Seattle Story

I wait at the dirty 7-11 bus stop for the bus to Fremont. Two kids are sitting on the narrow bench under the bus shelter and their father is pacing around a little. A tiny Trek bicycle with training wheels, just the right size for the little boy, is sitting next to the bench. The little girl’s Birkenstocks are sitting on the sidewalk in front of her. The boy keeps taking off and putting back on his sandles until his father tells him to stop. The boy points out that his sister has taken off her shoes. She justifies her barefeet by explaining that they’re slip-ons. The three of them occassionally speculate about which of the approaching buses might be their’s.

My bus arrives and the family stands up to get on. The father picks up the bike. The driver gestures for them to wait while passengers unload. An old woman gets off, the driver looks back down at us and shakes his head. “The bike is going to have to go on the rack,” he points at the bike rack on the front of the bus, where a full-sized 18-speed is taking up one of the two available slots.

The father hesitates. And vaguely stammers out that he’d rather carry it onboard. “It’s so small.”

The driver shakes his head and explains that they’re not supposed to let bikes of any kind on board. The father pauses, deciding how much of an issue he want to make of this. “But,” the driver decides, “Just this once. I’ll let you on . . . as long as you keep it out of the aisle.”

We get on. The kids sit behind the driver in seats facing the aisle and the father sits across from them with the bike tucked partly under the seat.

The driver repeats, “I need to have the aisle clear.”

So, the father moves to the first available of the right-side forward-facing seat and holds the bike awkwardly in his lap. I’m a couple of seats back on the left-hand side.

We get moving and make a couple of more stops. The little girl asks her father how far this bus goes. “It’ll take us all the way home.” The little boy reads a bus-ID number of some kind off the window backwards.

We stop at the the last interchange before the Fremont Bridge. The bridge is up to let a tall boat go by, so it’ll be a couple of minutes. The driver is going to take full advantage of this time. He unbuckles his seatbelt, turns around, and walks over to the father. He explains again, “We’re really not supposed to let you bring any kind of bicycle on board – even one that small.”

The father nods his head. He grimaces and seems to think, Yes, I know . . . I think I’ve heard something about this.

“You see, I really should have made you put the bike on the bike rack. But I’m letting you bring it on board, even though I shouldn’t.” [1]

“Yes, I understand. Thank you.”

We cross the bridge into Fremont. I step off the little despot’s bus into the increasingly bleak-looking center of the universe. (But that’s another story for another day.)

[1] Actually I seem to remember that, except for the first and last stops, passengers aren’t allowed to put bikes on the rack in the Ride Free Area. But the driver chose to exclude this bit of esoterica from the mix.

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