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, December 13, 2007

Measuring bus drivers

I walked to the front of the bus after pulling the "stop request" cord. As the bus slowed and moved toward the curb, the driver closed her cell phone and said, "I hate when they ask me that."

I had no idea what she was talking about.

"How big is five inches?" she asked. "Guys know these things."

I smiled and considered that silently.

"No, no, not that. That's not what I'm asking," she quickly added.

I offered my estimate of five inches, holding my index fingers apart horizontally.

"Then, how big is a foot?" she asked.

"Well, it's going to be a little more than twice that," I said, and moved my index fingers apart. And then I remembered that my shoes are 12 inches from heel to toe and raised by right foot and said, "That's a foot."

I think she thought I was making fun of her question.

The bus stopped and the door opened. We said our goodbyes and I left the bus to walk home.

Who says riding the bus isn't interesting?

Tonight the guy who regularly drives this run from 65th Street to American River College had been replaced by a woman driver. There may be a rough outward similarity between tonight's driver and the one I wrote about yesterday -- both blonde, about the same age -- but as drivers, they are worlds apart. No, universes apart.

As I boarded the bus with a half-dozen other riders, a guy stuck his head in the door and asked when the next No. 87 bus would arrive. "Let me check," she said. She looked up the information while people continued to board. "That will be 6:30, hon," she said.

To people who don't ride Sacramento Regional Transit buses, that may not sound like such a big deal. Ask for information; get an answer. But it is rare that a driver will do that. More likely the driver will hand over the bus schedule book so the rider can figure it out for himself. But most often the drivers just say they have no idea, and some of those drivers make sure you appreciate just how much they don't care.

During the ride, a passenger went to the front of the bus, apparently to check whether he would be able to make a connection. She did some checking and told the guy it was possible. She'd see what she could do. But then when the bus reached the Kaiser Hospital timing stop she had to wait to catch up with the schedule. And at the Watt timing stop, the same thing happened.

"If I could get you there before then, hon, I would," she told the guy. It was a gesture of sympathy just as rare as the directions she gave.

I don't know if the guy made his connection. But when I got off I was sure his driver would give it a shot.

Some drivers really do deserve to get awards for their service.


Anonymous said...

I have not yet seen an RT bus driver talking on the cell phone while driving. I can't believe it can be done! But then, I know I'd make a very poor bus driver, even without that added distraction. I'd forget to stop at all the stops.

John said...

I've actually witnessed a bus driver forget an entire leg of her route. It was on the bus that goes from 30th Street to Arden Fair Mall, winding its way in the office complexes next to Cal Expo. That would be me if I were driving.