I enjoy taking the bus, it’s nothing less than live theatre, packed with action, drama, a few laughs and involves the audience. The entire bus experience starts with the walk to your bus stop. On this occasion it was a Saturday morning in Seattle. With my friend who was the one who knew the bus system we walked to the stop in crisp weather. We had to side step a disheveled couple that appeared to be holding hands instead of strategically separating to make use all four arms to carry the weighty grocery bags. Some people like to live on the edge. I also choose to believe they were holding hands as a front act like everything’s fine after just fighting over which can of peas his mother actually likes better (I’m sure she reminded him of the last Pea Incident, where they still have to tell their friends that the stain was from the dog which they don’t have any more for some reason unknown to their friends). So we’re a couple minutes early to the stop, we’re waiting with a college looking guy with a classic literary book that he looks like he probably uses to hide his cellphone while he checks facebook in the library and an older woman going through her mammoth handbag looking for a bobby pin, I’m sure.
I get out my quarters, since I was only visiting Seattle for the weekend I had to pay the old fashion way, I’d even get a transfer that I’d have to keep track of for the entire day. I was counting out my money and doing a little self pep talk because my last experience on the bus in Seattle went something like this:
I start putting in quarters, but am unsure how much it actually costs to ride the bus. My two friends with their savvy swipe cards had already walked to the back of the bus. So I look up at the bus driver, he’s already annoyed that I am paying with quarters instead of swiping a card. There is a shuffle of feet behind me and a middle aged man uncomfortably watching me from the front row seat. It appears that he has a standing dibs on the spot and rides the bus from the first stop to the last. I smile look friendly as possible and say “how much is a ticket? I’m a student?” When in doubt I always throw in the student bit, it’s some kind of apology to society. That I obviously just don’t know what I’m doing yet and probably just drink too much on the weekend thought it would be way hipster to pay with something called cash. And despite the blatant stereotyping, one can really get some attitude out in the world and by admitting to being a student you somehow admit that you’re not a full-fledged citizen yet, so it’s okay. Obviously it’s a load of bull and maybe a slight exaggeration to the average joe, but I have had instances of success for claiming my student-ship and receive a knowing resolution expression on the face I tell. So I can use the stereotype to my advantage, when need be. Unfortunately that was not the case for today, the bus driver literally said nothing to me. He looked at me narrowed his eyes and gripped the steering wheel until he looked like he should start talking to someone named Marty, his liger copilot, instead he grunted and nodded towards the coin slot. I put in all the quarters I had, took the transfer and dashed to the back of the bus. I gave my friends dirty looks and said how could you ditch me back there, I was nearly mauled by his liger! I put in $2.25 and later I find out my ticket should have only been $1.25, as a student. Okay a dollar may not seem like much, but to a poor, fake hipster, not actually drunk student who could use that dollar to actually buy a day old scone it was a big deal. I was resolved not to let this happen again- I had considered going to the group therapy meeting for the victims of Seattle Bus Bullying held downtown once a week, but thought I’d brave the scene once more to right this wrong, like a true city rat. And that’s where this fine Saturday morning bus ride comes in.
The bus pulls up. I do the first step right, hold my ground as some young bouncy women walks up and wants to get on in front of me. Somehow (and by that I mean I actually didn’t really hold my ground against the pushy public) my friend and I get separated, she looks back and I reach out, but we’re just too many smelly bus-riders away from each other, she had to go on without me. It was better this way, I had to complete my quest alone. I step up to the plate. I look at the coin feeder, don’t put any money, look up at the bus driver without smiling and attempt to have a look in my eye that says ‘I’ve battled your kind before and I’m not afraid’ (which may have come off more like ‘the crap doughnut I didn’t have this morning isn’t settling well with me’) and said how much is a ticket for a student? He replies with a frog in his throat ‘a dollar twenty-five’ and not a word more. I put in my quarters and started to walk to the back of the bus, in which I could only imagine was slow-motion, until the beautiful victory scene was broken by a grunt coming from my nemesis and I turn around quick (should never have your back to the enemy) and see my transfer waving like a truce flag. Oops, I back up, bumping into the passenger trying to get on behind me. I didn’t want to be soft, the legendary stories don’t normally end with a smile and a thanks, but then again legends don’t normally have to get back on the next day and trust their lives in the hands of highly irritable middle aged men driving the population of tomorrow.