The Running Man

January 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm (On the road again...)

Riding TriMet is never predictable. One can have a hundred uneventful rides, then catch a doozy. The Running Man’s last midnight ride qualified as a doozy.

For several years now, I’ve been catching the bus home with The Running Man. He earned his nickname a while back, when he’d catch a bus to mid-southeast, then transfer to the bus we share. Inevitably he would be walking between stops when our bus went by, and he’d have to run to catch it. (We’d sometimes shout “Ready, set…GO!” as he queued up at the stoplight in front of the Taco Bell.) Eventually it dawned on him that he could catch the same bus we share if he waited five more minutes at the same stop downtown. After a while we started chatting, I learned the Running Man’s name was Dave and that he worked in a thankless job nearby.

Dave is a quiet guy, a transplant from Montana. He’s been working the night shift as long as we’ve been catching the bus together, and it was with sadness that I took in the news: This would be his last week on swing shift. Next week he starts working days.

Dave and I have shared many a silly adventure riding home. Like the lady who got on the bus and had a “heart attack”. We were concerned until paramedics arrived and announced it was her third heart attack of the day. “Off the bus, lady!” Or the time the jumper ended it all five minutes before the bus crossed the bridge, elongating our commute by a couple of hours. (Pro tip: When jumping into the Willamette to cool off at midnight, remove leather jacket and Doc Marten’s. Darwin Award…) We laugh and shake our heads as drunken hipster-rappers are tossed from the bus, and smile as the tipsy girls on their way to amateur night at the strip joint fall and show the goods before hitting the stage.

Is it any wonder I call my bus pass the Passport to Adventure?

The ride started off with the bridge rising. Our bus was on the other side. “At least we won’t have a bunch of three-minute layovers along the way,” I pointed out. The eternal optimist…

Finally, the bus arrived. We rode around and came up to a wheelchair. Everyone packed into the back, and we proceeded. Ten minutes late, but we were moving. Our driver, a hottie with Roseanne Barr’s sense of humor, took it all in stride. As the wheelchair departed, a drunken guy got on. He was staggering as he made his way to the back of the bus. Sit down and shut up.

Often I will hook up the headphones to drown out the nonsense. In honor of Dave’s last ride, I decided to absorb the atmosphere. I picked the perfect night.

I kept hearing “Where are we?” and “I’m blind in one eye.” It was the Drunk Guy. The driver announced what bus we were on, and where we were at. Drunk Guy kept asking.

Eventually a fellow rider had had enough. “Dude, leave me alone or you’re gonna be blind in both eyes.” He moved away from Drunk Guy.

Drunk Guy got up and followed, sitting next to Annoyed Guy.

“Dude, you really need to leave me alone. I don’t want to talk, I don’t care if you’re blind, drunk or lost. Leave me the fuck alone.”

Our driver, with ears like Lassie and a keen nose for trouble, pulled the bus over. “HEY! ‘Blind guy?’ Leave people alone. He’s already moved once. If I hear any more complaining from back there you are off this bus.” She pulled away from the stop.

“Fuck you, you fucking bitch.” Drunk Guy’s famous last words. Intelligible ones anyway.

Our driver pulled the bus over. “That’s it, off the bus!” She unhooked her seatbelt, ready to administer an ass-whuppin’.

Drunk Guy wanted no part of that. He unleashed a series of mixed-martial-arts kicks on the back door, all the while spitting unkind references to her parental heritage and genitalia. Once he cleared the bus, he focused on me. I was sitting next to the picture window by the back door. I don’t remember if I was grinning or not, but my expression must have added to his angst. He hit the window next to my face with enough force to make a loud BANG! and spiderweb the window. He clutched his hand and began running in that drunken Special Olympics kind of way. The girl in front of me flinched and pulled off her headphones.

“Dammit. Now I have to call the police,” said our driver.

We joked and laughed as our driver called in the incident. She came back and touched the window. “Yes, it’s broken through. Okay.” She addressed the bus. “Sorry guys, but they won’t let me continue with the window like that. The next bus will be along soon. Can anyone write an incident report for me?”

A few of us raised our hands, like we were in school.

“Also, because I love you all, if anyone has warrants or is otherwise wanted by the police, now might be a good time to wander off the bus, if you know what I mean.” She gave us an overexaggerated wink. Only one guy departed. The rest of us awaited further adventure/instruction.

“Here are the incident cards.” She produced a handful of golf pencils. “And here are the Tiger Woods memorial pencils…”

“Why? Are they worn to a nub?” I asked, earning a giggle from one of the girls.

She smiled and moved along. “Hey, where’s my pencil?” I asked.

“Oops, having a blonde moment.”

I looked at her wild mane of beautiful black hair. “That’s some trick for you,” I leered.

Without missing a beat, and just as naughty, “Honey, you haven’t seen me naked yet…”

Oh yes I have. A million times in my mind.

While waiting for the replacement bus, I busied myself by plucking tiny glass shards off my hoody. We chatted about the doofus, and how far he’d get before the cops got him.

“I’ll bet we catch up to him at the 7-Eleven up the street, drinking a can of Four Lokos at the bus stop,” I announced.

“Nah, the dude’s too messed up to make it that far,” another rider countered.

We were both almost right.

As we rode past on the replacement bus, the police had caught up to him half a block from 7-Eleven. His hand was wrapped in a shirt, and he looked like he was crying. They were none too gentle when they cuffed him. I wish we could have watched the whole arrest, and I hope they maced him in his good eye.

The rest of the ride was quiet. As we pulled up to Dave’s stop, I bid him a fond farewell.

“Man, you’re gonna miss the night shift…”


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