Riding the 20

Bleary-eyed passengers waiting at the stop. The 20 is late, but that is not unusual. Saturdays I had come to accept that my morning 20 to Beaverton TC was going to be late. Saturday buses were chronically late and Sunday, they were early. It just comes with the territory.

Checking transit tracker again, I noticed with a faint glimmer of hope that the 20 was supposedly only three minutes away. Good. Minutes go by as I watch car after car zip by. This intersection at NW 23rd and W Burnside is classically a busy one. The entertainment is usually there as I wait for my bus to cart me off to Beaverton.

Soon I hear the familiar rumble of a bus coming up Burnside and it slips into view. The rain has not let up, and now I almost wish I had caught the MAX out to Beaverton TC instead — my bike is going to get soaked out there. Oh well: the MAX was not my favorite anyways.

The bus squeaks to a halt and I glance up at the driver before quickly slipping out in front of the bus to pull down the bike rack and put my bike into place. The sleepy passengers file onto the bus each showing or paying their fare as the driver watches with careful eyes. I am last in the tiny line of passengers to board the bus and show my monthly pass to the operator, but that is when something unusual happens. “Do you have id on you?” I glance at the driver and in surprise I fish out my student id — I’m only 15. This is the first time in years of riding TriMet that this has happened. I guess I really do look older than I am.

With a nod of approval at seeing my student id and youth pass, the driver releases me to go find a spot on the bus where I will sit for the 20+ minute ride out to the transit center.

I feel sleepy, irritated eyes watching me as I slip silently towards the back of the bus. Sorry, people — I’m not used to drivers asking for that. I didn’t mean to make us wait here for a few minutes. I don’t like being responsible for delaying the bus. My eyes study the wet, dirty floor of the bus as I make my way back.

I head to my favorite spot on low floor buses — the very back right seat. This spot gives me a great view out the windows and of the bus. I sit down and look at the people filling the bus. I am surprised to see so few riders on a main transit line like this 20, but then I remember that only crazy people are on this bus right now, as it is an early Saturday morning. Most have headphones in and are staring out the window or are focused on whatever is in their lap in front of them.

Sleepily, I gaze out the window watching the beautiful scenery along Burnside rush past as rain streams across the windows. I close my eyes, resting my head against the window of the bus. There is nothing to do.

My music plays like a soundtrack to the bus ride only being interrupted every time the bus decided to say what stop we were at every few minutes. I typically rode lines with old high floor buses, so these stop announcements only got increasingly irritating, though; sitting right underneath one of the speakers probably wasn’t helping my cause.

Soon enough we reached Sunset TC and most of the passengers disembarked; some I watched wander over to the 62 that sat and waited there, and some walked purposely away from our dingy bus off to the shiny MAX.

We sat and waited for a few minutes at the small transit center; it was unusual to actually do more than a quick stop through this transit center because this bus was often so hopelessly late that the driver could only do so much as stop and let people on and off the bus quickly before running off again towards our destination. At this point it was only me and two other riders on the bus along with the bus driver as we pulled out of the transit center.

Halfway there.

As the bus turned out of Sunset, I brought my gaze down to the lone people sitting near the front of the bus. One was a woman and the other an older man. The woman was quite pretty from what I could see; long, what looked like layered, brown hair and some warm jacket. Her head was turned to look out the window and I could see a white headphone cord cascading from her ears. She might have been 25 or so, I couldn’t tell. The older man was seated a few seats away. He had graying hair with a cap pulled low over his eyes. His head was turned down and he was focused on a book that sat in his hands. Old jeans and a ragged-looking jacket completed his look. I wondered where they were heading.

Bringing my focus back to watching what went by as the bus rumbled down the road, I realized we were already on Cedar Hills. Nobody else had gotten on the bus and it appeared that it would end up being only me and the operator on the bus when we arrived at the Beaverton transit center. The stop requested sign glowed red as it dinged — the sign the bell cord had been pulled. The bus’s brakes squealed in protest as we came to a stop at the curb and the other passengers left the bus, both headed in opposite directions.

The bus moved off again and after a quick jaunt, we reached the street we were to turn left on SW Hall. A long line of cars led us along SW Hall before we reached SW Center and turned left again.

As we turned onto Lombard, the gateway to Beaverton transit center, I got up with my bag and helmet and walked up to the front of the bus to watch us pull in to the busy transit hub. Within a few minutes we pulled up to the final stop and the driver put the brakes on, opening the doors as he stopped. I glanced at my watch, and to my surprise, we were earlier than usual, in fact, somehow, we had made it here on time. I stepped off the bus, thanking the driver, before setting my bag down and grabbing my lone bike off the bike rack. Off to wait for the next bus and repeat the cycle once more.

By Adri C, blogger at Portland’s Transit Antics and Other Stuff, @PDXtrimetrider on Twitter!

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2 Responses to Riding the 20

  1. Dr. Jeff says:

    Adri, this is lovely. Nice piece!

  2. adri says:

    Thanks, Jeff! 🙂

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