Friday, February 10, 2017

This is the day

A low-key morning on the 34, doing a few round trips on Sample Rd. Taking less than an hour from end to end, it could be considered one of the duller routes for that reason and also the fact there are no turns but for the ends and the Tri-Rail station. For such a short run it has impressively frequent service most of the day, creating an anomaly on a mostly suburban route compared to some of our workhorse routes which could use similar service.

This morning run started out a bit disconcerting when I was assigned a notoriously slow bus to pull out. There would be no zipping around today. Designed as a commuter bus for highway travel, it featured a single large door which was also slow to operate. I had used it before on the 50 route, an epic mismatch. It would be fine on the 34, just requiring more time to emerge from pull-ins. This would be a good chance to hone some safe driving skills, plus the reactions from passengers unfamiliar with the single door are priceless.

My second passenger of the day was also a connection to the 50, where he'd boarded one day to tell me about the latest "spiritual banana peels" meant to trip him up. It was Tom, carrying his laptop and a coffee. When he saw it was me, the story picked up where it left off. Before travelling by bus, police had been harassing him for driving a nice car. Convinced that the Devil was out to get him since "everything's spiritual," he described being "touched 2 or 3 times" by blackbirds.

Our first eastbound who should board but a legend on the 34. Every route has regulars synonymous with that route. They know all the drivers on the route, and probably spend more time on it than those drivers. This eccentric gentleman is immediately recognizable by his unchanging wardrobe: straw lifeguard hat, safety vest, multiple shirt layers, and bushy mustache. He stays active with his bicycle, which he's returning since it's new and just broke. After that errand he's off to the hospital "to get all my skin burned off."
"That's exciting," I sardonically replied to the unpleasant claim.
"She's a pretty 23 year old doctor and she's gonna zap my head - no pun intended!" I suppose the risqué humor took his mind off what lay ahead, which he followed up by showing me the results of previous treatments. His persistence and enthusiasm are contagious, and his freely shared ailments are a visible reminder of the sun's power; it both gives and takes life. This morning it is intense, unhindered by the jagged white-capped thin clouds on the eastern horizon.

Once he exited, a woman boarded and proceeded to start a praise and worship session in the back.
"Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit... This is the day that the Lord has made..."
The world could always use more singing, regardless of timbre or genre.


  1. Bravo, brother! We all have those "special" buses it seems. Like most transit agencies, Portland's is made up of buses ranging from 0-20 years old. The newer ones are sluggish, the old fellows have a lot more spunk. But we don't have any with just one door! As for passengers, yeah some regulars are very entertaining while others are not. Truly enjoy your blog, keep it up!

  2. 20 years, must be some heavy duty mileage on those! Mechanics are magicians, for sure. I'm a fan of older Gillig 'time machines', but still love the entire spectrum of bus types.