I'm finishing up a morning shift of 36s, where I had a generally terrific time. The 36 fascinates because it is unlike other routes for a number of reasons- it's one of the busiest, as the only route with 10 minute service 6 days a week- but it's a residential route at the same time. Its population has aged quite a bit, and is mostly non-English speaking. It also happens to have a rather terrible schedule, problematic bathrooms, and a sore need for bigger buses. The cumulative result makes for an experience that's very involving but also a bit distant; interactions are limited by the constrained quantities of space and time.
Anyway. The shift was still reasonably great. That's not the subject of this post, however. As I was turning the bus around on the Lenora Street turnback wire, and passing by the 49 layover, where the 49 begins its route to the U District, the coordinator called me and asked if I wanted to drive an extra trip on the 49 to the U District. He phrased the question as if he were asking me a great hardship, obviously not knowing who I am: "we were wondering if uh, you might want to drive an outbound 49, or if maybe you're busy and you'd rather not-"
"OF COURSE I want to drive an outbound 49! Thank you, for that wonderful opportunity!"
I'm thrilled. As we hash out the details, he explains that a single trip on the outbound 49 is needed, and after that I can just deadhead back to base. There's no need for a return trip inbound, which has already been filled.
As I pull into the first zone at 4th and Pike, it's clear there hasn't been a bus in a while. The mob there is often large, but today it's several times larger than I've ever seen it- about 75-90 disgruntled students and others, at minimum. I open both doors and they pile in, forming a standing load after leaving the first stop! I'm thrilled.
Big Man Bryan gets on at Broadway. "You're not Josie," he hollers jovially. Josie's the regular driver (and a great one).
"Yeah, I look a little different today, huh?"
"Just a little!"
Bryan is a friendly soul. He finds a place somewhere behind me and we holler at each other about various trifles- the 70 going back on the wire, or the fact that I saw him less than 24 hours ago. All those SCCC students back there are pretty quiet, but we don't care. We're too busy being excited, and plus, it's past 10am!
When the bus is this crowded, the mood can turn exciting, and it feels okay to be loud. Laughter from our conversation fills in the edges of my announcements. "Here's Mercer Street, sadly our last stop on Broadway..." I'm already excited from getting to do an extra route, and the crowd, along with Bruce being here, makes everything feel comfortable. I see an homeless Asian man grinning from ear to ear, looking at us in the mirror, reveling in this house of mirth.
At the end of the line, my instructions were to drive empty back to the base. However, being in a trolley bus, the fastest way to do that from the U-District, aside from the currently dead 70 wire, is simply to drive along the 49 wire. Wouldn't it make sense to simply drive the 49 in service? You know, just for fun? But what if something unsafe happened along the route? I wouldn't be able to call for help. Decisions.
I can't write about what happened next, but I will speak about it during my talk at my upcoming show. The show opens June 13 at 6pm, and my talk will be at 8. Hope to see you there!