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, April 15, 2008

The bus to the hospital

Yesterday, I poked at Sacramento Regional Transit for its fixation as a mobility service of last resort and specifically for detouring every bus on Watt to Kaiser Hospital's Morse Avenue facility. Karma requires its due.

As the No. 82 pulled to a stop in the left turn lane on Whitney this morning, I looked up from my book, curious to see if anyone was waiting at the stop on Watt that the wife uses to catch the 80/84 buses. The only person in the vicinity was a young woman in a calf-length tan denim dress and black long sleeve sweater blouse. She was walking away from the bus stop toward Whitney as I returned to my book.

When the bus turned the corner I expected it to continue past the empty bus stop, but instead the driver pulled to the curb and opened the door. I looked up again. In the doorway to the bus I could see the woman who had been walking away from the stop.

"Do you go to a hospital?" I heard her ask the driver.

"Which hospital?" the driver asked.

"Any hospital," she said.

"I go to Kaiser on Morse," he told her.

The woman then stepped onto the bus. Holding a single bill in her hand she asked how much it would cost to get to the hospital.

"That's enough," the driver said. There was some more discussion apparently about her need to get back. After she inserted the bill, the driver gave her a daily pass.

"How long will it take to get to the hospital?" the woman asked.

The driver explained his route. The woman listened and then took the first seat inside the door. Clutching her daily pass in one hand, she watched intently out the bus windshield as we rumbled down Watt Avenue.

"Thank you," she said. The driver didn't hear her. She got up and stood next to the driver. "Thank you," she said.

At Kaiser, the woman got off, and the bus went on its way, most of the passengers heading off to school at Sac State, a couple attending the Winterstein Adult School. I got off at the end of the line in the 65th Street transit center.

As I was leaving the bus, I could hear an arriving passenger ask the driver, "Do you go to Kaiser?"

"Yes, I do," he said.

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