August 19, 2004
Back On The Horse

And yes, I'm still riding the bus.

Right after the accident, I swore that I would never set foot on an AC Transit bus, ever again ... that I would walk or take a Friendly Cab or HITCHHIKE, forcryingoutloud, before I would deliberately board one of those rolling diesel deathtraps again. That lasted for about a week, until the first time I had to get somewhere on my own steam --  in this case, back to Kaiser to get my pain meds refilled, a cause near and dear to my heart (and my ribcage) at the time -- and I realized that I was going to have to suck it up and get right back on the proverbial horse that threw me. And yes, that first bus ride after the accident was a nail-biter, I have to admit. Not only did I wind up riding the exact same bus I'd had the accident on -- I recognized the misspelled expletive scrawled on the barrier behind the driver's seat -- but I actually wound up sitting in the exact same seat I was sitting in the day I fell. 

(Not by choice. I would have preferred to sit virtually anywhere else, even in back with the noisy obnoxious teenagers. But it was midday, and the #51 was packed tighter than a tin of Penguins , and it was either sit on The Evil Platform Seat or sway precariously in the aisle for twenty minutes. I decided to take my chances on The EPS.)  I spent that entire bus ride white-knuckling the edge of my seat  ... staring at the metal frame across the aisle from me, thinking That's where my chest hit the back of the seat  ...  that's where my wrist hit the railing  ... that's where my MP3 player hit the floor  ...

But at least I was back on the horse, dammit.

Subsequent bus rides have gotten easier. The only exception was the morning I snuck my digital camera on board, trying to get a picture of The Evil Bus Seat. That was extremely nerve-wracking, mainly because I was trying to be really stealthy and cool and Agent 99 about the whole thing, and not let the driver or any of my fellow passengers know that I was taking pictures of the inside of the bus  ...  but then my camera started acting up, and I got nervous and clumsy and started sweating, and pretty soon people sitting near me started looking at me funny, like they thought I was plotting a terrorist attack or something.) 

This morning's ride, on the other hand, was a brief and thoroughly benign ten-minute haul from home to the office. The only real moment of drama was when we stopped to pick up a wheelchair rider on Broadway, somewhere between the Trib Tower and the Sears building. This necessitated all sorts of interesting and complicated maneuvers on the bus driver's part: he had to hydraulically lower the bus to the curb, then he had to use some sort of remote control device to unfurl the electronic ramp, then he had to help the wheelchair-bound passenger maneuver onto the bus, then he had to strap her in with a couple of industrial strength seatbelts. While all of this was going on, all able-bodied passengers were expected to get up and vacate the middle section of the bus, in order to make room for the wheelchair. I was OK where I was, in the middle third of the bus, so I wasn't required to move.  However, I noticed an elderly Asian-American woman perched on the edge of one of the Evil Platform Seats, a row or two in front of me. It was clear from her body language -- and from the twitchy, expectant expression on her face -- that she was preparing to get off the platform seat, even though, technically, she was perfectly fine right where she was.  She looked so incredibly small and fragile, sitting there on that huge platform seat: my heart was in my mouth as I watched her scooching towards the edge, an overloaded Smart & Final shopping bag clutched tightly in each hand.

Be careful, lady! I wanted to shout at her. That stoopid seat is an emergency room run, just waiting to happen!

For one long moment she sat poised on the edge of the seat, her tiny feet dangling a good twelve inches above the floor. It was painful to watch. I was positive that she was going to fall off the seat and go careening across the aisle, just like I did four weeks ago. (And if a minor misstep like that could cause an otherwise robustly-healthy 46 year old woman to break two ribs, god knows what sort of damage it would inflict on a fragile senior citizen.) If the bus hadn't been sardine-can-crowded, right at that moment --  and if all the commotion over the wheelchair passenger hadn't been going on -- I might have leapt from my seat and grabbed her by the elbow, just to give her an assist. 

Just as I was certain I was about to witness another platform seat catastrophe, the old woman suddenly hopped from the platform seat to the ground, like a gold-medal gymnast nailing a perfect dismount. Then she practically tap-danced down the aisle toward the front of the bus and leapt out the open door to the sidewalk. As the #51 pulled away from the stop, moments later, I saw her sprinting off into the distance, shopping bags flapping at her sides. She wasn't even breaking a sweat.

What a show-off.  

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jaymi (screeching at me from 700 miles away): "or you could get your DRIVER'S LICENSE, forcryingoutloud."