Sunday, July 19, 2009


Friday morning I biked downtown from my home in North Seattle to the International District station. I waited for nearly 10 minutes for a bus there -- watching three trains go through the station while I waited, and then boarded my bus to Tukwila, a King County Metro #150. There were less than 20 people aboard at 9:00 AM. BY the time we emerged from the tunnel just a couple minutes later, a man in front of the bus started yelling at another passenger.

It wasn't just a random yell, either. He was furious and insistent: "WHAT DID SHE DO?!!"

He seemed to be directing his ire at a pair of women across the aisle. As far as I could tell, they'd done absolutely nothing to set him off. It seemed like just another random outburst by a crazy person at someone smaller and meeker on public transit.

After maybe 45 seconds of this loud, crazy stuff, the man got up and said something, quietly and apparently humbly, to the bus driver. He fumbled for change, though didn't get to the point of paying (this was a pay-as-you-leave bus). Then, quietly and humbly, he moved back to his seat. He seemed ordinary enough
, of fairly slight stature, and looked as though he was well cared-for. I would have guessed that he was in his 20s. Not someone I would've suspected of crazy talk like this.

After no more than a couple minutes, he started yelling again. Soon, every other word was an f-bomb. The woman sitting across from me in the middle of the bus got up and moved farther back. He seemed upset that he'd been made to apologize for his sins (more than) a few times. He didn't seem to feel like he'd been getting a fair shake in his life. And he seemed to think it was racial. And for some reason the presence of these two small, meek women, of a race different than his, seemed to be setting him off. We were approaching the last stop on 6th Ave South, before getting onto I-5 for the high-speed ride the rest of the way to Tukwila. The bus driver asked him "Are you OK?" and opened the door. The abusive passenger got up, said something quietly to the driver, and got off, glaring at the two women the whole way, his expression the very picture of injured pride.

As we exited I-5 in Tukwila, 10 miles later, I thanked the driver for her graceful handling of that situation. She smiled in a relieved sort of way and said that when the loud guy had gone up to speak with her quietly the first time, that he'd gone up to apologize for his behavior and to say that he wouldn't do it again, which of course didn't end up working out. But he'd also told her he would get off the bus if it happened again, which he'd ended up doing.

A difficult juxtaposition of behaviors; polite and humble one breath, and aggressive and hateful in the next. I have to assume the guy was mentally ill, of course. I sincerely hope the two women he was so angry with aren't too shaken by the experience. And I wish all three of them well.

No comments: