Monday, January 12, 2009

'We are not third-graders'

By Mary

So in September or so I'm aboard the 54 on my way to work and following my usual routine: knitting to avoid eye contact with my fellow passengers while simultaneously eavesdropping to make sure crazy people aren't getting too close. As a TriMet strategy, it's pretty much infallible.

Today some lady sits nearby and angrily dials her cell phone, muttering that she's had enough, by God, and TriMet's gonna hear from her. I stare at my knitting and listen, wondering what's bugging her about the bus. A rude driver? A late bus? Scary fellow passengers?

It turns out the be that last one. She's had it, she tells the TriMet employee on the line. The bus is just getting too dangerous to ride. Her fellow passengers are torturing her, and she's afraid.

What are they doing? She'll tell you what they're doing -- they're pointing devices at her that cause her great pain.

"I just don't understand it," she sputters into the phone. "I mean, we are not third-graders! Why are they acting like this?"

Do third-graders normally use torture devices? I wonder, knitting faster. I always knew kids were evil.

"I just don't understand how they get away with it," the lady says. God only knows how the hapless TriMet employee responds, because the lady gets more agitated. "No, I can't describe the devices! If I knew what they looked like, I wouldn't sit near them!"

Exactly what kind of training do the TriMet phone people get? I wonder. Are they trained to deal with this? How much would you have to pay me to deal with this? I can't count that high.

The TriMet person, to his or her everlasting credit, does not try to dissuade the lady from her delusion -- she works with her. "Well, I've tried telling them to stop!" the lady cries. "Why do you think I'm calling you? I've exhausted all my other options! Why are they getting away with this? We are not third-graders!"

WTF is it with third-graders? I wonder. If you wanted to fixate on evil kids, wouldn't you pick seventh-graders?

Even I know middle-schoolers aren't human, for Chrissakes. If she doesn't know what the devices look like, will she see me and think they look like knitting needles? Could I use my needles to defend myself? What if I have to stab her? Will blood come out of this yarn?

Mercifully, I never find out, because Crazy Lady leaves the bus, still complaining bitterly to the TriMet worker, who you gotta figure is frantically signaling his coworkers for help by now.

This is why I don't answer the phone at work. And lately, I avoid third-graders, too.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Snow-go mojo

By Jim

"Momentum is important," the driver says as he gives the No. 44 some pedal to get up a hill as we head downtown on Sunday afternoon. I understand, having just crunch-crunch-clomp-clomped half a mile up a hill to get to my bus stop, my boots sinking six inches into the snow with each step. My personal momentum is gone but TriMet keeps delivering. I tip my ski cap to its mighty drivers and mechanics.

Leaving work at 10 p.m., I run out of the building, boogieing down Broadway. I see a bus making the turn from Clay south toward PSU. I run after it, waving. Yeah, baby, it's No. 44. Great timing! The driver stops. I'm saved. It's his last run of the night. "I've been working 14 days straight," he says, "and this is my 14th hour today."

When I think about the arctic blast of 2008, I'll remember my bus rides. I'll miss the chains a little. Before the snow piled up everywhere, the chains gave the bus a chattering Magic Fingers vibe on bare asphalt. 

At 10:27, when we get to the end of the truncated line -- Barbur Transit Center, not PCC -- about 20 passengers head for home. The driver says to us, "Be careful out there. And thanks for the job security."

Same to you, TriMet -- thanks for the get-to-my-job security.

On Christmas, it's a different story. We head downtown for a holiday-spirited night out. The 44 isn't even running, so we'll have to walk farther and catch the 12. We trudge a mile and a half through the snow, to the Barbur Boulevard and Capitol Highway stop. I call Transit Tracker. The message is ominous: The line "may be in service but without predicted arrival. . . . Due to snow and ice conditions, we are not able to report any arrivals at your stop." I confirm that empirically.

And yet we soon see a 12 on the other side of Barbur, headed south to King City. Ten minutes go by, and there's another 12, headed south to Sherwood. Twelve minutes go by and a third 12 rolls on, headed south to King City.

