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, March 15, 2008

Bowling from the bus

The crowd at the bus stop was unusual. In more than a year of riding the bus from my suburban neighborhood to work in midtown, I have never found more than two people waiting at my bus stop.

But there, clearly gathered around the bus stop, was such a crowd that at first I thought something must have happened and that these people were passersby drawn to the tragic scene. That, of course, was just as unlikely as the crowd. First off, there must have been at least a dozen people milling about and you never see that many people walking around. Driving, maybe; walking, no.

As I got closer I realized that this was a crowd of elementary school children and their adult chaperons.

For the adults at the bus stop my arrival was clearly viewed as suspicious. Each mother made sure I knew she was watching. Understandable, I suppose. We are, again, talking about a bus stop amid street after street of ranch houses and manicured lawns. This is not the neighborhood of bus riders.

As I stopped at the fringe of the crowd to await the bus, the teacher put herself between me and the kids. Just in case. And she watched me silently.

Personally, I don't think I'm quite that scary, but I'm told I scowl. I tried smiling at the teacher, and she responded by asking me if I was waiting for the bus.

"Yes," I said. "I'm heading downtown to work."

"We're going bowling," the teacher explained, obviously relieved that I wasn't, after all, a pervert.

The kids in her charge were obviously the best behaved kids in the school. The bowling trip must have been some sort of reward. Those of the kids who weren't sitting quietly on the landscaping rocks around the bus stop were holding hands with their mothers. No horseplay here. It was a bit unsettling. The kids at this bus stop were just too subdued. Maybe there is something to that report of drugs in the water.

Anyway, the bus arrived and everyone boarded. I don't know how school field trips on RT buses work. The teacher had some paperwork that covered all of the children and the parents.

"I just need to know how many kids," the driver said. After the teacher said six, the driver added that number to the fare box, a bell chiming to mark each addition.

At Watt and El Camino, the kids and adults all exited in an excited (in a well-behaved sort of way) stream. It's about a 15-minute bus ride from stop to stop and then a block walk back to the bowling alley. It's so easy, the bowling alley should subsidize the cost of the bus in order to encourage more kids to skip school and bowl.

That was Friday. This is Saturday. I'm writing this in a notebook I carry in my backpack. I'm at the Starbucks just down the block from the bowling alley. It's all something of a grand coincidence since I'm here for a company bowling tournament.

I rode the bus down to the coffee shop. Since the buses run just once an hour on the weekend, I ended up here 40 minutes early. Oh well, such is the life of a transitarian.

I like taking the bus on the weekend because it's a free ride. Not free exactly, but since the value of my monthly bus pass is predicated on the cost of getting to and from work, any trips I take on the weekend using the pass are "free."

Perhaps I'll go to the air show on Sunday.

No comments: