I left work on time to catch the last Express from my bus stop, as always. On the way down Union -- right beside Gelatiamo, the greatest place on Earth -- something caused my right foot to slip. In the middle of downtown, with no grass nearby, I had stepped in the biggest, semi-mushy pile of dog shit I've ever seen. I am not entirely certain it came from a dog. Maybe it was a cow or an elephant.
I feel pretty confident it wasn't human feces, only because that's a heavily populated area with lots of foot traffic.
In any case, I arrived at my bus stop along with my new pungent odor. Kendra was at the bus stop already. I showed her what happened, and I tried to get all of the mess off my shoe by scraping the bottom on the pavement. We laughed about it, but really, it wasn't funny.
Kendra pointed out that the popular phone app, OneBusAway, showed the Express bus arriving in 66 minutes. I laughed, telling her that app is totally unreliable in the afternoon. There's no way it could take that long. She checked the traffic, then called her husband. He checked his computer and told her about the traffic jams on I-5. I came to the conclusion that our Express could be an hour late, but if that was the case, the Express before ours should still come by at some point; they'd lap each another.
In the meantime, my shoe was reeking. "I can't get on the bus with this thing!" I told Kendra. She told me to go into the new city Target (located right at our bus stop) and get some napkins. There's a Starbucks in there, which I raided for napkins. I came back to the bus stop, removed the offensive shoe, cursed both animal and owner, and began the disgusting task of wiping shit from my sole.
The process was simply gross. People passing by me agreed with that statement. I went to a special place in my head. The place that told me I could not foul up the back end of the Express bus.
Me: "Kendra. Do you have any hand sanitizer?"
Kendra: "No. But I have Listerine."
Me: "That works."
Kendra passed me her trial size Scope with Listerine in it, and I rubbed my hands with a tablespoon of it. I smelled great, but it wasn't enough.
Me: "Do you think I have time to run into Target and get some hand sanitizer?"
Kendra: "Yes. I don't think it's coming. And if it does, I'll ask the driver to hold it for you."
Me: "There's a 152 to Auburn. These things are behind! And what's that one? Why is that guy from our bus getting on a 192?"
Kendra: "The 192 goes to Kent Station. We just never see it because it usually comes an hour earlier."
Me: "I've never seen a 192 before. I totally do have time."
We went back and forth a few times about whether I had time to go into Target, and more unfamiliar buses stopped by. There was obviously a huge delay, because these buses usually arrive long before ours.
Finally, I ran in to Target and got some hand sanitizer and a Diet Coke. While I was in line, I felt my phone vibrate. It was a text from Kendra. I winced as I unlocked it and read the following words:
That damned bus had come after all! Oh man!
I held out and kept hope alive that the real Express bus was following behind that one. But it wasn't.
I walked slowly, filled with dread, back to the bus stop. Kim Thomas was waiting there, checking her OneBusAway app. (It isn't the real Kim Thomas, but she sure reminds me of her so that's my bus name for her.) She was convinced the Express was 2 minutes away. This woman rides my morning Express buses all the time, but we'd never talked. We laughed about how terrible the 150 is, and we waited. Then, we knew what we had to do.
I let one more bus to come by before calling off the wait. It was going to Ryerson Base. "Dammit!"
Kim Thomas and I began the walk of shame to University Street Station to catch that God awful 150.
Me: "Well, you know, we could always take the 255 to the Bellevue Transit Center, then get a 550 back to Kent Station."
Kim Thomas: "I could expense a cab ride on my work credit card."
Me: "Go up to one of the hotels up the street, then hail a cab. They have a flat rate to the airport that's about $50 less than a fare to Kent. Or we could take the Light Rail to SeaTac Airport, then catch a 180 to Kent Station.
Kim Thomas: "Yeah, but I parked at the golf course, so I will need to catch a 166 over there.
I was really enjoying this conversation. Kim Thomas was knowledgeable about the buses and very pleasant.
Kim Thomas: "I hate the 150. Were you on it the morning that young guy got sick? You know, the couple from Kent Station that used to have the baby...." (She's referring to Eddie and Becky, who have also made busworthy appearances: The Brushing.)
Me: "No. But I didn't miss another young fellow lose his lunch." (That's Captain Morgan!)
Kim Thomas: "I was on the 150 when a guy took a crap on the seat."
Me: "Get outta here!"
She even told me a short story about Moustache Man and how he'd been creepy with her.
And we entered the bus tunnel. We waited for the 150. And waited. And waited some more. We watched three 150s go the opposite direction, but they never returned. There must have been a black hole at Convention Place; that wouldn't surprise me.
Finally, at about 7:15, a 150 came along. It was beyond packed. I've never been on a bus that packed. I asked the driver if there was another 150 coming along behind it, and he philosophically replied, "There's always a 150 behind me." Taken aback at how absolutely true that statement was, I tapped my Orca card and squeezed myself in the abyss of bodies.
Kim Thomas followed suit. I moved my wallet to my front pocket to avoid pickpockets. All of the seats were taken, and angry passengers were standing two in a row down the aisle. There was no room for another soul on that bus. Yet the driver kept stopping along the tunnel for more riders. A man's angry voice called out, "There's no fucking room back here!" I was pressed firmly against the gentleman in front of me, and the woman behind me had her purse jammed into my hip. Really, it was my butt, but it doesn't sound right to say she had her purse jammed into my ass.
I've been on crowded buses before, but this was exceptional. It beat any 12 or 36 I've ever been on downtown.
The driver stopped at the next stop, Pioneer Square Station. More desperate riders boarded, trying their hardest to jam themselves behind the yellow line by the driver. You have to be behind the yellow line, otherwise you must get off. A woman, probably in her late 40s, got on. Her name was Tammy. Really, it was. She introduced herself to the bus driver. Tammy wore a beige sweater, beige pants, and a most obnoxious smile. She announced to the mob, "You need to move back and make room for me. I've been waiting for FOUR HOURS for this bus." Then her eyes scanned ours for acknowledgment. Somebody five or six bodies back shouted, "There's no fucking room for you! We can't move anywhere."
She repeated herself. I told her firmly, "There's no place for us to go."
Tammy was a pain in the ass, plain and simple. She was straight out of a 90's sitcom. She would say something, then look at us all quickly as if she was seeking our acceptance. Like she wanted to be vindicated, justified in the stupid things she said. "We're all just trying to get somewhere." She ended each sentence in a breathy, annoying tone. She tried flirting with the driver, telling him she couldn't believe he did this every day. She asked him if he always made people wait for four hours before coming around. Then she asked his name, which he refused to give her, because she wanted to compliment him.
That 150 may have been late, but there's no way Tammy waited four hours. It probably seemed like it, though. She carefully studied everything going on in the bus. Then she turned to Kim Thomas and I to announce she "never rides the bus. I'm with King County. I always take the train."
"Is this always so terrible. With the four hour wait and all?" Some may not believe me when I say I'm a logical thinker. I do have solid critical thinking skills. If it was 7:30 when we (unfortunately) picked her up, that would mean she had started waiting there at 3:30. Sounder trains start running southbound from King Street Station from 3:15 to 6:15 p.m., so she would have had ample time to catch a train. Her logic is as flawed as her cheap purple nail polish.
As I was writing, Kim Thomas and I were three bodies back from the front. When people wanted off, we got off the bus and back on.
There was a pocket of space, the exact size of one upright, medium-sized human body, behind a guy wearing sunglasses in the middle of the bus. He was being cussed out to the max by a woman who was, in her own words, "not a bitch, but not afraid to speak her mind." She was letting this guy have it. I only heard her portion of the exchange, which lasted for about five stops.
"I bet you fucking love to come home to your man lover."
"Get your dick off me! Get it out of my ass!"
"Keep your Lincoln Log to yourself." (My personal favorite.)
"Oh YEAH?! What are you going to do to me? Hit me?! Go ahead. Hit me right here."
"Well you want me to get off at the same stop as you. What? Are you going to kick my ass?!"
"I will fuck you up, Man!"
"God, you are such an asshole! All you have to do is move back and make room for more people!"
Finally, the guy got off at the last stop in SODO. I think he got tired of listening to this bold woman going off on him. We parted as best we could to let him off. A guy in the sideways seats told him he needed to find Jesus. With that, he burst through the last few people in the front like a linebacker, knocking Tammy all the way into the cash box.
"God! What a jerk!" Tammy exclaimed, eyes searching ours for agreement.
A bitchy IT woman with an ill-fitting, extremely-low-cut-for-no-good-reason shirt on was pissed.
Kendra sent me another text later, while I was on the 150 and unable to access my phone. I couldn't reach my pocket in the crowd.
"Mail handler. And he looked me straight in the eye, which I've managed to avoid for months.... That's my curse for telling you there'd be time. He's going to try to talk to me again...."
Because "we were all just trying to get somewhere", we continued on our 150 journey to Southcenter, where Kim Thomas and I moved to stand in the back. Away from Tammy, the IT nerd, and the rough looking people who considered getting off at the casinos in Tukwila so they could "strike it rich." We stood until we arrived at Kent Station.
I walked home, happy to be away from the nasty, filthy 150 and all of the people on it. Except for Kim Thomas. She was cool. And the woman who was ready to kick that guy's ass. Because you have to love a good verbal altercation on a bus full of people.
Here's a pic of Lynyrd Skynyrd for the bus Kim Thomas. Actually, I'm sure both Kim Thomas' will enjoy it, as will the good people of the 150. Freeeebird, Baby! [Picture courtesy of a Google search.]