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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Simpsons on the bus

OK. I'm not a big fan of the Simpsons. My son is, though. He went to opening night. Anyway, I ran across this Web site where you can transform a picture of yourself into a Simpsons character. This is what I'd look like if the Simpsons were running this blog:

Monday, July 30, 2007

Just another passenger taking the morning bus to work

I haven't been to work since last Wednesday. I've been home harvesting the "Honey, Do..." that had overflowed from the jar into a mess in the front yard. I was looking forward to catching the No. 82 bus that leaves American River College at 8:04 a.m. This would be the first time on that bus since I heard what had happened to the guy who chases co-eds.

When I boarded the bus I took my regular seat on the back bench. This is an older bus with benches at the rear on both sides and along the back. Across from me at the other end of the back bench was a very pregnant young lady who was busy with her iPod.

The bus was unusually crowded, with at least one rider in most of the seats. At least two young women were seated by themselves, something I was sure the guy who chases co-eds would notice.

The anticipation had distracted me from my book. Will the guy who chases co-eds behave now that he has been warned by the driver to knock it off? As we pulled up to the Wal-Mart stop on Watt, I could see the guy waiting, dressed in his work uniform -- white short-sleeve shirt, khaki pants and apron. With him were a gray-haired Asian couple and a man in slacks and a short-sleeve white shirt.

The guy takes a seat on the bench just behind the side exit. He sits and folds his arms across his chest. After a while, he shifts and turns in his seat so he can scan the seats ahead of him in the coach. He doesn't lean back in his seat. He is on edge, literally. But he is not prowling. He stays put.

Watching the guy, I am reminded of Anthony Burgess' book "A Clockwork Orange." I read the book years ago and thanks to the wonders of the Internet I am able to pull this quote out of the air to illustrate my point:

"Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses to be bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?"
As I watch and scribble my notes, the guy who no longer chases co-eds folds his arms across his chest and stares at the floor.

The television producer interested in the story of this guy has sent me another note:
"I didn't really see it as a story on a dangerous stalker. It was more the annoyance factor that caught my interest, from an outsider's perspective seeing these girls getting harassed and wondering whether to step in like the driver did."
I'm not excited about the tales of the guy who chased co-eds being made into a TV movie. Read my story "Karaoke on the bus" and pay special attention to the end.

Not everyone was annoyed with the guy's efforts to strike up a conversation with pretty strangers. That was especially true when the bus filled with Sac State co-eds. After all, who is better trained in the skills necessary to cope with unwanted male attention than a pretty college co-ed?

But not everyone has the skills or the experience of a pretty co-ed. The bus is not a singles bar. Women riding on the bus should be safe from predators.

So now the guy who chased co-eds is just out of luck, just another passenger taking the morning bus to work.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stalker chases co-eds on buses! Film at 11!

Got this note in the mail this morning:


I'm a producer for [snip out the name]'s morning show. I was looking through the Sac blogs and came across your posts on the story of the bus co-ed stalker. I think it's a great story and would love to talk about it on our show next week. Would you be interested in talking with us about the kinds of things you've observed? Either on the phone or in studio?

Let me know if you're up for it...
Thanks, but no thanks. I don't consider the guy a stalker or dangerous. Since he obviously doesn't respect the needs of others for personal space, I suppose he could be classified as seriously annoying. The RT driver who told him to stop hitting on women on the bus was correct to take action.

I'm open to comments on this...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Deathly Hallows on the bus

Finished reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the last of J. K. Rowling's series of seven spellbinding books. Harry Potter certainly made the bus and light rail trips to and from work seem a lot shorter for a couple of days.

I don't know exactly when I first met Harry Potter. It would have been after the first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," was published in September 1998. It was probably close to when the second book, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," was published in June 1999.

Since my son was old enough to have a bedtime, I had been lying down in his bed each night and reading to him. "Froggy Gets Dressed," "Airplanes and Flying Machines," "Are You My Mommy?" "A Million Chameleons" and on and on and over again. I worked my way through as much of the Dr. Seuss oeuvre as I could find. I still have 20 of his books on a shelf.

Eventually my son and I graduated to the "Animorphs" series by K. A. Applegate. The science fiction series was great fun. We would read a chapter a night. "Just one more," my son would plead, and we'd read another until he just couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. More than once we both fell asleep.

But then the kids who could morph into any animal they could touch as they battled an alien invasion of Earth were pushed aside by the power of Harry Potter's spell.

My son was eight when I started reading Harry Potter to him. The books make excellent bedtime tales with easily digested chapters and lots of surprises.

