Trimet Tweets, Retreats; Life Complete

TwitterI’m a commuter. Maybe that’s putting it lightly. I’m kind of the commuter’s commuter. I’d say that I was the commuter’s commuter’s commuter, but that would be stupid, and I’m trying to avoid that.

I log over 200 miles per week on the bus and MAX, heading to my job working with college students in a counseling center. Some weeks, that mileage approaches 300 if I forgo the car entirely. The slog runs from Gateway Transit Center out to Forest Grove, and the rhythm goes like this: 6:24 Blue Line from Gateway to Hillsboro Transit Center, then the old reliable 57 out to 19th and Cedar. I counted the MAX stops once, and I’m too lazy to go back and do it again, but it was around 32 or so. 32 “puertas a mi izquierda” or “derecho.” 32 opportunities for new additions to the cast of characters. And that’s just the MAX. The bus is a new adventure every day. And, it’s cheap. My annual pass is subsidized by my employer, so I pay about fifteen bucks a month to go everywhere the transit system goes.

Not that I’d like to go to some of those places. Even a commuter’s commuter gets the heebie-jeebies reading some of those schedules.

Overall, I’m a pretty satisfied guy as commuters go. You know how we are as a general horde – we bitch, we moan, but we realize that it could be worse when we snake past those poor solo saps on the freeway, living-dead looks on their faces, cooling coffee in their travel mug. We’re reading our books (is it just me, or is every single person on the train reading “Game Of Thrones” these days?), listening to our music, deciphering the questionable fashion choices of our fellow travelers.

Then, every once in a while, something goes terribly wrong.

This morning was one of those days. My impending demise was telegraphed by the diminishing form of the guy in front of me, his ponytail flying as he quickly accelerated from the standard commuter “gonna get there in plenty of time, oh yeah” stroll to a dead sprint. I picked up my pace, checked my watch, and figured I could always catch the next train. But, there it loomed. I could make it!

I ran. Luckily, I’ve been doing some running lately. A year ago this story would have ended in the Fred Meyer parking lot, your narrator hobbled by a matching set of snapped Achilles tendons. I ran. Not like the wind, but maybe like a soft breeze impeded by some trees, or a used car lot. I ran.

I made it! Or, so I thought. The MAX operator looked at me, then quickly looked away. When she looked away, I knew I was doomed. She looked away like the shy executioner does after the handle is pulled and he doesn’t want to see the inevitable result. I frantically ran to the side of the train and pushed the Magic Yellow Button. No luck. Sorry, dude, but the recorded lady had sung her tune to the lucky saps on the inside. “The doors are closing.”

The train pulled away. I maybe yelled something along the lines of “THANKS A LOT, %#**@,” and it maybe was a little less pleasant than that. Like every spurned passenger, I had only one recourse – Twitter.

Twitter is the commuter’s lifeline. If there’s a stalled bus or some poor soul has been sent to his reward by a crosstown Green Line, the #trimet tweets fly. It was my turn.

doctor_jeff: @trimet – thank the driver of the 6:34 w/b blue line from gateway for the great exercise as she watched me sprint to within 5 ft then left.

Ooh, this felt good. Right after that:

doctor_jeff: @trimet – sweet of her to let me touch the “open door” button as my reward. I’d thank her myself but she is, you know, GONE.

BURN. That will show them. If they even read this stuff. Ha! But I wasn’t done. I needed to cap off this masterpiece.

doctor_jeff: @trimet – tell her I’m sorry for yelling those bad words. Those were just the endorphins talking. My bad! Signed, jeff. 225 miles per wk.

See what I did there? Hey, faceless entity! This little guy is a customer! Take that! I ride a lot!

The morning moved on. The music helped. Game Of Thrones helped (hell yes I’m reading it. Everyone is). My tone softened. I got on the 57 and my favorite businesslike bus driver was driving. Life was good. Time to peace out with a positive tweet:

doctor_jeff: I think @trimet gods sent me my awesome old 57-line bus driver to mollify me. Morning sunshine and Little Feat helps, too. #balance

Little did I know that at that point, Trimet had jumped in.

TriMet: @doctor_jeff Sorry to hear the Blue Line left without you this morning, but glad to hear you had a good 57 operator afterward.

TriMet: @doctor_jeff Operators have a brief window of time to board waiting passengers, close the doors and make their signal.

TriMet: @doctor_jeff If we waited for everyone, we’d get really behind schedule.

Holy CRAP. Three tweets from Trimet. THREE. Trimet tweets about three times a week, it seems. I got all three this week, I guess.

Joe Rose of The Oregonian, AKA @pdxcommute, is a Twitter friend and an indispensable resource for commuters. He monitors a lot of the commuting traffic on Twitter. He saw the tweets. He jumped in:

pdxcommute: @trimet ooh, getting sassy w/ @doctor_jeff

This is getting too freaking awesome for me. My day has gone from a crummy start to starring in an awesome Twitter drama. I’m almost too pleased. I’m a little worried at how I’m getting my jollies these days.

Trimet responds!

TriMet: @doctor_jeff That said, if you do feel like this was an exceptional circumstance, please …
[this one took two tweets, what with that whole “bound by the constraints of 140 characters” thing]

TriMet: @doctor_jeff … give Customer Service all the details (stop, time of day, etc.) on this form:

In some ways, I hope the Trimet folks never read this, because I don’t want them to know how easy I was placated. In some ways, I hope they read this a million times. Then here comes yet another @trimet tweet to complete the mother lode:

TriMet: @pdxcommute @doctor_jeff Not intending to be sassy at all. Just pointing out our operators try really hard to maintain tight schedules.

That’s it. I can die happy now, maybe speared by a brake-less 24 on Fremont, or crushed by a Red Line toppled from the Steel Bridge by an earthquake. Later, when I get a moment, I send a direct message to @trimet.

doctor_jeff: I really do appreciate the response today. As I said I roll up 225+ per week on trimet and I’m nearly always a happy customer. So thanks.

And back comes this:

TriMet: Happy to respond! Glad to have you tweeting about us. Your #trimet tweets are usually quite fun to read.

Trimet. Reads. My. Tweets. They read my tweets. And, dammit, they LIKE them. They’re fun to read! Screw the National Book Award. I’m simultaneously pleased and dismayed that this may be my pinnacle as a writer.

TriMet: And we understand folks need to vent sometimes, so we’re happy when we can help.

As a psychologist, I deeply understand the far-reaching healing power of empathy. And I feel it, glowing on my Droid’s screen, all the warm sweet mother’s-milk love of a huge transportation conglomerate poured warmly on my little commuter head.

Trimet, you had me at “Not intending to be sassy.”

This true story was contributed by Dr. Jeff Guardalabene, who blogs at Follow @doctor_jeff on Twitter!

About Dr. Jeff

Dr. Jeff, in real life Dr. Jeff Guardalabene, is a Portland-area psychologist, who logs 300-plus miles on TriMet each week. He often live-tweets his commute to avoid intellectual stimulation. He lives with his wife and their five children and blogs about psychology issues at Follow @Doctor_Jeff on Twitter.
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2 Responses to Trimet Tweets, Retreats; Life Complete

  1. Dave says:

    It should be noted that the “open door” buttons do not exist to magically stop the train and open the door for you. They’re only there so that MAX operators can shut the doors when waiting at certain stops (e.g. Clackamas Town Center) and not have to open the doors for you every time someone wants to get on. It seems to be a common misconception that the open door buttons stop the train; I’ve seen several people run up to the train and push them madly.

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