Finally, in the distance, we see a bus heading north. But this bus says "DROP-OFF ONLY." I've never seen that before. The bus stops right next to five cold, tired would-be passengers at the red light but doesn't open its door. I knock on the window. The driver points backwards -- that's TriMet middle-finger-speak for, "There's another bus coming along behind me." The light turns green and she rolls off, leaving us in the freezing cold.

Another bus comes after a while, and it's a 12. We ask the driver what's up with Miss Drop-Off-Only. "She's late and she's trying to make up time, so she's not picking up any passengers," he says.

That makes absolutely no sense. EVERY SINGLE BUS OUT THERE IS LATE! WHO CARES IF SHE'S ON TIME? WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? JESUS! JESUS CHRIST! How do you NOT pick up five freezing travelers on Christmas day when you're stopped right next to them at a red light?

Well, whatever, at least we are on the No. 12 now. But this one is making a loud, hideous noise. TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK, TA-LUNK.

A passenger says to the driver, "You've got a loose chain."

He says, "I know. It's been that way all day. I'm really going to miss that noise when I get home."

Now I've changed my mind. If I get home, I won't miss the chains.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New blog catchphrase

By Mary

The place: 3rd and Madison

The time: Saturday night, the middle of the snowstorm from hell

The scene: A small herd of angry, cold people, some of whom have been waiting more than an hour for the 54 or the 56. Huddled together like a group of pissy penguins, stamping our feet, we take turns dialing TriMet and tracking our bus and its lack of progress. Finally, headlights pierce the swirling flakes as a squad of buses moves down 3rd. We perk up immediately. Surely one of them is a 56 or a 54!

But it's not to be. Instead, the buses turn out to be 9s and 6s. NOTHING but 9s and 6s. Out of six buses, how can they ALL be 9s and 6s? It's all the more galling because they're not even FULL! As the last 6 rolls smugly past, carrying maybe four people, one intrepid soul takes action: he seizes handfuls of snow, starts lobbing snowballs at the bus, and in a voice hoarse with cold and hatred, screams what we're all thinking: "FUCK THE SIX! FUCK THE SIX! FUCK THE SIX!!"

Well, hell. It needed to be said.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

12-packs on the 19

By Angela

Two dudes ready to party get on the No. 19 bound for Southeast, one carrying two 12-packs of Bud; the other, two 12's of Natty Light. They aren't on long and we haven't even pulled away before Dude 1 starts carrying on, loudly, about nothing in particular. It's really not that annoying, and kind of funny after a long night at work, but apparently the driver was being nice in the first place in letting them on with the beer. He waves them off, tells them to walk it off; they apologize and won't budge. He waves them off again and threatens the cops. As they're stepping off, Dude 2 says, "Do you want ME to drive?" And just like that, they're gone.

Jingle what?

By Jake

My nanny told me today that on her bus a woman in a wheelchair started singing "Jingle Bells" and encouraged the rest of the bus to sing along. My nanny, who is Nepali, didn't know the words and couldn't sing along even though she wanted to. However, the only person who did sing was a Chinese man, who apparently didn't know the song past "Jingle all the way." Nobody else on the bus felt the call of the season. I probably wouldn't have sung either, which I find incredibly sad. Years of Christmas specials have taught us that the highest joy of the season is communal caroling, and yet I have never seen, nor participated in, any sort of fun-loving group sing-along.

A mighty wind

By Jim

At the 35th Avenue stop in Multnomah Village, an energetic, clipboard- equipped alternative-energy solicitor said, "Do you have a few minutes to punch global warming in the face?" Yes, I thought, that's why I'm standing here waiting for the bus.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Coins of the realm

by Jim

A rider got on the King City-bound No. 12 late Friday night, and while fumbling to put her change in the fare box, dropped most of it. The coins landed with a loud, high-pitched tinkle, maybe a buck fifty bouncing around the floor of the bus. A passenger in the front turned to the man next to him and said, "Trickle-down economics." They both laughed, apparently in a good mood over the election results.