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The Slice

Posts tagged: STA

Q and A

Q: Are you now or have you ever been a user of mass transit?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you now disassociate yourself from those ties?

A: No. Have you seen the forecast? There's a chance I will have to take the bus tomorrow morning.

Q: Is it your claim, sir, that this so-called “alternative” transportation is consistent with our cherished American way of life?

A: To each his own.

It’s always the other guy

A poster inside STA buses lately urges passengers to be ready to pay when they step aboard.

You know, have your card ready to swipe or have the cash already in your hand. That kind of thing.

Always reminds me of observational comedians of 30 years ago going off on people in grocery checkout aisles who apparently had not considered in advance that they might actually have to pay for the stuff in their carts.

There are a few bus riders like that, certainly. But something tells me they don't picture themselves if they happen to see that poster.

They probably glance at it and think, “Yeah, what's WITH those people?” 

Another reason some would hate the bus

When you take the STA to work in the morning you sometimes hear passengers speaking languages other than English. 

When we left our story last time…

Took the first downtown-bound No. 43 this morning and was surprised to discover a different cast of characters (fellow riders) than when I last rode the bus seven or eight months ago.

I had sort of expected to see all the same faces. Wrong.

I keep forgetting that people sometimes tweak their schedules and make other changes in their lives without consulting with me first. 

Advice for bus riders

Walked over to the STA Plaza to pick up some fresh bus schedules.

Want to be ready with my Plan B for the day when an overnight “weather event” interrupts my bike commuting.

(Yes, I walked to work for years and droned on about it in print. But since I got on the bike in 2008, my patience with how long it takes to walk downtown has pretty much evaporated. Maybe that will change one day. I sort of hope so. There's much to be said for walking.)

Upon unfolding a schedule for the No. 43, I saw a “Make Sure We Stop for You” heading.

Beneath that, “Some tips to make sure you get noticed.”

So, OK. Let's review.

“Be at the stop as the bus approaches.”

Can't argue with the wisdom of that. Sound advice.

“Face the bus and nod your head 'yes' or wave to the driver.”

Not sure about that waving thing. You might appear to be someone who has availed himself of a mood-altering substance or look like a politician.

“Hold up your pass.”

I don't use a pass. Maybe I could hold up a Juan Marichal baseball card.

“Wear light colored clothing or use a flashlight at night.”

I'll go out on a limb and guess that this gets ignored.

“If you're in a shelter, walk to the stop as the bus approaches.”

Unless, of course, you expect to be carried to the bus.

Pep talk

I have a bus driver friend whose current afternoon STA route overlaps part of my bike ride home.

Sometimes, when he overtakes me slowly going up a hill, he opens the bus doors and asks, “Need a ride?”

Yesterday afternoon, I was on my way home and heard a bus coming up from behind.

When my friend opened the doors and smiled, I asked him how he always managed to encounter me when I was going my slowest. I suggested it was if he is my personal trainer or something.

He said he liked that idea. Then his face grew serious and he said “Let's pick up the pace a little.”

Wednesday’s Slice question

On which STA route are you apt to overhear passengers speaking the greatest number of languages?

Spokane wildlife

He might have been over 6 feet tall, but the thing you noticed was what he had on his head.

It was a furry, face-covering hat/mask that was supposed to look like a fox or something. It was sort of like this young man had his own head inside the head of an extra-large plush toy. And he was carrying a painting or something.

I was behind him as he boarded the 1:50 No. 43 downtown.

The driver, a friend of mine named Scott, looked at this fellow ahead of me and calmly asked a question.

“Are you a service animal?”

 “Yes,” he said.

Scott said that was good to hear, because otherwise he would have to ride in a cage.

As service animals tend to do, the fox-head kid minded his own business and rode all the way to the Albertson's at 37th and Grand.

Blame game

The 1:50 No. 43 bus going up the South Hill was Third World full.

So I stood and held on to a strap up near the front. How urban.

I didn't mind my position because the driver is a friend and my proximity allowed me to visit with him a little.

Then, near the end of my ride, things took an odd turn.

With the bus heading east on 37th, an elderly woman pulled the cord for a stop. She then marched up to the front and complained to the driver that she had requested a stop at Arthur, which we had now passed. The driver politely informed her that her tug on the cord had come too late for that stop and that the next one was at Perry.

She continued grousing, and the driver calmly pulled over and offered to let her off between stops. She still wasn't happy but said she would go ahead to the stop at Perry.

And at some point she gestured toward me and said “I couldn't see because of this man.”

The driver, in a joking tone, said, “Oh, yeah, THIS guy…”

Only she didn't realize he was kidding, and she continued to go on about how I was obscuring the view from where she had been sitting, et cetera.

I have some experience with being patient with elderly ladies. But I came close to offering her my own frank analysis of how we had arrived at this state of affairs. I didn't, though.

