My regular posts on this site, combined with my general disposition as an indefatigable optimist and leavened with 1,400 miles of transit commuting have marked me as an upbeat transit advocate. Sure, there are downsides to riding the train, and the bus, but you can usually count on me to shine a golden light on the whole mess. I get this. I know that it’s not all rainbows and puppies. I keep thinking that I should expose the seamy underbelly of the TriMet experience once in a while. That’s it!, I think. I’ll write a post that bums people out. I’ll go DARK.
That’s my intention, anyway. And then things happen that make me realize that there are just a ton of cool people on the train, and I’m glad to be out there on the grind with them.
Take, for example, last night’s ride home. Same time, same place – I’m in my usual seat on my usual Blue Line, eastbound and happy to be heading home. Headphones on. Check. My usual air of “sorry, dude, don’t want to sign that petition,” check. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a passenger slide dejectedly into the seat across from mine. She was lugging a travel bag with wheels and a handle as well as a smaller carry-on bag. She looked over and smiled, a look of kindness with an undertone of resignation. She pushed on the handle of her bag to collapse it, without success. She pushed again. Her face fell. She slumped back in her seat. It was easy to see that it hadn’t been her day.
I asked if I could help, and reached over and gently pushed the handle down. It worked for me. She laughed and said that she had been at Intel all day and had missed two scheduled Intel shuttles out of the Hillsboro airport. Her phone was dead. She had to catch a commercial flight the next day, as everything was booked for the rest of the night. She had nowhere to stay, and no phone to use to book a hotel. She was stuck.
At this point, other passengers had begun listening in. The beleaguered traveler, whose name was Regina, had a captive audience. As we talked it dawned on her that she had a friend in Portland who might be able to help her. I lent her my phone, and she located him at a restaurant in southeast. “STAY THERE,” she nearly screamed at him. She looked at us. It was clear that she badly wanted to be in charge of this situation, to let us know that she wasn’t some loser from San Jose who couldn’t figure out what to do in our little burg. We’re Oregonians, though, natural-born helpers. And, we were transit riders, and transit riders stick together when the chips are down.
We began to formulate a plan. At one point, as we were scheming, the train stopped. The operator came on the PA with a tone of uncertainty. “Uh, I’ll be turning the lights off for a bit, folks, and I’m gonna reboot the system.”
“Oh, GOD,” Regina cried. “IT’S MY FAULT.” We all laughed. “No, watch this!” she said, and she jumped up from her seat and ran out the nearest door. The second she exited the train, the lights came on and everything began to work again. “I told you!” she said, triumphantly, as she reboarded the MAX.
As we neared the river, we finalized her plans. I handed her a sheet of paper upon which I’d written the essentials – get off at Convention Center, catch the southbound 6, let the driver know that you’re from out of town and you need the stop on Morrison. At the bottom of the paper, I’d included my number, in case she got lost, and the last thing… “trimetdiaries.com.”
“You should check out that site in a few days,” I said. “You never know who you might see there.”
Regina, if you’re out there somewhere, reading this, we hope you made it home.
And make sure to check out Dr. Jeff’s Holiday Fare project, which aims to collect and deliver transit tickets to those in need this holiday season!