We worked our way through the first two books and then onto "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" in September 1999 and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" in July 2000. But then there was a three-year wait, and by the time "Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix" was published in August 2003 my son was 11, going on 12, and too "big" to have his father read to him. Unfortunately, all of my reading to him had not made reading easy for him, and he found the book and its 870 pages too intimidating to tackle on his own. I sympathized. I wasn't a reader as a child. But I couldn't abandon Harry Potter, and so I read the book by myself.

I read "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" in July 2006 sequestered in a hotel room in Las Vegas while my son and the rest of his competitive soccer team were roaming the Strip after the day's games.

In "Deathly Hallows," Rowling does a very satisfying job of tying everything together and concluding the series. However, I don't recommend this book if you haven't read the other six books. In the earlier books, Rowling was famous for spending pages and pages helping readers catch up with details from earlier books that played an important part in the new book. Not this time. Readers of this final book are expected to remember Harry's experiences with the pensive and the room of requirement, the Basilisk and Horcruxes.

I wish I had an excuse to start the series all over again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stopping guys who chase co-eds on the bus

The guy who chases co-eds has finally been told he can't go foraging among the female riders to fill his hunger. This has clearly not been his summer.

The story of what happened can be found here.

For those readers coming from that story looking for more about the guy who chases co-eds, start here and then try these posts.

UPDATE: As of 1:39 p.m. the post at has disappeared. All very odd. I had posted this comment on the post:

I was wondering why the guy was looking so sullen when he boarded the bus the other day. I've been riding earlier buses the last two days and I noticed him at the Watt stop, but he didn't board. I wouldn't be surprised to find him on a different bus in the future, especially after Sac State opens again and the bus fills with targets of his attention.

Instead of the link to the top of my blog, here's a link to the first post I wrote about the guy. And here are the others that mention him.
And this is the reply I received:
Subject: Re: Guys who chase co-eds
If he indeed does that, I'll consider it a minor victory. Sadly, I won't have that run again when the fall semester comes in, but hopefully the word will be out on him. As a rule, we don't tolerate stuff like that, but we have to know about it before we can do something.

Thank you for writing about him; without your assist, I'd never have known how long it was going on for.
I'd like to have the story back. It was a fun read.

UPDATE: Check the comments below for an explanation of the disappearing story. I disagree with the driver's need to "hide" this post from his supervisors at RT. The driver did every woman on the bus a favor by discouraging this guy. That's a service RT ought to be proud of. And if RT isn't happy, I would think that Division 256 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO, would have enough muscle to protect him. If not, then what are those union dues for?

UPDATE THURSDAY, JULY 26: The story is again available for all to see. Discussion of what happened is available in the comments.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Promoting transit: Ride free for a week

Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 09:49:09 -0700
From: "John Hughes"
Subject: An idea to get more people to try RT services

I am a monthly pass rider of the Sacramento Regional Transit System. For my
needs -- commuting to and from work with an occasional side trip on the way
home -- RT meets my needs. But how to convince others that the system really
does work?

RT prints monthly passes without user identification that are good for
unlimited rides for the month displayed on the card.

Here's my proposal: During the last seven days of the month, give the
remaining cards away to people who express an interest in trying out the
service. For the remaining days of the month, these people get to ride as
much as they want.

The monthly pass is by far the best way to use RT, and giving people an
opportunity to experience that convenience would be an excellent way to
encourage more people to use the system.

John Hughes


From: "Robert Beverly"
To: "John Hughes"
Subject: Re: An idea to get more people to try RT services

Mr. Hughes:

Thank you for contacting Regional Transit; your suggestion has been
forwarded to the appropriate supervisor in the Public Information
Department. If you need additional information please feel free to
contact me at the number listed below.


Robert H. Beverly

Monday, July 23, 2007

Spellbinding bus rides

A spell has been cast on my transit commute by the final book of the Harry Potter series. I doubt I will raise my nose far enough out of the pages while riding to and from work to notice anything worth commenting on. As a result, it may be a day or two before I post again.

Eventually, I will explain how I met Harry Potter.

UPDATE: The noise I originally put in the book slapped me in the face. I put my nose back in the book, embarrassed. And if this all leaves you confused, you are probably not alone. I'm more than puzzled by the fact that I am unable, no matter how hard I try, to write a simple sentence without some glaring typo hiding until after publication and then biting me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Emergency, Call 911

Well, I had to ask, so I asked Officer Michelle over at the SacPD blog:

Dear Michelle, Wednesday, I was walking west on Capitol Ave. around 24 Street and I saw an RT bus traveling east with "Emergency, Call 911" on the front message sign where the route is normally displayed and "Call 911" on the back where the route number normally shows.

I watched the bus stop and let someone off and then let someone on. If it was having an emergency, it wasn’t evident.

Do the buses have "panic" buttons that trigger this sort of display?

And should I have called 911 when I saw the bus sign say "Emergency, Call 911"?