All I need is for some other passenger to then go around telling people that he or she had seen Paul Turner yelling at an old lady on the bus.   

The rider had a familiar face

I boarded the bus a little before 6 this morning.

And it was about 1:20 when I got on to go home. Same bus. Same driver.

He said, “When I start seeing people I took to work in the morning, I know it's about time to call it a day.”

It was, in fact, his final run. 

A ride home complete with commentary

The personality-plus guy driving the STA bus I took to go home this afternoon provided a running play-by-play on the snowy trip.

It was pretty entertaining.

Maybe that's because it wasn't just one long harangue. Sure, he questioned the thinking abilities of some pedestrians who stepped in front of the bus as he was about to pull out and go through a green light to start our journey. And, yes, he did suggest that some drivers were not up to dealing with today's conditions.

But at other times he praised motorists. “Well done, white Subaru” — when the driver of said vehicle pulled up behind a car dead in the water (or snow anyway) on an incline and then went around it, allowing the flow of traffic to continue.

Among his other observations:

“Two-wheel drive trucks are useless. Why would anybody buy one? I learned that the hard way.”

“That's right, pull out in front me so I have to practically come to a stop going up this hill.”

“I'm guessing those are not excellent tires.” (Re: a vehicle being pushed but getting nowhere.)

“Worst intersection in town. Somebody's going to get killed. But nobody does anything about it.” (As he waited on 37th to cross Grand.)

“Sorry, lady. Sometimes that's the way life is.” (When a woman in an SUV had to slow down a little on Grand when he finally had a semi-opening to go through that intersection.)

When I disembarked, I thanked him for the narration.

Face time

The 2:20 No. 43 bus was crowded this afternoon.

I was aware that someone had sat down next to me. But I wasn't in the mood to visit, so I kept reading a news story on my phone.

Eventually, I looked up and realized my seatmate was someone I know slightly — Richard Rush, the former Spokane city councilman.

We didn't talk much about his close loss in the recent election. And to the extent that we did, he didn't seem bitter. Though it's always hard to tell about these things. I know I would find it difficult to be gracious.

Mostly we talked about Spokane's late-arriving winter, walking vs. riding a bike and about the South, where both of us have extended family.

I know there are people who can't stand Rush. Once on a story about a bicyclist being killed in a traffic accident, a classy anonymous commenter said it was too bad Rush hadn't been the victim.

But I admire someone who gets involved in public life and doesn't just sit around pissing and moaning with his friends.

There are all kinds of losers in our society. But not winning an election doesn't necessarily make you one of them. 

The odds were in his favor

A little boy waiting outside the STA Plaza said “There's our bus” every time one approached or went by.

“No, not yet,” said a woman I assumed to be his mother. Over and over.

Eventually, though, he was going to be right.  

Today’s reason why…

…most of us wouldn't last as STA drivers.

The joys of arguing with riders about which kind of coffee containers are allowed on the bus and which aren't. 

Spokane, Washington 2:41 p.m.

She didn't seem like someone who would turn heads.

She had on a silly amount of makeup. And it did not appear that her eyes were ablaze with the sparks of a special personality. But she was a young woman who seemed fit.

So when she asked a route related question, to no one in particular, these two guys sitting near her on the No. 43 bus lurched into action.

They were not together. I'm tempted to call them Dumpy Guy and the Knit Hat Man. But that sounds demeaning. So I won't.

Let's just say they both know their STA route schedules. And they were happy, delighted even, to share their knowledge of the timetable with her.

They were, in fact, showing off.

Hey, it's what a lot of guys do.

I don't think I had ever seen exhaustive knowledge of the bus schedule used in an attempt to impress a woman. But I have now.

And though a bit obvious because of the feverish presentations, it was not obnoxious.

One of those guys got off at her stop, but my window was too grime-caked for me to see anything.

What was that again?

Walked out to the street in front of my house this morning shortly after 4:30.The pavement was covered with that fuzzy frost you sometimes see on car windshields.

Not ideal conditions for predawn bike riding. So I took the bus.

Today's driver, a friendly and competent woman, is kind enough to call out some of the intersections as we approach. The thing is, it is impossible to understand her.

It is easy to pretend that you are on a bus in some distant land, listening to a driver speaking a language other than English.

I blame the microphone and speakers. Because that driver is often comprehensible one-on-one.

But a couple of today's intersections were “Sabbatha and ConCon” and “LinkedIn and Fortesque.”

Or at least that's how it sounded.

Maybe my ears are the problem.

The mass transportation experience

Rode the bus this morning for the first time since last winter.

Three observations.

1. The Old 43 was right on time, as always.

2. Glad I got a flu shot.

3. Looks like the Niko's space at Post and Riverside is now Rex's Burgers & Brews. Say what you will about Spokane, pretentious we're not.    

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About this blog

Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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