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, September 13, 2007

Fishing from the bus

"That's a 30-pound female salmon, full of roe," the man said, pointing at the large plastic bag on the sidewalk beside the No. 87 bus stop at the 65th Street light rail station. "The other salmon was a good 25 pounds before it was cleaned."

I was waiting for the No. 87 bus rather than my normal No. 82 because I had been forced to work late by the president of the United States. To say I'm not a big fan of the president would be an understatement.

Leaving for home an hour later than I normally leave therefore became something of a transitarian adventure. I asked what my options were if I left 21st and Q streets at 8 p.m. for my home. I was hoping to leave earlier, but 8 was the most likely when I checked. The first choice came back as a 68 minute trip leaving the 23rd Street light rail station at 8:11 p.m. and meeting the No. 82 at 65th Street. I would get home at 9:19 p.m. But the second option, which required that I get to the 23rd Street station by 8:41, said I could get home by 8:49 p.m. However, I would need to take the No. 87 from the 65th Street station to Sacramento State, where I would catch up with the No. 82. This didn't make any sense. The No. 82 bus goes to 65th Street before Sac State. If I'm catching the No. 82 at Sac State, I should have been able to just wait for it at 65th Street and skipped the extra transfer.

When it finally came time to leave and I realized I could get to the 23rd Street station by 7:41, I decided to take at its word and catch the No. 87 bus.

So there I was chatting with the fisherman. He said he had been fishing above the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I'm not a fisherman, as evidenced by this tale. I asked if he considered his catch big fish. No, he explained, those were just middling. They were quite impressive middling to my untrained eye.

The conversation went from salmon to their eggs. When my son was stroller age, I would push him to our neighborhood park. I would often run into immigrants from the former Soviet Union watching their kids play. One guy I would meet regularly supplemented his county welfare checks with the proceeds from harvesting salmon roe, which he would turn into caviar and sell.

I asked the fisherman whether he sold the roe from the fish he caught, and it turned out that he too knows an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. My acquaintance was Russian; his is Ukranian. The fisherman takes the row to the wife of his Ukrainian friend, and she in turn gives him a jar of her homemade caviar. The fisherman tried to engage me in a conversation about the finer points of difference between caviar made from salmon roe and caviar made from sturgeon eggs. That was a conversation too rich for me.

When the No. 87 bus boarded, I took a seat near the back and the fisherman stayed up front. He was a real hit with the other riders, especially one man who apparently is a recreational fisherman -- never catches anything but has fun trying.

Besides the tall fish stories, the most impressive thing about the trip was the number of passengers. When I finally caught the No. 82 bus at Sac State the bus had at least one rider in every seat and for a good portion of the ride I shared my seat. I suppose this explains why the bus route that goes by my house runs as late as it does.

I arrived home at the predicted time, the ride having passed quickly as I read my book. The real mystery of's recommendation for my route was revealed when I got home and went back online to find out why I couldn't have just met the No. 82 at the 65th Street station.

Forgetting that I had originally used an 8 p.m. departure time, I asked for options leaving at 7:30 p.m., which was when I was actually ready to go. The second option on the list was again light rail to No. 87 to No. 82 and leaving at 7:41. But now the first option was my standard light rail to the No. 82 leaving at the same 7:41 time. Nowhere to be found was the suggested 8:11 p.m. departure.

I will add this to my cautionary tales about You need to experiment with the time parameters. The results can vary greatly.

Still, it didn't take any longer to take two buses rather than one and I did get to talk fish on a cool, fall evening. Not a bad night, despite the president of the United States.

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