Dear Jhughes,
You are very observant! There are panic triggers on the busses which automatically change the front message to "Emergency, Call 911," and the RT radio control is automatically notified. You are urged to call 911 when this happens. If it is a false alarm, the driver will notify RT via radio. Way to go!

Officer Michelle
So next time I'll know.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Children of Men on the bus

Finished reading P.D. James' 1992 novel "The Children of Men" while riding the bus. I had picked up the book because I had recently watched the 2006 movie of the same name. After I finished the book I watched the movie again.

A crime has been committed. I hope they paid James a lot of money for the use of the title to her book and the names of a handful of characters because the movie has next to nothing, literally, from the book beyond the book's starting point.

The story takes place in 2021, some 25 years after the last human being was born. Since then, no man has been able to make a woman pregnant. No one knows why. There are simply no more children of men.

James does an excellent job of describing the despair that would follow as the human race realizes that there will be no next generation. When the people alive today die, that will be the extinction of mankind.

"You are a historian. You know what evils have been perpetrated through the ages to ensure the survival of nations, sects, religions, even of individual families. Whatever man has done for good or ill has been done in the knowledge that he has been formed by history, that his life-span is brief, uncertain, insubstantial, but that there will be a future, for the nation, for the race, for the tribe. That hope has finally gone except in the minds of fools and fanatics. Man is diminished if he lives without knowledge of his past; without hope of a future he becomes a beast."
Much of the book is an exploration of the struggle between what needs to be done when man has become beast and the corruption that comes from ultimate power.

Movie director Alfonso Cuaron gets top billing among the five people credited for the screenplay. I can understand why he took the easy way out. Surely a movie that actually required some subtlety would have been much more difficult to make.

Rolling Stone's review gushed praise for the movie:
One of the pleasures of modern movies is watching an artist like Cuaron at work. In the spellbinding Children of Men, his best film to date, Cuaron, 45, fills every frame with his passion and intellect. Here's a movie that grabs you hard, pops your eyes, provokes your mind and ultimately lifts your spirits. As director and co-writer, Cuaron takes on a 1992 novel by P.D. James set in 2027 in battle-battered England, the only country left to soldier on in the face of massive terrorism, immigrant invasion and global infertility (no child has been born since 2009).

The movie is cheap and violent where the book is thoughtful and poignant. If you haven't seen the movie, don't. Read the book. It is a fascinating exploration of despair and hope, faith and doubt, cruelty and love.

Karaoke on the bus

The commute was peaceful, fitting well with the cool breeze that foretold another nice summer day.

The No. 82 bus had just three riders when I boarded. Two women wearing sun hats sat together in the first front-facing seats. They were middle-aged Japanese women whom I've often seen riding together. Sisters, perhaps. Across from them, in the first seat inside the door, sat the preteen girl with the collapsible scooter and the teddy-bear backpack. Normally, I see her on the bus that runs an hour before this.

I took my regular seat in the first elevated row in the back of the bus. This was one of the newer buses. The seat upholstery looked new or at least freshly cleaned.

The girl left the bus two stops after I boarded, leaving just the women, silent in the front, and me with my book in the back. Accompanying us was the background hum of the bus engine and the intermittent jangle of noise whenever the bus met a bump in the road. All very relaxing.

At Watt, we took on a young woman. Her day-glo lime green t-shirt distracted me from my book. She walked the length of the bus and took a seat on the back bench, and I went back to reading.

A little while later, I thought I heard singing. It appeared to be coming from the front of the bus. Were the two Japanese ladies humming a tune? I imagined them practicing a song they were learning at the Winterstein Adult School, where immigrants learn English and others learn job skills. Perhaps the school tests the immigrants' enthusiasm for citizenship by torturing them with learning the National Anthem. But I soon discarded that thesis. These ladies don't get off at the Winterstein stop.

As the bus continued on and the singing grew louder, I realized that it was coming from the woman who had taken the seat in the back of the bus.

Is it NOT possible to sing in key when singing along with recorded music?

The bus took on more passengers. A middle-aged man with a straw hat settled into the seat across from me. A young mother and a toddler took a seat near the front. And the woman in the back continued to sing.

Well, she continued to make that sound. It is easy to imagine a dying woman, drugged to dull the pain, producing a comparable noise, a muted agony accompanying life's end.

More people boarded and some left but still the woman persisted.

Cats. Well, one cat. That's what it reminded me of. Sitting on the fence, loudly calling out the neighbor felines for an evening concert. In the cartoons, a guy opens a window and tosses a shoe. I didn't have a shoe to spare.

In the front of the bus, the toddler was squirming in his mother's lap. He was making pre-talking noises and fussing sounds. But at least he was in key.

