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 18, 2008

A matter of perspective

The No. 82 rolled into Sacramento State a couple of minutes early. The end of the school year has that effect on this route. When the crowd thins from standing-room-only to simply full, the bus makes better time.

When we turned off J Street into the campus, we followed a No. 30 bus. That in itself was a bit unusual, but it is not uncommon to find a No. 30 parked on a break when the No. 82 arrives.

I'm meeting the No. 31 for my ride to the Amtrak station. When I first started this two-bus routine for getting to the Amtrak station, I once boarded the parked No. 30 thinking it would leave before No. 31 arrived. The driver was mute as a dozen No. 31 passengers boarded, each imagining arriving early at his or her destination. Then someone had the sense to ask the driver when he was leaving. The driver said he didn't leave for another 15 minutes, long after the No. 31's scheduled departure. All of the No. 31 passengers left the bus. Another lesson learned.

So today when I left the No. 82 seven minutes early and walked to the No. 30/31 stop and found not one, but two No. 30 buses, I allowed myself just a little hope.

The crowd of regular riders who each morning make the transfer to the No. 31 approached the lead No. 30 bus. "When do you leave?" I heard each rider ask. "Right away," the driver replied. I took a step inside the bus and stopped. "When do you leave?" I asked. "Right away," the driver said.

I took a seat. I was still suspicious of my good fortune. I waited until the bus was well on its way down J Street toward downtown before I got my book out. Outside Mercy General Hospital we overtook an empty No. 30 that was parked with its lights flashing. We overtook and passed another No. 30 on L Street.

Seeing all the No. 30s, I imagined a bunch of disgruntled Sacramento Regional Transit riders whining about the fact that their scheduled No. 30 bus didn't arrive or arrived late. But from my perch in the back of the bus rumbling down L Street, it was all good fortune.

I arrived 7 minutes before the No. 31 is scheduled to arrive, giving me plenty of time to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

One person's late bus is another person's early bus.

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