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, November 6, 2007

Bus driver appreciation night

Last night I needed to rescue the wife's car from the evil dealer service department. Earlier in the day, the car's computer had declared an emergency, and the wife, ever mindful of what happens to the new car warranty if you ignore the emergency engine warning light, took the car to the dealer. After a day of testing, the evil dealer service department declared nothing was wrong with the car. Of course, nothing wrong isn't free. No, you pay to find out nothing is wrong. If something had been found wrong, the evil dealer service department representative explained, then the manufacturer of the car would have paid for the repairs under the warranty. I am thinking Kafka worked out this deal. As compensation for my confusion the evil dealer service department gave me a break on the price I paid for its failure to find anything wrong with the car.

So, a little dazed after going around in circles on the phone with the evil dealer service department, I found myself taking a seat on the No. 26 bus at the 65th Street light rail station. The bus was late into the station, and the driver pulled away from the curb as soon as everyone waiting had boarded.

We didn't get more than three feet before the driver stopped to let a late arrival board.

"Hurry up," the driver called to the guy. "We're already eight minutes late."

The guy said his thanks as he paid his fare and took a seat, and we were on our way -- almost.

"There's a runner," one of the passengers looking out the window called to the driver.

You could feel the driver's hesitance. Stop? Keep going? Stop?

The bus sighed and stopped. And waited. And waited. The runner was now walking.

"Come on," called the driver.

A disheveled man stumbled aboard and immediately started ranting about the train and the bus and about this and about that and finally the driver said, "OK, OK. You're on the bus now. Take a seat so we can go."

The guy took the seat immediately behind me, and a smell of vomit and urine and unwashed bodies sat down next to me.

And then, just to show once again that no good deed (in this case giving this guy a ride) goes unpunished, the guy turned on a cheap transistor radio. The radio couldn't hold a signal more than a few seconds and the guy apparently thought that radio reception was a function of volume. He turned the volume to max and searched for a station.

I'm not real good at reading while someone is playing a radio behind me, but I made an effort. At least the smell had vacated my seat after someone opened a window.

It took a while, but eventually the driver called out, "Turn off that radio."

"I'm looking for a station," the guy replied.

"Turn off the radio," the driver repeated.

"What type of music do you like?" asked the guy. "Jazz? I'm looking for some old school. Anyone know what station that is? Is that 101?"

The guy continued his search.

At the next stop the driver turned off the interior lights and then shut down the engine. This got almost everyone's attention. The great radio station hunt continued in the back of the bus.

The driver started the engine and turned the lights back on. He then turned around in his seat so that he could be seen in the back of the bus and said, "We're not going anywhere until that radio is turned off."

"I just want to go to the Watt light rail station," the guy replied.

"Fine. We'll go when the radio is turned off," the driver said.

After a moment of thoughtful consideration, the guy turned off the radio.

Not long after, my stop arrived. I considered asking the guy if he wanted to accompany me to the evil dealer service department. I wanted to plant him and his radio in front of the service desk and let the evil dealer service department representative explain how warranty service prompted by the car's emergency engine warning light is only covered if a repair is made.

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