One of the reasons I moved to Seattle was because of the bus. It sounds weird and a lot of people, at least the ones who come from St. Louis and pull “dude, gross” faces when I mention the bus, seem either confused or offended by this. But really. It’s true. I moved here for other, more important reasons, sure, but the bus did play a part in the decision.
When Graham and I first visited Seattle, we walked up the most monstrous hill I’d ever seen to catch a bus to Seattle Center. Now I know that it’s not the biggest hill and that the trip is a relatively short bus ride, but at the time, and as someone who’d spent the last 25+ years living in cities where public transportation was unreliable, unsafe, and sometimes nonexistent, I was incredibly nervous about finding, boarding, and riding the bus to my destination. We took other buses that day, too, from Seattle Center down to the waterfront and then from the market (really the Metro stop at 3rd and Pike, which is still probably my least favorite stop in all of Seattle because BUM PEE) back to our friends’ house in Fremont. Sometime between getting on the bus in the morning and getting back to Fremont, I realized that the bus wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, I kind of liked it. I liked being able to sit back while someone else drove. I liked that the people riding the bus with us were quiet commuters who weren’t starting fights over chicken nuggets. I liked that the bus flew along in its own lane while everyone in cars seethed in traffic. I liked the bus. And I wanted to live in a city where I could actually ride it.
Common wisdom says you don’t feel like a Seattleite until you’ve been here for at least two years. After that point, other Seattleites will begin to warm up to you and maybe be your friend, or at least start making eye contact. We didn’t have this problem because we already had friends here, so I guess we had to find other ways to feel like we belonged. For Graham, it was the first time he rode his bike all the way from the Fremont Bridge to the top of the hill without stopping (it’s a big fucking hill). For me, it was when I felt comfortable taking the bus.
I still really like the bus, even now that it’s essential to my commute. I like the sleepy camaraderie of the morning express, where I see the same faces every day and I get to read the boat names from the Ballard Bridge and the guy who always sits next to me knows my stop and gets up before I ask. I like the jostly evening Rapid Ride or express, at least when I can get a seat, because both of them are air-conditioned and that’s a little luxury most Seattleites don’t have at home. I like taking the bus on weekends, when it’s mostly empty and I can have an entire extra seat for grocery bags. I like taking the bus home at night when I’m a little bit drunk, because I’m not paying for an Uber and someone else can be in charge for awhile.
As in any situation where you’re forced to squeeze into a relatively small area with a bunch of people you don’t know, there are some downsides to the bus. Little inconveniences like breakdowns and messed up routes, buses that arrive 20+ minutes late or depart five minutes early when you’re already running up another hill to catch it. Or the bigger inconveniences, like the two biggest things I hate about the bus and would gladly give maybe a week off my life apiece to never deal with them again.
1. The dogshit people. It happens so often that I sometimes think it must be Seattle city policy for every bus to always be transporting at least one person who smells like they rolled in dogshit. And not necessarily fresh dogshit, either, although that was happened before. It’s as if people have swapped out lavender sachets for dried up dog turds in their drawers and are pulling their shirts and pants directly out of their little poop bundles. Most of the time, these people just smell like dogshit on their own, like a grotesque little mystery for the rest of us commuters to discover. Other times, people bring their actual dogs on the bus, which is both allowed and fine as long as the dog is clean and well-behaved. That’s clean and well-behaved, so if your dog spends any time at all outside, it would be best to bathe them at least weekly, but certainly more often if they love rolling in shit. And most of them do. And for some reason, most of their owners are fucking clueless.
2. The middle-aged men in suits with nice watches who refuse to look up from their phones or iPads or Kindles and give their seats to hugely pregnant women or the elderly. I. Cannot. STAND these fucking men. I’m going to dust off a little Louis C.K. and ask, is it not enough for you to have had centuries of unchecked privilege and power? Can you not just relinquish those fifteen minutes at the end of your day of bossing people around and taking up space to a person who might be a little more tired or achy? I’d think with the money you spent on your clothes and accessories that you’d be in a social class that knows about things like real manners, like the kind you learn from somewhere other than that one scene in Pretty Woman where Hector Elizondo is teaching Julia Roberts about tableware. Were you never taught that it’s customary to give up your seat? What’s the problem here? Can you really not tear your eyes away from James Patterson’s latest formulaic celebration of the continuous victory of guys like you to recognize that there are other people in the world and maybe you could do them a small favor once in a while? Or are you waiting for someone like me to do it, which I always do, by the way, but never without fantasizing about smacking your leather Kindle case out of your manicured hands and screaming “THIS IS HOW NICE PEOPLE DO IT, YOU BOURGEOIS PIECE OF HUMAN CRAP!” in your face.
I’ve seen other, less pregnant women and other, less elderly people get up for these new passengers. I’ve seen homeless guys get up, too. I’ve seen thugged out teenagers offering their seats, the occasional punk (although never a crust punk, because fuck society, they need those two extra bus seats for their bedroll and a pile of loose change and batteries), and even mothers with small children giving up their seats for someone else. So hey, Mr. Boardroom, what’s your fucking problem?