And then the woman stopped singing. Finally. Her stop was coming up, and she had moved to a seat behind me to wait. As the bus pulled to the curb, she got up and stood at the side door.

As the bus door opened, the man across from me said to the woman, "You have a nice day. You have a beautiful voice."

The man smiled at her. It was a gentle, grandfather sort of smile.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ride and learn (continued)

RT Rider: Learn the meaning of Transitarian. Or just travel with a rookie commuter as he explores the ins and outs of relying on Sacramento Regional Transit to get around.
That's my motto. It could also be: I walk so you can ride.

At least that's what I kept telling myself as I walked home tonight.

Back in June, when I explored how to get from 21st and Q streets in midtown and arrive before 7 p.m. at Watt and Whitney avenues in Arden Arcade, I was told to take the train toward Sunrise/Folsom and get off at Watt. I could then take the No. 80 bus. I even used that route a couple of times and it worked fine.

But when I checked the other day it now gave me a different route: The No. 62 bus downtown to 10 and L streets, a short walk to light rail at Cathedral Square and then out to the end of the line at Watt, where I catch the No. 84 bus for the short hop to Whitney. The new route takes 15 minutes less time overall. I took the route to my appointment. It worked fine.

If I had just left well enough alone everything would have been fine. But, silly me, I noticed that, according to the schedule, I could use the same route and cut at least 10 minutes off my trip home. The key was transferring from the No. 84 to the No. 82 at Watt and Whitney. The No. 84 is scheduled to arrive at 6:31 p.m. and the No. 82 is scheduled to arrive at 6:35 p.m.

So, today I was late getting out of the office and missed my regular train home. As I was considering what to do while I waited for the next train connecting with the No. 82 bus, it occurred to me I could take the new route and catch up with the same bus I would have been on, thus leaving later but arriving home at the same time.

I know better. I have blogged before about what happens when relying on a train-bus connection that has only a three-minute cushion. A bus-bus connection with just four minutes leeway will be just as unreliable. But why am I here if not to prove the point.

The No. 62 bus to the train and the train to the No. 84 bus worked like a charm. But the No. 84 arrived three minutes late at Watt and Whitney and the No. 82 arrived one minute early, erasing the four-minute cushion. I was getting off the No. 84 on one side of Watt as the No. 82 was turning off Watt onto Whitney on the other side of the street.

So I hoofed it home -- 1.5829 miles according to Now, it wasn't a total waste of time. Besides the Transitarian Diet benefits of the evening stroll, I still managed to arrive home 10 minutes sooner than I would have arrived if I had waited at work for the next train-bus combination.

Sayonara, Gangsters, on the bus

Finished reading Genichiro Takahashi's "Sayonara, Gangsters" while riding the bus. And then I finished it again over the weekend. This is a book to make you think. It certainly made me wish I had paid more attention in my literature classes.

It's also fun.

This book was brought to me by Richard Brautigan. After finishing "The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966" I had been Googling around looking for discussions of the book and stumbled upon this post. The blogger was in the process of reading the Japanese translation of Brautigan's "Abortion." He mentioned that the unusual library and its equally unlikely librarian reminded him of Takahashi's poetry teacher and his very small, windowless basement classroom.

So, the Japanese translation of Brautigan brought me to the English translation of Takahashi.

The author's biography in the back of the book offers this: "Genichiro Takahashi, b. 1951, never graduated from Yokohama National University. As a student radical, he was arrested and spent half a year in prison, a harrowing experience that rendered him incapable of reading or writing for several years."

I have a great appreciation for a biography that starts that way. Mine would read: "John Hughes, b. 1951, never graduated from the University of Southern California."

I used to struggle with that on resumes. My fear of resumes may be one of the leading reasons I've worked for the same company for 27 years. But I digress.

"Sayonara, Gangsters" is the first of Takahashi's books to be translated into English. Originally published in Japanese in 1982 as "Sayournara Gyangu-tachi" the English translation was published in 2004. I'm hoping his other works will be translated. I can't wait to read "John Lennon vs. The Martians."

Takahashi's "Sayonara, Gangsters" is described as a postmodern masterpiece, which, in my ignorance of literary styles, I'm more than willing to accept. It has a little of the Brautigan feel for imaginative scenery.

"The Poetry School" is located in the second basement level of a building with seven floors above the ground and two below.

The first, second and third floors of the building are occupied by the largest supermarket in the world, which sells everything.

Yesterday, after my classes were over, I lined up at the register with ten cans of cat food and one three-pound can of MJB Coffee in my shopping basket. I was just behind a Cambodian who was buying a pair of "Prime Ministers," a pair of "Ministers of Defense," and a pair of "Ambassadors to the United Nations." They were on sale: three for the price of two.

