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

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thank you, very much (continued)

I'm not a big fan of the driver who has the 7:28 p.m. run on the No. 82 route from 65th Street to American River College on Thursday and Friday. She's the one I wrote about here. She has taken to parking her bus away from the stop and turning off the lights during her break. But the weather has been gorgeous and even with the night chill the wait for the bus is at least tolerable.

Friday evening I read my book under the street light at the No. 82 stop at the 65th Street transit center. People would come up and check the schedule, and more than once I explained that the bus parked with its lights off on the 65th Street side of the bus lot was ours. The driver was on a break, I would tell them. She won't be here early, I explained. In fact, she's usually a minute or two late. I'm Mr. Know-It-All.

The driver was indeed a minute or two late. About a half-dozen people boarded with me.

By the time the bus got to Sacramento State, I was already deep into my book. In my peripheral vision I noted several people getting off and a much larger number boarding.

And then I noticed the smell. Oh, well, I said to myself. It wouldn't be the first time that a member of the unwashed hoards rode with me on the bus.

"What is that smell?" asked a woman with long gray hair who had taken a seat across the aisle from me. "That was the same smell on the bus I just got off."

The answer to the question was obvious: urine. It smelled like someone had left a diaper well past the saturation point. The lady's suggestion that the smell was on all buses -- or at least all buses that she rides -- reminded me of the children's fart rebuttal: A fox smells its own hole first.

But everyone could smell it, and it was getting noticeably stronger my the minute. Several people who had boarded at Sacramento State left the bus. After the woman across the aisle asked again what the smell was, the driver got up and walked to the back of the bus. The last half of the bus was now deserted except for a short, heavyset black woman of indeterminant age. She was seated on the back bench in the corner, surrounded by a collection of small packages and paper bags. She was wearing several layers of clothing appropriate to the weather. She wasn't obviously filthy, but she was clearly the source of the smell.

The driver, who is equally heavyset and equally black, walked up to the woman and told her to get off the bus. It was not a request.

There was some additional discussion between the driver and the woman that I didn't catch, but I was left with the impression that the woman didn't really understand what was happening.

The driver went back to the front of the bus. The woman gathered up her packages and, without protest, left via the side the door. Immediately, several people who had left the bus reboarded and everyone next to a window was reaching for the latches to open the small top windows.

The driver started the bus and drove a few yards away from the bus stop and then stopped the bus. She got up and left the bus without explanation.

A guy who had boarded at Sac State and then left and then reboarded explained that the woman had indeed been on the bus from downtown. He said he wasn't going to ride with her again. He could take the No. 87 to get where he was going, he said.

Several minutes passed. It was too dark outside to see what was happening. Eventually, the driver returned. She popped the hatch in the ceiling above her seat and then sat down. Soon we were on our way, the breeze from the open windows quickly removing the smell.

I'm not a big fan of this driver, but I did greatly appreciated not having to ride the next 30 minutes with the smell of urine soaking the air.

When I got home and retold the story to the wife, her first question was, What happened to the woman?

I had to admit I didn't know. Four more No. 82s passed through Sac State on their way to ARC on that Friday night. Maybe one of those drivers had a higher tolerance for the smell. Maybe she tried to sleep in the Sac State bus shelter, waiting for the campus police to roust her and tell her she had to leave.

It would be nice if we as a society had the compassion necessary to fund adequate mental health treatment for the less fortunate among us. At least then we could pretend to care.

1 comment:

ranma9037 said...

One time on the 1(heading to work),the driver(and all passengers,myself included)had to switch to a replacement coach at Greenback/Auburn because of a similar urine problem...