Saturday, November 15, 2014

Signs on the Bus

Ever wonder why your operator gets irritated, or sighs in frustration? Even though you might think "riding the bus" is as simple as just boarding at a stop, it isn't.

Buses operate on schedules. Along each route are "time points", which are specific points where an operator is scheduled to be at certain times. If people board at their leisure, are texting in the shelter and don't look up until you're stopped and THEN gesture they don't want your bus or simply just look back at their phone, it eats up precious schedule time.

You might not think this is a problem, but lately it's epidemic. People operate at their own pace; operators  are often saddled with unrealistic schedules. If circumstances create time loss on the run, it means our break at the end is cut short. The average rider doesn't ride the entire route. We do. If we're late at the end, our break is cut by the amount of minutes we're late. Traffic, inexperienced (or rude/indifferent) passengers, construction delays... they can all wreak havoc on schedules.

If you'll notice next time you ride, there are countless signs on a bus which help riders make boarding quick and efficient. Problem is, most folks are focused solely on a tiny screen upon which their entire lives seem to revolve. Reading signs on a bus is not nearly as exciting as whatever meme FaceBook is featuring at that moment. So here's a few you may have missed, and what operators think (see comments in italics) whenever they're unseen or ignored.


We've all seen this guy: far down the street he awaits the bus. Just standing there, Larry Loitering, looking at the sky, glancing at his watch. Not a care in the world. As the bus ("finally," he sighs) pulls up, he takes his sweet time navigating the six-inch step up and in. Gee, doesn't appear immobile; step up the pace, Ginger Toes. Then, as he gives the operator the "stink eye", which is paid back his way in spades by the patient driver, he looks around. Can he go just a bit slower?

"How much to ride downtown?" Larry asks.

"See the sign up there?" Ollie Operator replies with a finger pointing above his head. "It says $2.50, unless you're under 18. If you're under seven, it's free." Perhaps he's capable of understanding that bit of information. Not even mentioning the other fare... he looks as "Honored" as that goober who just paid a buck and smells like yesterday's puke.

Then he begins to dig in his pockets. Out come the rubbers, Safeway receipts, video game cheats, one used butt plug (Gee, maybe that's a spare plug... no wonder he's so friggin' slow), then the money. Of course, it's wadded-up in numerous denominations; a grand total of about $8 Ollie estimates. As he fumbles for the right combination, Ollie lets out the world's most impatient sigh.

"You know," Ollie says, "it would truly be helpful if you had sorted through your detritus for the fare while you were waiting for the bus, rather than taking two minutes to find it now that I'm sitting here. Just like it says on that sign telling you how much the fare costs."

Larry takes offense. Who's this simple operator to tell him how to ride a friggin' bus? For the next several minutes after getting his receipt he's badgering Ollie. Rudely. Questioning his ancestry, nastily trolling anyone who isn't plugged in and tuned out. If you're not careful, butt-breath, you'll be early for the next bus. Ollie begins to whistle Don't Worry Be Happy and it drones out Larry's incessant insults.

When he finally leaves, he can't wait to get off the bus. Unfortunately, he makes a rookie mistake. Ollie has hit the first downtown stop at rush hour, and there are about 250 people waiting. Larry, of course, saunters toward the front door where the hordes are coming aboard.

"Please exit in the rear (Hmm... perhaps I phrased that wrong...) sir," Ollie tells Larry.

Larry gestures a "whatever" and heads to the back door. But Ollie forgets to push the door handle as he takes fare from the boarding hordes.

"Hey BACK DOOR, driver!" Larry yells impatiently. Yeah, and your mother inserted that plug for ya there, eh? Ollie twists the handle, but before he can, Larry has started slamming the door. Of course, it won't open yet. The green light hasn't appeared overhead, and now Larry is angry. Again.

"I said, BACK DOOR!" Larry shouts impatiently.

Ollie points at the mirror. "Read the sign, sir, and it will instruct you as to the proper door-opening procedure." You can read, I hope.

Now Larry stands at the door, having failed to open it prior to the green light, which is now illuminated so brightly the sight-impaired lady across the street can see it.

"WELLLLLL?" Larry brays. He's standing there with his palms outstretched, waiting for the door to open. By itself.

Ollie can't take it any more. "Push the door, it will open!"

Larry complies. The door is stuck now, due to improper operation.