I gazed at the total as the clerk punched in the prices, utterly intrigued. The sum ended up being much lower than I had imagined.
"Sayonara, Gangsters" takes place in an unspecified future when Gangsters are killing U.S. presidents at a prodigious clip and people have abandoned personal names. Instead, people rely on their lovers to give them names. The main character gives his girlfriend the name "The Nakajima Miyuki Song Book," shortened to Song Book. She in turn gives him the name "Sayonara, Gangsters." Why is revealed in the book.

In this future, City Hall sends out postcards telling people the date and time of their death. The story of the arrival of the postcard announcing the death of the main character's daughter is touching. Imagine a world where death is not a surprise. Imagine a world where you can have one last day together with the person who will die, both of you knowing it will be the last time. It drives the mother of the child crazy.

The middle part of the book offers a series of vignettes about the poetry teacher's students. My favorite was the tale of the day Virgil, the famous poet of ancient Rome, arrives as a General Motors three-door commercial refrigerator.
"I had a hell of a time getting here, a hell of a time," said Virgil the Fridge.

When he tried to get on the train the conductor barricaded his way, telling him that electric appliances were prohibited from riding, and the doors of the taxis were so small that he couldn't squeeze through, and when he gave up and decided to walk, some dimwitted rapscallion had tried to make off with him.

"Goodness. What did you do?"

"I shouted at him 'Impudent wretch!' I cried, 'Darest thou lay a finger on the great Virgil!!!' As soon as he heard that, the little ninny ran off shrieking."
In the tale we learn that Virgil's metamorphosis took place after a party that featured other classic poets, including a very drunk Ovid, famed for the epic poem Metamorphoses.

The poetry teacher offers an explanation of what's happened to Virgil:
"See, the way I figure it, you're what you'd call a very rigid classicist; as such, you wanted to keep everything frozen, preserved just as it was. That makes sense, right? That urge was always a part of your deeper psychological makeup, but when it came into contact with Ovid it erupted. How's that?"

"Well, it does hold together, it's true. And it has a kind of simple beauty, sort of like a can of beer that's gone flat. Oh dear, oh dear -- don't think I meant that as an insult or anything, because I didn't. Shall I tell you my own hypothesis?"


"The poet's deeper psychological makeup contained a second urge entirely different from the one you mentioned. A poet is always aiming to commit the perfect crime. But what, you ask, is the perfect crime? It is to create an entirely indecipherable work of art, of course. And the refrigerator is simply a refrigerator. It's damn near impossible to find any sort of meaning or thought in a refrigerator. On the other hand, vermin, breasts . . . please, it's too obvious.

"Thus the mature poet channeled every ounce of his gift into the great plan: his murder in a sealed room. And this work of art -- it was the refrigerator. How does that strike you?"
"Sayonara, Gangsters," is not an entirely indecipherable work of art, of course. It is quite accessible even if, like me, the reader doesn't have the foundation in literature required to enjoy all of the jokes written between the lines.

Monday, July 16, 2007


I looked down at my feet. I feel it necessary. I checked the sock color match. I don't know why I bother. I wouldn't have time to return home to fix any errors prompted by my rush to catch my morning bus.

Immediately in front of my shoes I noticed a hand-painted message on the curb.

"B.S.", it declared. And if any doubt remained, the message was punctuated with an arrow pointing at me.

I don't know why I had not noticed the message before. The white paint didn't look particularly fresh, but it didn't look faded or worn either -- a timeless message.

As I puzzled over whether to take the message personally, I noticed that across the street was an identical message -- "B.S." -- but with the arrow pointing away from me and toward the sidewalk on that side of the street. No one was standing there.

It all seemed an amateurish relative of the "art" I have found stenciled on the Midtown sidewalks during my afternoon walks. The artists in this suburban wasteland don't have the opportunities of the lawnless hoards of the city. No, here one is more likely to find street art limited to the coded messages telling ditch diggers an area is free from underground utilities.

"B.S.", indeed.

When the bus stopped I boarded and took my customary seat in the elevated section at the rear. I took out my notepad and scribbled my B.S. thoughts and then I took out my book and read for the remainder of the trip to work.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Work at home driving buses

OK. Does Q, the RT Driver guy, know about this?

I was bored with the posts on my blog and decided instead to read the ads from Google that appear at the bottom of each of the first three posts. And there among the ads for van service to the airport and Chipolte burritos was this:

Work at Home as a bus driver! No need for a silly blue uniform. Every day is a pajama party on the bus when you Work at Home!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

It takes a village

As I boarded the No. 82 bus and walked to my customary seat in the back I recognized the woman near the front with her hair covered in a blue bandana. Across from where I sat was the man forever immortalized as The Gentleman on the bus. Two strangers held the bench at the back. The start of just another commute.

At Watt, a woman carrying a toddler boarded, followed by another woman. They took seats in the front. Soon two more women joined them and then another. The women chatted among themselves -- back to forward, forward to back, across the aisle, diagonally -- weaving the conversation together. I couldn't hear more than a word here and a phrase there. The women's voices merged with the creaks and groans of the bus and the traffic outside to create the sounds of the mechanical village, a transitarian community created on the fly as the bus bounded along its route.

At one point a woman got out a picture of her daughter to show the woman with the toddler.

"She looks just like you," a woman across the aisle interjected.

The woman with the photo explained that the other three children in the picture are hers too.

"You have four children?" the woman across the aisle said, as if trying out her math skills.

"Seven," the woman corrected. She then produced another photo and held it with the first -- seven smiling children.

"Oh, they all look like you," the women across the aisle said.

Another woman asked, "Twins?"

"No twins," the woman replied.

Seven pregnancies. Seven deliveries. Seven birth stories to tell. Such a feat silenced the other women. Seven and no twins. Wow!

It was during the silence that followed that the guy who chases co-eds boarded. He had no trouble picking his target. He wanted nothing to do with the mother and her toddler or, worse yet, the mother of seven kids and no twins. He ignored the woman with the blue bandana and instead descended on a woman alone just in front of the side exit.

The guy asked her to move over so he could sit down.

"There's an open seat over there," she tartly replied. She pointed to the seat across the aisle and slightly behind her.

He examined the vacant seat as if puzzled at its sudden existence. Then he admitted the facts of the situation and sat down. But he was not defeated. Not yet.

I didn't hear what he said to the woman, but he leaned across the aisle and the two awkwardly shook hands with their left hands. It was a deal of some sort more than a greeting.

Apparently not happy with his progress, the guy jumped forward one seat and landed next to the woman with the blue bandana. She was noticeably surprised but didn't openly object.

The guy, who was now forward of his target, turned and tried to get a conversation going. I heard him explain that he works at La Bou on Howe. But soon the woman with the bandana and the object of the guy's desire were talking about a conference or something. As I watched, the guy slowly became invisible.

Eventually, he realized he was invisible and moved his invisible body back to the empty seat. He invisibly slouched in his visible disappointment.

From the front of the bus I heard the toddler tell her mother, "Do it again."

The toddler shrieked in laughter.

"Do it again."

She laughed.

"Do it again."

People got off the bus. People got on the bus.

The toddler merrily laughed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rally For Transit at the Capitol!

The Environmental Council of Sacramento's Air, Transportation and Climate Group has announced plans for a rally on the West Steps of the Capitol Building on Monday, July 16, at 12:30 p.m. to oppose the governor's proposed cuts in transit funding.

For more information, read this ECOS post.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wild Kingdom on the bus

Hunger compels the animal, and the guy who chases co-eds is hungry. He must be. Sac State's summer schedule doesn't draw the crowds of co-eds to the No. 82 bus. The drought is expected to last until fall.

But the guy's got to do what the guy's got to do.

I had noticed him in the distance. He appeared nervous as he stood alone at the Watt Avenue bus stop, the Wal-Mart and its vast parking lot as the backdrop.

The bus stops, and the guy boards. He shows his pass and starts his hunt. He looks left and then right. He advances to the first of the poles that extend to the ceiling of the bus. He looks left and then right. He moves to the next pole. Eventually he makes it to where I sit in the first row of the elevated section at the rear of the bus. He takes a seat behind me.

Every seat in front of me has at least one passenger, with a wheelchair rider taking up two seats in the front. When a woman seated directly below me gets up and exits, the guy quickly moves to take the empty seat, the blind behind which to plan his attack.

Pickings are slim. There is a certain desperation evident in his moves, a furtiveness. Then he leaps.

And without a word of greeting or a "by your leave," he drops next to a young woman.

The woman's body language is adamant. If she physically slapped him, she couldn't be more explicit. He holds his ground. Her right hand tightly grips the bar above the seat in front of her. She tries to inch closer to the wall of the bus. The guy quickly moves to fill the gap.

He waits for an opening, some invitation. The woman is rigid, eyes front, silent, all of the doors and windows closed and double-locked. A thick, silent impasse follows.

The arrival of a second wheelchair rider sends a wave of passengers into the back of the bus looking for an open seat, and the woman sees her chance to escape. She stands. He stands and moves to the aisle. She moves to the aisle. As two riders fill the vacated seat, she manages to move forward, seeking shelter in the crowd of standing passengers in the front. At the next stop she flees.

The bus is close to where the guy gets off. He takes a seat in the front and waits, downcast.

