Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bus breakdown

Last week I saw Tito the tunnel flautist again, this time in his more usual morning habitat. He was deep in conversation with another commuter as I walked up, so I didn't have time for much more than a few words before I had to get below to catch my bus to Tukwila.

Maybe I should've waited, as once my bus got onto the freeway and was passing Boeing Field, the driver pulled over. Then I saw smoke coming out of the back of the bus, where the engine is. The driver announced that he was having engine trouble, and that another bus would be along presently to give us a lift. He offered his cell phone to anyone who would need to call ahead, which I thought was awfully nice of him. I heard someone say the delay would make him late for an interview, but aside from him and another couple takers for the cell phone, the 20-25 passengers on the bus sat quietly while the minutes ticked past. I think it was half an hour before the next bus came by, another regularly scheduled King County Metro #150, which had about the same number of riders, and therefore plenty more room for us, though seats did get scarce. I missed my morning meeting, alas.

This is the first time in 20 years of bus commuting that I've experienced a bus breakdown, but it could've been a lot worse. I remember when I was in grade school near the Hudson River and my father bought our family a second car, a 1964 Mercury Comet we promptly dubbed the "Vomit Comet" 'cause that's kinda how it smelled, so he could drive it back and forth between our home and the nearest rail station, where he rode the subway to his office in Manhattan. But then one
hot summer day his train broke down and he had to wait for three hours day in cramped standing-room-only conditions in a subway tunnel. I didn't hear many details, but he did say he would never ride the train again, and so far as I know he never did.

On my trip home, I was more than 10 minutes early for my bus at the Tukwila Park and Ride, so I rode my bike from there to downtown Seattle. On the other side of downtown, where I'd hoped to catch a second bus home, I was more than 10 minutes early for that bus, too, so I ended up riding my bike all the way home from Tukwila, more than 22 miles, ending with a climb straight up Fremont Ave from the Ship Canal, which is I think is about a 350' elevation gain in just 3/4 mile.

It wasn't a climb I'd wanted to make when I'm as out of shape as I am now, but if I have that much of a head start I can generally beat the bus home even with as much uphill as there is up Phinney Ridge, and maybe even when I'm this far out of shape, and the same was true on this trip.

I definitely needed a rubdown afterward, though.

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