"You'll have to exit the front then," Ollie says, turning to hide a gleeful smile. The bus is now packed, and rather than Ollie getting out of the seat to "fix" the problem, he'd rather see Larry fight his way to the front of the bus. Perhaps so he can kick the inbred dolt in his impaled derriere on his way out.

Uh oh, light's green, buses piling up behind me and I'm in first position. Guess Larry's outta luck.

Larry is jostling and shoving his way forward as Ollie closes the front door and takes the green light. He steps on our previous heroine Lady Guttersnipe's foot as he passes and gets a cane-cruncher in the groin in return.

"HEY!" he shouts as he painfully reaches the front.

"Sorry sir," Ollie says. "Procedure dictates I can't loiter in the first position on the transit mall. Gotta go. We'll let you out next stop." If you can manage, pendejo.

Larry doesn't like this, and stands up at the fare box, yelling into Ollie's face. "You let me out RIGHT F*****G NOW!" he bellows, his spit spraying the windshield and Ollie's glasses.

Ollie puts his arm out and points to the sign above the windshield. "See that sign? You'll need to move back behind the yellow line, sir, I can't drive with you there, plus I can't open the door while the bus is moving."

"You stupid prick! I wanted out at the last stop!"

"Bummer. You need to learn how to read signs." Ollie motions Larry back. Downtown traffic is heavy with all the skateboarders, bicyclists and cars cluttering up the bus lane and the person crossing against the light in a mobility device directly ahead of the bus, for whom Ollie must brake so they don't become a bloody bike rack ornament. After a few blocks of Larry's illiterate linguistics, the next stop looms.

After a ration of obscenities, Larry finally manages to exit. Ollie's a few seconds early, so he waits until Larry turns the corner and gets out of his seat. He casually walks off the bus to the rear door, pushes it firmly closed, gets back into the seat, turns the door crank and has a passenger push it open. Ahh, worky fine now. On with the show, sans Loudmouth Larry.

A few stops later, Barry Bicyclist (successfully) exits the rear door. Ollie hasn't noticed his helmeted head exiting, and prepares to depart on the impending green light. Just as it turns green, Barry hops in front of the bus.

"WHOA THERE BUDDY!" Ollie bellows. He opens the front door as he says this.

Barry shrugs, pointing a finger at himself in a "Who, me?" gesture.

"Yeah, you!" Ollie roars. "Come here for a second, eh?"

Barry shakes his head, annoyed a simple bus operator would have the nerve to yell at him. After all, he saves the climate by riding his bicycle three blocks from bus stop to home again, the world should bow to him! He takes his time, carefully removing his $3,000 bicycle from the rack, and pops onto the sidewalk, near the open bus door.

"What?" he says to Ollie.

"You didn't see the sign that clearly states 'Alert Operator before removing bike'? Ollie asks gently.

"But I did!" Barry says. "You just didn't hear me, I guess."

"Well," Ollie replies, "good thing I saw you before I hit the accelerator or you'd be bouncing down the street by now. You need to make sure I hear you, please. I don't want you to get hurt."

"Yeah, whatever," Barry says with a dismissive hand gesture. After all, he has an MBA in Obnoxiousness and who the hell is a simple bus operator to tell him how to behave?

"Hey buddy, come here for a second, will ya? I wanna show you something." Ollie gently gestures for him to get back on board, smiling reassuringly. Barry hesitates yet complies, even though he's embarrassed to note all the riders are watching this exchange.

"See this?" Ollie points to the sign showing the Gross Vehicle Weight of the vehicle. "It should paint a graphic picture in your mind of what happens to someone who steps in front of a moving bus," Ollie quietly tells him. "With all these people aboard, it's more like 50,000 pounds of moving steel and glass, you know." Bet they didn't teach common sense at your universidad, cabron.

Luckily for illustrative purposes, a fly lands on the window next to Ollie. He deftly swats the buzzer flat, bug guts oozing down the glass.

"This could happen to you, and I don't think all the king's men could put you back together again. Okay? Got it?"

Barry's not satisfied. "Then you should be more careful before you move this bus!" he shouts at Ollie. He starts to step off.

"Good thing I am careful, buddy," Ollie says to Barry's departing back, "or you woulda been the bug."

Later, the passenger load having thinned a little but still full, a little old lady with her full shopping cart awaits Ollie's ride. The Priority Seating area is jammed with 30-somethings staring into their tiny device screens, ear buds blasting their cochlear nerves to shreds. Ollie tries to prepare them for what awaits.

