Commuting 1.

I work at a futsal complex in Portland Oregon. It’s like soccer but played with a smaller more dense ball on a much smaller field; imagine if street soccer was an olympic event and thats kind of what my work place is like. We have a tremendous demand for field time on the weekends. League games start at 7:20 am and continue until 7 pm at which time we switch to other programming. The point I’m making is that not only do we have to get there at 7 am in order to open but it’s a tiring day, with hundreds of people coming through. The same questions are asked, which is strangely difficult to cope with. Anyway, in order to open I have to be out of bed at 5:40 to get ready to take the bus.

Now, If I end up closing the night before that means I will get out of work no earlier than midnight, Then it’s still a 45 minute commute back home. So I will be getting at most 5 hours of sleep.

To skip this whole rotten dance I decided that I would spend the night at work.

So I do.

I bring my overnight gear in my 65 liter pack and after I have counted the till and hosed out the bathrooms I bed down for a night in the office.  The following work day passes with its usual surprises and challenges and I head homeward.

When I get to the bus stop there is already a large and surly crowd there. A couple talk loudly about how the bus, which is INCONCEIVABLY late, could not possibly be worse for their day. Time goes by. People are complaining. Kids start playing a high volume game of hide and seek tag. My head is pounding.

After a while a lady in front of me asks me if I have checked transit tracker. I start to bring it up on my phone, which has my digital ticket, and my phone instantly dies.

Coincidentally she spots the bus across the bridge. I begin  searching through my pockets for money since my ticket has just died. All I have is some change and an expired ticket but I’ll be damned if I am going to miss this bus.We have probably spent 30 minutes waiting and I was a latecomer to the show so I can only imagine how long these poor souls have been here.

Well the bus comes and we start to file on and it’s immediately obvious that it is a damn tight fit. I flash an old ticket with my thumb on the date and slip by in the bedlam. Not my proudest moment but fuck it, I’m tired and this huge backpack is not lugging itself home and my wallet is too svelte a creature to  foot a cab ride.

Theres a problem though. The bus isn’t moving. Why is the bus not moving is the general vibe of the bus. Why the Fuck isn’t the bus moving is the specific sentiment of the man behind me.

“We’re waiting on a mechanic, we will be here for ten to fifteen minutes” says the

the understandably haggard woman driving the bus. The wheels turning in the heads of the passengers is almost audible.

Waiting on a mechanic? Just gonna hike the back of the bus up like Bill Murray in groundhog day? No, surely a mechanic will take some time…what can possibly be fixed in 15 minutes that requires a mechanic immediately?

And so everyone starts to leave. Then, serendipitously, another bus on the same line arrives. So now everyone gets up and leaves and starts to board the next bus.

Fifty hearts are singing.

Oh salvation, deliver us from these streets and into the bosom of our living rooms. Let our groceries and baggage fall carelessly upon sweet familiar floors.

So we all file on. But now I have to do the ticket dance again. Gotta hold it just right in order to hide the date…there we go. Except this time I recognize the bus driver, a stand up guy, surely he will understand that while this strange scenario played out my phone quit. So I explain to him about my phone and he tells me thats not his problem, but “just shove whatever currency you got in the box and we’ll call it fare.”

Word.

I’m the last one on the bus. There is one vacant seat, people are standing most everywhere else. I want it. “Mind if I sit here?” I say, already pushing the hat of the seated gentleman a little towards him. He has the smell of overly sweet booze on him. I am tired and I don’t really care what he says because I feel like its my right to sit in an empty bus seat, even if you are drunk and grumpy.

“you got a dollar” the man croaks.

“nope”

I sit, knowing this is a bad idea.

“You don’t have any money?”

“No, I don’t”

Which is true. I just slipped my last dime into the fare box. I mentally prepare for having to defend myself from a rich gamut of possibilities. No telling where a conversation with man who opens with “you got a dollar” will wander to.The drunk man says a couple inappropriate things that I can’t fully hear because he keeps turning his head when I turn to listen to him, which makes it hard to converse. He is at once cocky and scared.

He fiddles with his phone. “gotta call his bitch…”

Please, God, don’t call her.

Fortunately is phone is dead.

Except now this bus isn’t moving but there goes the first one, leaving us behind like some kind of cruel joke.

“DID SHE JUST DO THAT? Did she REALLY just LEAVE?” asks the man from the inconvenienced couple.

The already sour mood of the buss becomes viscerally more agitated.

The drunk then mumbles something about going bowling.

I look at him, waiting for elaboration.

“fucking richie…”

Not very helpful.

“its a joke” he says. “I’m a terrible bowler”, I tell him, hoping that a common dislike of bowling can be our neutral ground. “ain’t never been bowling”

“Really, well, don’t sweat it, you aren’t missing much”

The driver, who visibly hates his life at this moment, turns to us.

“we are waiting on dispatch”

I turn to my seat mate. “something is going on” I say, like a socially blind moron.

“What do you mean?” my neighbor asks. “I’m not sure, but something is about to go down.”

A minute goes by then an unassuming white SUV pulls up next to us and a man hops out and boards our bus. He starts talking to the driver. Now I get it. Three policemen have appeared at the side door out of nowhere.

Fuck

I turn to the drunk again.

“dude…it better not be you.”

The bus driver looks through his mirror to us and says something inaudible to the man from the SUV. Without turning the drunk blurts out “they can’t touch me, I’m too confident.”

Double fuck.

The pudgy SUV driver turns and sees us. He sets out toward us very slowly.

The bus is a pen of wild horses, skittish and paranoid as the trimet worker edges closer.

When He is almost to our seat I stand up and move back one row, exposing my drunken seatmate. “Sir, step off the bus”

My seat-mate stands, not the slouching posture he had in his seat but bolt upright, then steps off the bus. He turns to  face us and puts his hand on his head as the three police arrest him.

The entire bus is watching this man being arrested.

“DAMN, THATS WHAT WE’VE BEEN WAITING ON?”

a woman behind me says. I scoot over, put my head on my bag, and settle in. A wave of euphoria and tiredness wash over me. At the next stop a man boards and stands next to me, blissfully unaware of the awkward history of the bus.

“can I sit here?”

“Sure”

I said,

“why not”.


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