I knew the bus driver wouldn’t let me take my coffee on board, but I wasn’t going to throw it away until the last minute. And the bus was late. Very late: five minutes, then ten. Then fifteen. At twenty, it came tearing around the corner, overshooting the stop, the doors opening while it was still in motion. “Get on get on get on!” the driver yelled out the door as we all trotted toward it, “Don’t pay just get on! Bus broke down and I was thirty minutes late and I’ve got it down to twenty. Let’s go!” She took off again as soon as the last foot had cleared the doors, the new passengers bracing for balance, caught in the process of sitting down. I held my half-full coffee carefully, having forgotten to throw it away amidst the startling arrival, the driver too focused to notice.
With the bus moving faster than usual, the passengers looked around at each other, a little nervous, but a little excited too. Could she really make up the remaining twenty minutes and get back on schedule? It sure felt like it. I found myself hoping that there would be no one waiting at each coming stop, hoping no one would have to get off yet, watching for a hand to reach for the pull-cord, listening for that bell. At the stops where people were waiting, it was the same drill as where I had gotten on board: the driver yelling out the door, not checking passes, careening back onto the road. And when people had to get off, they would get up and stand by the door, and some of the passengers began encouraging them to get off faster.
My stop was one of four, relatively close together, in the neighborhood of Main Street. As the bus passed over the freeway, approaching the first of these stops, one of the passengers stood up and called out, “Anyone who needs a Main Street stop, get off at the Starbucks!” Some of the others nodded, smiling, and one hand, lifted toward the pull-cord, waited.
published 22 February 2014