"We're going to need a few of these front seats," he declares as he rolls to a stop. A middle-aged man who appears down on his luck politely obliges and moves into the aisle. The other two squatters don't  hear him, or they're artfully ignorant.

Granny Gilmer boards after Ollie deploys the ramp to make it easier for her to cart $300 of groceries into the bus. Still, nobody seems to have noticed Granny.

After all he's been through the past hour, including passengers wanting to know detailed schedules of a bus route he doesn't drive, teenagers obscenely arguing amongst themselves, Larry and Barry's antics, and a host of other annoyances, Ollie is now almost nine minutes late to a 12-minute break at the end of the line. His last straw is sucking air.

Turning in his seat, he bellows at Ichabod I-Phone and WannaBeARapper Wanda, "Please MOVE from the Priority Seating Area so this dear lady can have a seat!" Wanda somehow gets that Ollie is addressing her, and moves her head so she can see Ollie past Granny's rain-soaked head.

"Say what?" she asks loudly, removing one earplug. "You talkin' to me? Whatchu want?"

Ollie is beyond words. He gestures toward Granny.

"I was here first," Wanda whines.

Ollie is now 13 minutes late. He covers his face and rubs his aching temples. He unbuckles his seat belt, stands and excuses himself as he steps past bewildered Granny. He walks up to Wanda, bends over and motions her to remove her other ear bud.


"Sheeit mister, you don't gotta yell! Fine!"

Evidently, Ichabod hasn't paid any attention, or doesn't care. He hasn't budged. Ollie reaches under the seat and heaves upward, interrupting Ichabod from his How To Get Rich In One Illegally-Easy Step video.

Ichy (pronounced "icky") indignantly glares at Ollie.

"Hey dude, watch it!" he cries, still refusing to move his enormous gluteus from the seat.

"Move, please!" Ollie bellows, and motions for Ichy to unplug and tune-in.

"What, I gotta move? I was here first!" Ichy whines even louder than Wanda had. Ollie points to the sign directly across from Ichy.

"I got an Honored card too!" Ichy complains.

At this point, our earlier heroine, Lady Guttersnipe, has had enough. Ollie is her favorite operator. Even though she's sight and hearing-impaired, she knows what's what. Stiffly rising from her seat across the aisle, she raises her cane. Ollie shakes his head (not just yet, dear warrior), Lady lowers it, but addresses Ichy in a very threatening manner.

"Either you mind your misplaced manners and make room for this sweet lady," Lady growls, "or you'll find I've discovered a new dance move, and it ain't gonna be pretty. Now, UP, you ungracious sloth!"

Lady G again raises her cane, and Ichy immediately responds. After a few seconds of oomphing and aw-helling, he manages to rise. Ollie wastes no time raising the seat, and it's settled. Granny thanks him and glares at Ichy, who now stands trembling in front of Lady G. For good measure, Ollie makes sure to displace another discourteous rider so Granny's overloaded cart remains out of the aisle.


Ollie finally reaches the end of the line. He's three minutes past his departure time. His bladder aches dangerously, his sphincter muscle is approaching maximum capacity, and his nerves are shredded.

He pushes "Restroom Delay" on the computer and exits the bus, wincing with each step. Two hours-plus in the seat is strenuous, and his legs complain painfully. Fifteen minutes later, he emerges from the break room, somewhat relieved. His shift has another six hours to go, but Dispatch will have to deal with scheduling him back into service.

Ollie slowly makes his way back to the bus. Darkness has set in. The transit center swarms with characters of dubious intentions. As Ollie prepares to enter his bus, he's threatened by a knife-wielding transient demanding to know why he's so late.

Ollie remains calm as he deftly breaks the assailant's wrist, bashes his skull into the front of the bus and kicks him in the groin on the way down. There's no sign warning people to "Beware of Driver".

Guess he's still just a simple bus operator, but now he's grown an attitude.


  1. Ollie is my hero. I know exactly how he feels. It seems like everyday on this job is just like this.

  2. Well, damn! I'd forgotten about that day. Such revels! I had my screaming yellow crutch in use, alongside my trusty white cane. I be some major dangerass chick when I use my Wonder Woman screaming the yellow crutch. Beware!.
    Madame Guttersnipe travels again

    1. Always a pleasure hearing from my beloved Lady Liz!