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, January 6, 2009

The 100 yard dash

Everything was going just fine with my morning commute until my No. 82 arrived at Sacramento State.

As I left the bus I noticed that the No. 31 was just starting on its way into Riverpark. The No. 82 was a little early, but not that early. The No. 31 was running several minutes behind schedule.

A New Year, a clean slate. No need to panic.


And then the No. 30 arrived. Not unusual in itself. Often it is parked waiting for its 7:14 scheduled departure when I'm waiting for the No. 31.

But then the No. 31's 7:09 scheduled departure time came and went. My schedule is tight. The No. 31 is scheduled to arrive at the Amtrak station at 7:31 and my Amtrak train to Oakland leaves at 7:40 a.m. I've never missed that connection, but it has been close.

Chatting with other riders waiting for the No. 31, we marveled at how finely tuned the connections are. A couple of minutes here, a couple there and you're in heart-attack mode. It is a wonder it works at all.

Then a No. 31 arrived, but it wasn't the one heading downtown. It was the next bus scheduled into Riverpark.


Not yet.

In the distance I saw the No. 31 heading toward Sacramento State. But any happiness sighted when [my] bus comes along was dashed as the No. 30 pulled away on its trip downtown.

I didn't panic, but I wasn't hopeful. I resigned myself to my fate. Nothing I could do would get me to the Amtrak station any sooner.

The hope that perhaps the No. 30 would sweep up the waiting riders and clear the way for the No. 31 to make up some of its lost time faded quickly as riders requested stops along the way. By the time the No. 31 turned onto 5th Street for the final leg of the trip, the No. 30 was still in front of us.

As a final insult, the No. 31 was delayed turning into the station by the crowd of arriving Amtrak riders streaming out of the station. It was 7:39, the Amtrak train was boarding and I was standing next to the bus driver.

Back on Nov. 13 the No. 31 had been this late. But on that day, Amtrak had been late as well. No such luck this time.

When the door to my bus opened I started running to the Amtrak train. I was not the only runner. Two others ahead of me were dashing to the train. In the distance, I saw a conductor stick his head out of the one door that was still open. He disappeared again. I ran, hoping against hope that the door wouldn't close. The first of the runners boarded the train. The conductor peaked out again and again disappeared. The door stayed open. Then the second runner boarded.

The conductor peaked out just as I arrived at the door.

"Thank you, thank you," I said

Try that with light rail, I thought to myself as I climbed the stairs to the second level of the train.

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