When my parents divorced, my mother used the money my father sent each month to pay women to live with us so there would always be someone at home when my brother and I returned from school. For a while, my neighbor's grandmother held that job. One of her sons was an engineer with RCA working on the development of color television. He gave his mother one of the first commercial color TVs, and she had him install it in her room at our house. We didn't have a TV.

Our neighbor's grandmother would only allow us to watch Wild Kingdom and other travel shows. It was excellent preparation for riding the bus.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Einstein on the bus

Finished reading "Einstein: His Life and Universe" while riding to and from work on the bus. Walter Isaacson's biography is fascinating, full of rich details that reveal the human being who was Albert Einstein.

Personally, I've never forgiven Einstein for proving that nothing can go faster than the speed of light.

For purposes of argument, I'll accept Einstein's view that a supreme being created the universe. Einstein's scientific work saw the handiwork of this creator in the laws that govern the way things work. For Einstein, everything was by design. He was famous for refusing to believe this supreme being played games of chance with its creation.

So while reading this book I came to my own epiphany: Mankind has been placed in a jail, confined to the boundaries of the cell.

Outside the jail, through the small window in the wall, we can see the far reaches of the universe, the beauty of nebulae, the birth and death of entire solar systems, the glory of distant galaxies. But we cannot visit. We cannot reach anything outside the jail. We are locked behind the requirement that nothing can travel faster than light.

Perhaps that's by design.

Einstein lived through two world wars and well into the worst of the Cold War. He abhorred authoritarian governments, from the strict German schools of his youth to the atrocious behavior of the Nazis to Soviet repression. His nonconformist nature was part of his genius, something that freed him to imagine what others hesitated to consider. While a pacifist before and during the First World War, he eventually arrived at the understanding that mankind needed to shed its tribal nationalist identities and embrace a world government that would be granted enough power to prevent tyrants from coming to power.

"If the idea of world government is not realistic," he said in 1948, "then there is only one realistic view of our future: wholesale destruction of man by man."

When I first started writing this blog post I placed mankind in a crib rather than a jail. After all, mankind is very, very young. The National Geographic Genographic project suggests everyone alive today is descended from an African man and woman who lived just 60,000 years ago.

But, like Einstein, I don't favor the theory that this is all random. Mankind has conquered the world with the speed of a virus ravaging its victim. In the blink of a cosmic eye, the world today teeters on the edge of balance.

Perhaps the universe has been made safe from us.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


OK. So maybe I was just a little naive when I wrote on May 2, "People don't melt." It was easy on a cool, rainy day to write, "Hard as it may be for people who live in this semi-arid region to believe, the rain won't hurt you. And if you do get wet, you'll dry soon enough."

Even steely resolve to merge transit and walking to create the Transitarian Diet can start to melt when the temperature outside is on its way to breaking a record set 76 years ago.

I've lived in Sacramento since 1982. I know it gets hot. I know the temperature can reach triple-digits for successive days in the summer. Still, there's nothing like a full-body sauna while on an afternoon walk to burn in the reality.

This year I've been walking every afternoon when I get a break in my daily workload. During the winter, I prided myself on walking in the rain. But I'll admit it does seem a bit more deranged to continue the practice when the temperature is 105 on its way to 108.

So today I compromised: Instead of drinking hot, bold-roast coffee from Starbucks at the midway point in my walk, I stopped nextdoor at Jamba Juice. I'm not convinced the energy boost will work as well as the caffeine to get me through the remainder of the day, but at least it will take a little less time for my fan to dry me out back at my office.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Commuter Club with PRIZES!

The Sacramento Transportation Management Association offers downtown commuters an opportunity to win prizes in exchange for keeping a diary of their daily commute. Information from the diaries is used to track regional commute travel trends. I'm all for sharing a little private information in exchange for payola.

To participate, you must work in downtown Sacramento, which is defined as east to Howe Avenue (Sac State) and 65th Street (SMUD and UCDMC), north to Richards Boulevard and south to Florin Road, (Kaiser South).

According to the Sacramento Commuter Club Web site:

Commuter Club is here to help you find smarter ways to travel on our region's crowded streets and highways, because traffic jams and air pollution are not healthy for our physical or mental well-being.

The Sacramento TMA, which provides Commuter Club, is working to make it easier to find a carpool or vanpool, to try transit, and to have safer routes for bicyclists.

The TMA believes in finding solutions to our dependence on foreign oil. To help you find options that work into your lifestyle, check out and

Current Available Prizes
  • A Spin on the $5,000 Cash Wheel
    The Cash Wheel has $5,000 in prizes: three $500 cash prizes, ten $100 prizes and fifty $50 cash prizes. The "big spin" will take place in December.

  • Specialty Coffee Card - Value $5
    $5 gift card to Starbucks, redeemable at any location nationwide.

