82 bus driver had some comment when I dashed in front of his bus as he was pulling away, forcing him to break. Fortunately, he didn't have the outside speaker on.

At 8:17 I got off at Alhambra near L Street. I arrived at 30th and P streets 8:25 a.m., fashionably -- but not too -- late for my appointment.

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