I’m not sure how long exactly the bus had been stopped. It probably wasn’t more than a few minutes but I was lost in my usual afternoon commute reverie, probably listening to Jackie Kashian’s Dork Forest podcast and thinking that one of my life goals is to be a guest on it someday. Sometimes I’ll zone out so completely on the bus that when I finally snap to I’ll look around and say, Hey, I’m almost home, or, on occasion, This doesn’t look familiar at all, am I on the right bus? What brought me out of my delirium was the driver pulling the door shut. He sat down then got up and pushed it open and pulled it shut again. From what I gathered there was something wrong with the door mechanism so it wouldn’t close completely. And I realized something I should have noticed a long time ago: the doors on the bus are now completely automated. For the doors in the back this makes sense, but the doors in the front used to be operated by a hand-pulled lever. I remember the time I was on a school bus and trying to sit back with my Walkman and zone out to a mixtape but some jerk in the back thought it was funny to throw books at me. So I threw one back and the driver stopped the bus and came to yell at me. I said, Screw this, went up to the front of the bus, and pulled the door lever myself—it gave me a powerful feeling to take an action normally reserved only for the driver. And I needed that powerful feeling because I had a pretty long walk home, but that’s another story.
With all the changes to buses getting rid of the simple hand-cranked door opener seems pretty boneheaded. Not all upgrades are improvements which is why some don’t last. If you’re of a certain age you may remember talking cars–and I don’t mean Kit from Knight Rider, although if you’re old enough to remember that you may also remember that some car models would tell you “Door is ajar” when the door was open. Or sometimes when it wasn’t open. Talking technology has its advantages but potential downsides too.
I went on a test drive with a friend in a car that insisted on telling us “Door is ajar”. I don’t remember what kind of car it was, just that it was well out of the price range of a guy who had to use a rope to keep the trunk shut of his current ride shut, but somehow we talked the dealer into letting us take it for a spin, maybe because it was early Wednesday morning in early summer and he was bored and knew he wasn’t going to sell anything anyway. While we were tooling around we stopped at a mini-mart to get some drinks. When we got in and closed the doors the car said, “Door is ajar.”
He opened his door and shut it.
“Door is ajar.”
He opened and shut his door harder this time.
“Door is ajar.”
He opened his door and slammed it.
“Watch it,” I said. “Prettyto look at, nice to hold, but if it breaks consider it sold.”
He glared at me. Then we drove back to the dealership with the car still occasionally telling us, “Door is ajar.”
When we got back we made sure to leave before the dealer could close the door.