  • $10 Fandango Bucks
    Get $10 in Fandango Bucks which you can redeem online towards the cost of movie tickets.

  • Specialty Coffee Card - Value $10
    $10 gift card to Starbucks, redeemable at any location nationwide.

  • $20 Fandango Bucks
    Get $20 in Fandango Bucks which you can redeem online towards the cost of movie tickets.
The diary is easy enough to manage. This is what it looks like:

The log tracks roundtrip miles. For instance, if you take the bus four miles every day to work, your primary commute is transit and your miles are eight. But if you drive three miles to meet a vanpool, and then ride 20 miles in the vanpool, then your primary commute is vanpool, 40 miles a day, and your secondary commute (the shorter segment) is drive, six miles a day.

For purposes of my Transitarian Diet, I'm logging my afternoon walk as a secondary commute. Alas, such wild abuse of the system will probably damage the intricate matrix being built.

You don't have to be a Transitarian to participate. The commute options cover all manner of sins:

My employer is not part of the Sacramento Transportation Management Association. If your employer is a member, there are a number of other benefits, including the "Guaranteed Ride Home."

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bus driver appreciation day

A certain rhythm marks the progress of the morning bus -- stop, drop off riders, pick up riders, start. The bus rolls along and I read, always conscious of the rhythm within the symphony of transit noises.

And then the bus paused. It was as if a person loudly snoring in the next room suddenly stopped. It was vaguely alarming.

I looked up. The bus had stopped at Morse and Hurley to let a regular rider off. But no one was waiting to get on. The bus engine idled with the front door open. Often when a bus gets ahead of schedule, the driver will wait. But that only happens at a run's timing points, and this was not a timing point.

And then I saw her in the distance. She was in the middle of Hurley running. A short, middle-aged woman dressed in a white top and tan slacks, the highlights in her short light-brown hair flashing in the breeze created as she dashed toward the bus. When she reached the sidewalk she slowed to a walk for a few steps as she retrieved her wallet from her purse, and then she returned to her jogging pace. She was undoubtedly happy to be wearing sneakers.

The woman arrived in the bus with her purse and a banana in one hand and a bus pass and a wallet in the other. She and the driver exchanged greetings as she took her seat.

As a child, I often heard it said that it doesn't matter what you do for a living as long as you do it with pride. I was taught that taking pride in your work brings enjoyment and satisfaction.

This morning when I boarded the No. 82 bus that leaves American River College at 7:19 a.m., I noticed the girl with the collapsible scooter in the front of the bus. She was rummaging in her teddy bear backpack as I took a seat in the back of the bus. Two stops after I boarded, the bus stopped. The doors opened.

"Your stop," the driver said to the girl.

The girl threw her teddy bear over her shoulder, grabbed her scooter and hurried off the bus.

It is very enjoyable to watch someone work who clearly enjoys what he is doing. Not every driver can do it, as evidenced last week with two riders left behind on one run.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

30 percent off RT passes

After six months of buying monthly passes to ride Sacramento Regional Transit, I discovered that I could buy the passes using pre-tax dollars, and thus save about 30 percent off the overall cost.

This is just one piece of information I discovered recently at the Sacramento Transit Association Web site at

"The Sacramento Transportation Management Association is an independent, non-profit membership association, representing 145 employers and helping more than 87,153 commuters find alternatives to commuting alone to work. The TMA was founded in 1990 by employers that were concerned about the negative impact of Sacramento's traffic congestion and air pollution on their employees' commutes and quality of life. "
Reading the Sacramento TMA newsletter, I found this tidbit:
"The Commuter Choice Initiative allows employers to provide greater commute benefits. Described in Title IX, section 910 of TEA-21, this initiative changes IRS code, section 132(f)(4) to allow pre-tax payment of transit, vanpool or parking costs.

Employers can subsidize up to $65 of transit or vanpool expenses, or $175 of parking costs, per month tax-free.

Or employees may set these amounts aside tax-free in an account. The account is different from traditional cafeteria plans, no plan filings are required and an employee does not lose any unused amount they have set aside.

The pre-tax and tax-free benefits do not apply to carpooling costs and the law requires that employers use a debit system or vouchers such as Transit Chek (the phone number for TransitChek is 1-800-531-2828).

The savings add up. For every dollar employers provide, they save up to ten cents; employees save 30 cents."
Sure enough, when I checked with my personnel office they already had a program in place. Unlike pre-tax money for health costs, you can sign up at any time and stop at any time. In the program my employer offers, the price of the monthly pass is deducted in pre-tax dollars. You then purchase the pass and send the receipt to the company that handles the health cost reimbursements. They send you back a check. As explained to me, my program allows you six months to request reimbursement. If you don't ask for the money back in six months, then you lose it.