Ode to the 358
Do we give a name to the joy we feel, or do we simply revel in having been able to touch it? There is a quality you can discern that may not have a title.
I was doing the weave on Third, inbound, looking at the bus in front of me. It was another 358, my leader. His hulking, dirt-spattered 2300 dominating my field of vision, both of us bearing that infamous route number that blares the message out out for all to see- we have just come down from the mountains of madness, and we have passengers we want to share with you.
358. 6. 359. The numbers have lifetimes behind them, and going through downtown there's a similar feeling to driving the 7- you're at the top of the pyramid, commanding a moving what, hotel, insane asylum, living room...but you're making it happen. Mentally there is so much being asked of you- in this respect the job is almost exactly like film directing- it feels like a hundred jobs at once- and you're doin' it.
In fact, you're doin' it handily, you pro, you reigning overlord of Aurora Avenue, you benevolent wrangler of Club Cuckooland. You're keepin' it smooth like it wasn't any big thing, even though it is.
That's what I would think to myself riding the 359 (the old version of the 358) or the 7 as a youngster. I was in awe of those rare guys and gals who absolutely had it, those drivers who possessed some ability to be at the top of their game in what was obviously the tough gig in town. They were filled with life. I still look up to those drivers, and aspire to reach their lofty heights. What I never guessed was the massive satisfaction I would get out of being here.
Briefly we were side by side, my leader and I, and through the bars and windows I saw him wave- an easy full-blown grin, his arm laughing at the insanity of it all. He's a skinny Central American guy, older, with a rich smile- and the sense of outsized camaraderie accomplishes multitudes. Only another bus driver could grasp the full measure of what this hysteria is like, and we're both surfing on the exhilaration.
I've just had a ridiculous trip into town, filled with lifts, conversations, questions, laughter- an avalanche of sensory stimuli, all of it needing a response, and most of it having the importance of life and death, or at least peace and badness. The 358 in front of me has probably had something pretty similar- nothing's quite as exciting as a 358 that's more than ten minutes late- but here we are, laughing about it. What else can you do? We ricochet down Third, buses everywhere getting out of our way. When you're doing the 358, other routes give you a lot of room.
Respect. You don't need it to be happy, and it can vanish in a moment, and it's not at the core of why I'm doing any of this- but boy, it sure feels good while it's there. I'm humbled and grateful. And exhilarated.
2/10/2013 06:50:20 am
Love it! I have so much respect for bus operators! I've always wondered what their days are like/ what they're thinking. Luckily my friend pointed me to this blog. Keep up the great work on the road and off!
2/12/2013 11:12:56 am
Melrose! So glad you enjoy the blog. Great to hear that it's able to answer some of your curiosities! I hope you continue to check it out!
2/16/2013 05:09:49 am
I ride the 358 occasionally and find it often rewarding -- its humanity and pathos. Glad to know you appreciate it in spite of being immersed. Thanks for driving.
2/17/2013 04:47:22 pm
Jim, I'm happy to hear you find the humanity in the route. Pathos is definitely the word. Thanks for reading!
2/23/2013 01:20:39 am
I've seen some camaraderie that never happens on the 271, as I when an impoverished-looking gent came up with fare/bus ticket for a more nicely dressed (but a bit manic?) woman with numerous shopping bags.
2/23/2013 12:14:31 pm
Jim- Thanks for forwarding. I was on the 271 recently as a passenger, and had to remind myself how diverse the Eastside can really be. I'd forgotten. The front half of the bus was speaking Mandarin, and the back half was speaking Korean. It was great. That Lake Hills/Eastgate/Crossroads area has quite a diverse cross-section.
2/23/2013 07:26:33 am
hi nathan, i'm driving the 358, jim's our friend and he's passed this site along. i actually enjoy driving the 7, 358, and these really active routes. was at east base last shake-up mostly on the highway. oiy.
2/23/2013 12:16:02 pm
Michael- Glad there's a few of us. Thank goodness other drivers don't like these routes, so we can pick them- keep them a secret! Good to have you on the 358, especially after your tour of duty on the highways! Hope it's going well, and thanks for reading.
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