Monday, June 13, 2011

It’s not over until the Bus Lady Sings (or, Bus Lady Sings the Blues)


I will never forget my first bus ride in Pittsburgh.  I moved to the city in July 1987 to go back to school, and was living in an apartment complex about 15 minutes north of downtown.  (Well, that’s by car; triple that time for a bus.)  Outside of riding a school bus as a kid (and a couple Greyhound buses), I was from a small town and had never used public transportation; so I was told in advance how much to pay, and where to get off in the city.  

When the PAT bus pulled up, I hopped aboard and held out my fare to the driver.  Why wouldn’t he take it?  He gestured towards the fare box.  I dropped in my coins and as I looked down the cramped aisle between fifty or so people, wondering why all the women in dress clothes were wearing white sneakers, the bus lurched forward and I literally fell flat on my face. 

That was my first lesson about riding public transportation—unlike a school bus or Greyhound, the driver doesn’t wait until you’ve found a seat.  As the weeks went by, I learned other stuff too:

  • The schedule you’re holding says 7:05am but it’s 7:15 and there’s still no bus—this happened yesterday too!  (Your regular driver’s on vacation, take the earlier bus the rest of the week.)
  • You’re about 20 feet from the bus stop when you see your bus approaching;  you’ve ridden with this driver a hundred times, he sees you sprinting towards that PAT sign, surely he’ll wait the 10 seconds you need to get there, right?  Haha, you just made his day! 
  • Wow, empty seats in the front!  They’re empty for a reason.  There’s either an elderly couple or a young mom with her preschooler getting on a couple stops ahead.  You should’ve grabbed that empty seat in the back when you had the chance.
  • The bus is nearly full but there’s a window seat available—no, it’s a wet seat available.  
  • Can the bus driver tell you where the Courthouse is?  Yes.  Will he?  “Think, McFly!”  
  •  You’re waiting for the 19L Emsworth but this one says Ross Garage, so you step back & wave him by; you dummy, that’s your bus!  The driver forgot to change his sign!  


Of course, there’s a whole other set of rules for how you interact with your fellow passengers, and the reason I am sharing all of this is because there’s a woman on the 19L Emsworth who broke all of them in just one day—with me!   

This morning I got on the bus & was happily surprised to get a (dry) window seat near the back of the bus.  Lord, why hast Thou blessed me?  No sooner do I settle in though, a very large woman promptly squeezes in beside me.  Hey! 

Rule No.1:  Very wide persons needing two seats should not squeeze into a front-facing seat with another person, especially when there are empty seats in the back of the bus!

She must’ve read my thoughts because she said “I can’t sit in those seats in the back, or I get bus-sick”.  Fair enough, I resign myself to being a sardine on the trip downtown.  After the bus drones forward a couple blocks, she reaches down and pokes my leg.  RULE NO.2:  NO LEG POKING, ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE JOINED AT THE HIP.  She asks “Could you squeeze your legs together?”    RULE NO.3:  DO NOT ASK A MAN TO SQUEEZE HIS LEGS TOGETHER.  I say yes, sure and pray I fall into a coma.

So we’re about halfway downtown when she says “Candy?”  I look down and see two jeweled fingers plucking a… bon bon from a gold box.  I smile and shake my head, no thanks.  She pops it in her mouth and mumbles “you probably think I’m a big fat cow…”   RULE NO.4:  DO NOT ASK A FELLOW PASSENGER IF THEY THINK YOU’RE A BIG FAT COW.  I try to look confused and shake my head no.  She says “My husband does!”   I don’t know how to answer that, so I say nothing and hope she doesn’t either.  We finally get downtown, and for the rest of the day my right side is wearing her perfume.

I managed to put it all behind me though, and got on with my workday.  And when 4:00 rolled around, I grabbed my bag & headed for my evening bus stop (outside of Mellon Bank) for the trip home.  I like this stop, it’s the first of several throughout the city so I pretty much have my choice of where I want to sit.  And about midway downtown, guess who gets on the bus?  I see her looking at the available seats, and I almost smile because of Rule No.5:  DO NOT SIT WITH THE SAME STRANGER TWICE IN A ROW, ESPECIALLY IF THERE ARE OTHER SEATS AVAILABLE.  Heh!  Suddenly she’s standing over me.  No! 

Yes I know, legs together.  (Lady, you are breaking all the rules!)  

I winced a little as she squeezed in and got situated.  As I was sitting there wondering “Why me Lord” it hit me—my MP3 player!  RULE NO.6:  NEVER BOTHER SOMEONE WHO IS LISTENING TO MUSIC.  I quickly fumbled it out of my workbag and slipped on the earphones—ah, Partridge Family and sweet relief!  But no sooner does David Cassidy sing “I think I love you”, she taps my leg.  I turn down the player.  “What.”  She says “I can hear your music, you must have it up pretty loud.”   Grrr!   I apologize & say I’ll turn it down.  She says “It’s not bothering me.”   Then why—nevermind!

So we ride in relative silence (well, she did) until I notice the couple in front of us are smiling and making fish eyes in our direction.  I turn to my ‘partner’ and she’s staring straight ahead, mouthing something.  What the—!?  I remove my earphones and she’s softly singing “la la la”.  Huh?  She turns to me and says “The Bee Gees, right?”   I made a frown-face and said no.  She said “Then who is it!”   And just when I am about to shout the rules at her, we’re in Bellevue & thank God there’s her bus stop coming up.  She squirmed her butt out of the seat and said “My husband’s making me ride the bus now if the weather’s nice.”  When I rolled my eyes and nodded my head, she said “see you in the morning!”   Omigosh lady, not if I can help it!

God if you’re listening… I am praying for rain.


  1. Ha!Ha!Ha! OMG, too funny! Doug, you have just got to write more than once a month (or so), every one of your blogs either leave me in tears or laughing so hard I have to pee (I know, I know, Rule #1 of Facebook Friends~never tell a fellow friend your bathroom habits)seriously, why you don't get paid to write everyday is beyond me.

    Thanks for the laugh, my friend.

  2. You just made MY day--thanks very much for the encouraging words here Becca! Trust me--you've broken no rules here, hope all is super with you :)


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