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

Monday, April 21, 2008

The good and the bad

"Rain tomorrow," greeted the bus driver.

"Thanks," I said. "Guess I'll have to wear a coat."

It was chilly, and my shirt jacket wasn't doing its job. I welcomed the warmth of the bus as I settled into a seat and took out my book.

As we continued down the route, the driver greeted each regular rider with his weather forecast. More than one rider didn't know how to return his kindness, giving him a double-take before moving on into the bus.

Soon the bus was nearly full. Most of the passengers were either Sacramento State students or white-haired retirees out running errands.

If only all bus rides could be like this. But they are not. Some are hell on wheels.

That's what Friday had been like. It was the worst evening bus ride I have ever experienced. Well, maybe second only to this night or this night.

When I boarded the bus at the 65th Street transit center Friday evening, a group of black teens, mostly boys, were noisily loitering outside the No. 82 bus. Inside, four high school age girls, all black, were loudly holding court in the back rows.

Sharing a bus with teens is so common as to be unremarkable. But there was something odd about this group. It was as though they were feeding off each other, and the effect was both loud and troubling.

As the bus left the station, a wadded up piece of paper bounced off one of two white boys seated in the first row of the elevated seats in the back of the bus, followed by a round of snickers from the girls. One girl could be heard to say, "White boys to the front of the bus." When a plastic water bottle hit the back of the boys' seat and clattered on the floor I turned and looked at the girls. One of them ducked behind a seat, peaked out from the aisle side and then hid again.

The boys ignored the girls, despite the periodic bombardment. When the boys left, the girls turned their attention to a quiet Latino guy seated behind me. This is the guy I've tagged as the gentleman on the bus.

The girls pretended to be prostitutes, offering favors in exchange for money -- "big money."

"You want some of this pussy?" one girl taunted.

The guy remained silent.

The girls were too ignorant to know any Spanish, and their effort at pidgin Spanish was more insulting than their sexual taunts.

In the course of this running abuse, the girls missed their stop. When they realized this, one girl pulled the stop request cord and they all gathered around the side door. The bus stopped at the light at Fulton and Northrup, and the girls asked the driver to let them out there. They even had the gall to say, "Please" in innocent little girl voices.

The driver said the stop was across the street. They'd have to wait.

When the bus finally crossed the street on its way to the stop, one of the girls got a can of Silly String out and gave it to another girl. She then pushed the girl with the Silly String in front of her to the front of the bus, where the two waited for the bus to stop.

When the doors opened, the girl with the Silly String sprayed the driver and then both girls dashed off off the bus.

We sat at the stop for a while, and then the bus continued on its way.

Later, when my stop was approaching, I walked to the front of the bus and asked the driver if the camera in the bus had recorded "all of that."

"Sure," he said.

"Do you turn it in to someone later?" I asked.

"Wouldn't do much good," he said. "But if I see them at that stop again, then I can do something about it."

I tried blogging about that ride when I got home, but I didn't like what I wrote. I was also feeling guilty for not having come to the gentleman's aid or at least going to the driver and suggesting he toss the kids off the bus.

Sacramento Regional Transit has been trying to get legislation passed that would allow it to ban persistent troublemakers. I'm surprised they don't have that authority already. But after state legislators balked, RT has decided to convene a community task force.

According to an article in The Bee:

"Encouraged by the bill's author, state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, RT said it will pull together local mental health officials, homeless representatives and law enforcement officials.

"We're looking at what we can draw consensus around," RT official Mark Lonergan said.

"But we are still saying being able to keep people off the system who are a continual problem is a tool we'd like to have."
Tonight, the wife worked late and took the train to 65th Street. I met her there, and together we rode the No. 82 home. It was a very nice, relaxing ride. No troublesome teens, just Sac State students and workers taking the bus home at the end of the day.

Some days are like that.

Some days are not.

1 comment:

Carlos Rivera said...

Wow, I'm not surprised that this stuff happens on the bus but what i can't believe that your writng made me feel sad also. I almost feel as if I wore on the bus ride with you. I'm glad no one got hurt and I'm glad that you are reporting what you see, may this be the worse of it. Take care and keep writing.