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, June 29, 2007

Left behind

Through the side window of the bus I could see the woman's lips move, but I couldn't hear anything she said above the sound of the bus engine straining to push the coach into the street. It was obvious the woman wanted to catch the bus. She waved one hand and mouthed words as she struggled to keep up. For a few steps she managed to kept pace as the bus accelerated, but then she was gone.

Two people had been waiting at the Northrop and Bell stop when the No. 82 bus arrived. They had boarded and no one else was at the stop. That certainly was what the driver would say he saw.

The woman seated on the bench in front of me turned and looked at me. Her look was accusing but also disappointed.

Earlier, at the stop across from the Winterstein Adult Center, the woman had called out from the back of the bus that an old man wanted to get on. I looked up from my book and saw an elderly man starting to cross the street behind the bus. He was walking very slowly, his effort to wave at the bus feeble.

I think the bus boarded one passenger at the Morse and Northrop stop. I know one regular rider got off there. No one else was at the stop as the driver pulled away from the curb and prepared to turn from Morse onto Northrop.

I shrugged in response to the woman's silent accusation. I too was disappointed that not one but two people had been left behind today. I also felt guilty that I had not spoken up, that I had not yelled to alert the driver. The woman left behind will undoubtedly tell others about the way she was stranded by an uncaring RT bus driver. Her friends will believe you can't count on RT, that you're better off relying on your own car to commute to work.

The No. 82 bus that leaves American River College at 8:04 a.m. has trouble keeping to its schedule when school is in session. I have missed bus connections because the crowds of riders and the requirements for accommodating wheelchairs had so delayed the bus.

But school is out. It is a cool, relaxed summer morning. The bus isn't late.

The bus could have waited for the old man to cross the street. The bus could have stopped for the woman. If only someone had spoken up. If only the driver had heard the call from the back of the bus.

I returned to reading my book.

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