The 30 at 3:26 pm
There is a unique sensation when the bus you have been waiting for finally arrives, comparably only to visiting the restroom while at a restaurant and having your food appear while you were gone.
The bus rolls up, along with the familiar sound of wheels crunching over pavement, brakes whistling, and the release of air as the front end sags and the door swings open. I notice that the rear-view mirrors that hang off the front make the bus look like a beetle, the mirrors resembling feelers. But this bus does not scuttle, slide, or scurry like an insect. It lumbers, drags, and sweats smog.
I climb inside the Beetle Bus and scout for a place to sit. Literally all of the passengers have a seat to themselves. I follow suit and sit on one of the empty inward-facing bench seats in the back.
At the next stop, a girl and who I assume is her boyfriend (judging by the copious groping I witnessed occurring at the bus stop) enter and look for a place to sit. Her eyes flick over the single seats, finally and begrudgingly resting on the open space on the bench seat next to me. They sit, my side rising slightly as they do.
The Beetle Bus rolls on. There is silence.
“You got me some weird-ass shit,” the girl says. I look and see that she is referring to an opened pink package on her lap, some kind of present, it seems.
I do not hear her boyfriend’s response as the bus has rolled up to the next stop. A two-seat, front-facing space becomes available. Like buzzards, or perhaps fan girls because of the lack of preemptive circling and favor of an immediate ground attack, the couple takes the empty seats opposite me.
My ego is slightly bruised.
I can feel the engine whirring up through the soles of my feet. The sensation stops at my ankles. The shadows cast by the trees we pass dapple the entire interior of the bus. Floors, seats, faces. The window is warm. At night, I can usually see my reflection in it, layered over landmarks. The Space Needle splicing my face, the neon signs using my skin as a canvas.
“Did you see that shit?! Aw shit! That shit was hella funny!”
It is taking all of my energy not to snap shut into iPod escapism.
My eyes try to eat up details to distract me. The way riders’ bodies lean forward before popping back when the bus grinds to a halt, as if they were extensions of the bus itself. The pull-cord on my side is silver. On the other it is black. There are only seven ads in the bus. I don’t have my glasses with me so I cannot see all of them, but I know one is informing me that I can change the world somewhere between college graduation and starting a career. The two fluorescent strip lights in the front are not on, but the rest lining the interior are. The driver wears a blue baseball cap and a vacant look. Is it legal to wear a hat while operating government property? Doesn’t this obstruct his vision? Can’t sunglasses serve the same purpose?
Before I had the chance to let my mind spiral into scenarios rivaling Mad Max, I pull the cord to request my stop. The muted ding sounds as the bus swipes into the side of the street. I exit, thanking the bus driver. He thanks me back. For what, I’m not sure. Perhaps for not using the word “shit” every twelve seconds.
My feet hit the sidewalk. I am wearing thin-soled shoes, so I can feel almost every grain of concrete as I walk on the solid, unmoving ground. I turn to see the bus veer off. On the back, there is an ad with a man waving. I resist the urge to wave goodbye to the Beetle Bus, that cavernous creature that picks up and deposits people not exactly but at least within walking distance of where they need to be. An interim space between spaces. The oft-neglected, under-appreciated vehicle, because when you are taking public transportation, it is most definitely the destination that matters, not the journey.