Northbound 71, December 23, 2011, 8:01 p.m.
We have a driver who is visibly unhappy and driving very poorly. An elderly woman who has not been offered a seat slips on the floor and goes to her knees. She is helped up and placed in a seat way after the fact. She is embarrassed and apologies. Above her is a large group of (I wish they hadn’t been playing to perceived type but) teenagers who are wielding cell phones and yipping and shouting and trying to humiliate one another to the extent they have not even noticed the woman falling.
One of the people who helped the elderly woman up shoots a glance at one of the teens’ ringleaders that says “C’mon, grow up, insert profanity.” One of the teens in tow catches this glance and tosses him a snark-laced devilment look that says “I love that we sicken you.” The kid literarlly starts whooping. Like whooping at the top of his lungs whooping. “Yeee-HAWWWW!” Friend and foe alike start tossing oaths at dude and the now totally addled driver makes an announcement few understand, a request of some kind. He does so while making a turn and nearly hits a pedestrian on one of those left-hand turns into a WALK crosswalk that proved fatal last year. Pedestrian is anger-whooping and actually shaking a fist at the driver who looks absolutely stricken. Guilty, miserable, woe-begone; something. Just not at all angry or defensive. Culpable and lousy-eyed.
Much of the remainder of the trip the driver is tensing into his brakes and short-stopping to the extent that the teens make a wrestling match out of it and many riders are actually booing and jeering the driver. A few people get off the bus for fear of their safety.
I put in a call to TriMet to complain about the driver and they tell me “it is a training issue and will be addressed.” This does fuckall good right now and I fail to think to call the police. As though the driver is the lone remaining authority on the road; as though he is somehow apart from legal sanction. And I feel bad for the guy, he looks just miserable.
Someone has marched to the front of the bus to confront the driver who barely responds to the hands on hips righteousness being laid out (justly but not body language sensitively; too imposing and judgemental). The driver dismisses dude but dude remains over the white line staring at the driver driving. This last for about three stops before the driver makes another announcement that we cannot understand.
Many stops pass without incident before a sort of tired quiet settles over the bus where (after the standing teens have thinned out) we get a good look at the driver. It is just an unambiguously unhappy man having a particularly unhappy day. A strain of guilt spreads down the aisles. We swallow his awful driving for another forty minutes.
There are a world of pedestrians who won’t know this man is coming.