Adventures In Busing.

Don’t Tip Your Driver.

It doesn’t happen often, but when I’m the only passenger on the bus I like to pretend I’m riding in a really big but really cheap limousine. I’m returning from a bookstore where I had people laughing so hard they wet themselves and then when I was done there were so many lined up I sat signing copies of my book for seven straight hours. And the limo driver is a nice guy who’s new to the area so he doesn’t exactly know his way around and I’m afraid he’ll get lost if he has to go down all those side streets to my house. So I wait until we get sort of close and tell him, “Thanks, this is good enough.”

Reality bursts this little fantasy bubble when the driver looks at me funny for trying to give him a tip.

This is a trolley you can catch in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, Florida.  If Raphael is your driver ask him about his dog.

This is a trolley you can catch in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, Florida.
If Raphael is your driver ask him about his dog.

Have A Seat.

003See that note? Not the advertisement–it’s below that. Here’s a close-up.

haveaseat

It’s so small it’s almost unnoticeable, and when someone’s sitting there it’s invisible. When are the police supposed to see it? Strolling by on their beat, I guess. I don’t think it’s really there for the police, though, but rather for those who might be thinking about using the bench not to wait for a bus but simply for a rest.

I’m talking about homeless people. The police are supposed to prevent them from using the benches for just resting. The design helps. The benches are uncomfortable and the bars prevent anyone from lying down.

This seems both mean and unnecessary to me. Most bus benches are unused. Public transportation is also a community service. Homeless people may be considered a problem, a nuisance, a black mark on the city, but they are people and part of the community. And I’ve never encountered a homeless person preventing anyone else from using a bench, even at the crowded bus depots.

Sometimes it’s even nice to share a bench with someone. Once I sat down next to a guy who, as much as I don’t want to judge, I think was homeless. His hair and clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed in a long time. He held a CD player and had on headphones. When I sat down he took off the headphones and told me he was listening to “the finest music of Styx.” I asked if that included Mr. Roboto and he laughed. Then he gave me directions to a place where I could buy some meth. Two blocks over and on the right. “You tell ’em you’re only gonna pay fifty dollars. They’ll ask for four hundred. If you agree to pay that they’ll know you’re a cop.”

It’s not advice I’m likely to use, but it’s interesting. When the bus drove up I offered to let him get on first. He said, “Naw, I’m gonna sit here for a while.” The doors opened and the bus driver yelled at him. “Hey man, I ain’t seen you in a while! You doin’ okay?” He replied, “Yeah, I been in jail for thirty days.” After that he deserved a place to sit.

Hop On Board.

So have I mentioned that I ride the bus? Not every day, but regularly. If you’re not a bus rider yourself there are some important rules to remember. Fortunately most buses have helpful signs to make them clear.

The signs are self-explanatory, but I’ve provided notes.

eatingRule 1: Chew with your mouth closed, use a cup with a lid, and give that chemo patient his hat back.

smokingRule 2: Smoking on the bus makes Hedorah The Smog Monster very angry.

musicRule 3: It’s Nashville, Jake. If Clare Bowen wants to sit next to you and sing into a hair brush consider yourself lucky. At least it takes your mind off the cracked windows.

Remembering these rules will make your bus ride safer, more pleasant, and, most importantly, weird. Hey, my ride’s here!

myrideishere

%d bloggers like this: