Monday, May 26, 2008

All Right, Fine. I Miss the A Train.

I admit it, I never thought I'd say it.

It's a three-day holiday weekend, and I was going downtown to meet up with a new friend -- not a date, the new head of the Oregon chapter of Integrity -- and then to meet up with an old friend afterward (also not a date). And let me tell ya, Daddy wanted to get his drink on, so I left the car at home and took the bus into town. You know, so I could be responsible and irresponsible all at the same time. (Alas, no opportunity for irresponsibility presented himself.)

Here's the thing: in New York, the subway is the great democratizer. Even celebrities have been known to ride the subway. Sure, there's crazy people, but all of the city's vast majority of (semi-)normal people are also on the train. The subway is no weirder than any other part of town.

Not so with Portland's Tri-Met. In the Rose City, the bus seems to be exclusively reserved for the smelly and/or insane.

Case in point: I'm on my way into town just after 7:00 on a Sunday evening. Fifth Avenue this is not; the bus closest to me runs once an hour on Sundays. A few blocks past mine, a pony-tailed stoner gets on and complains, "Yo...dude, I've been, like...waiting, seriously, dude, I totally like checked my watch, I've been waiting like fifty-three fucking minutes for the bus, man, I mean...yo."

To which the driver responded, "It's Sunday...the bus runs hourly."

Stoner: "Okay, yeah, seriously, I waited almost an hour and no bus came by. I'm totally serious, it was like, almost an hour."

Driver: "Yeah, um, because the bus runs once an hour."

Stoner: "Okay, well, but...that's no reason why I should have to wait almost an hour for the bus. I mean, yo."

Then he sat in front of me. He did not smell pleasant. A few blocks later he turns to me and shows me his paper transfer. "Dude! Check out the punches on this thing!"

Me: [perplexed, unsure how to respond, smiling politely but non-committally]

Stoner: Dude, like, look how many there are, isn't that fucking hilarious?

Me: Umm...yeah, okay. Sure.

Stoner: You don't think that's like, you know, totally fucking funny, how many punches there are in my ticket? I mean, yo, check it.

Me: Yeah, that's pretty hilarious.

Stoner: Fuck yeah.

When I reached the bar where I was to meet my new friend, my first stop was the bathroom. Not because I had to pee, but because I had an incredible urge to wash my hands. In fact, I kind of wanted to just be hosed down. I was worried I smelled like B.O. and piss.

* * * * * * * *

So, the last bus for Beaverton leaves at 11:00.

I knew I didn't want to bother with the bus again. I'd just take a cab home. I think I left the last bar around 1:45.

In New York, you can pretty much just walk out of the bar and hail a cab. If you're on a (relatively) quiet side-street, you can walk to the nearest avenue - -with traffic flowing either uptown or downtown, depending on your need -- and hail a cab within, oh, a minute? (Unless it's rush hour and raining.) So, yeah...Portland. No cabs.

In the wee hours of the morning, I used to really hate the A train. Sometimes you'd wait a very long time, and there were some crazy people. There was the guy that barked at me, the guy who hit me over the head with a curled up New York Times while yelling "Fucking cracker!" (I just went to my Zen place and ignored him), and the guy who yelled at the empty seats before throwing up all over himself. (I'd include the guy who mugged me at gunpoint, but that was on the #1, not the A.) But even in the middle of the night, I rarely waited as long as it took to get a cab tonight, and it was a lot cheaper and...well, not necessarily significantly cleaner.

So yeah, I admit it. I moved out here for the sake of convenience, but the A train was much better than the #54 bus.


Jade said...

Public transportation is rather lacking in that area... but I have to say it served me well when I was 17 and the bus I would take to work at the zoo didn't run at all on Sundays, so I'd have to get a ride from my parents. My dad forgot one Sunday, took off and I had to call my mom at her work to come home and drive me to my work. Two days later they let me get my license, because public transportation was no longer convenient enough.

Anonymous said...

Hey, around here, hourly buses on a Sunday would be an improvement. ;)

But I can certainly understand why you'd miss the A Train.

little-cicero said...

Part of my college experience was talking for the first time to someone who was under the influence of ganga. I was really surprised that it often has an effect much the opposite of the mellow relaxation often associated with it. The whole conversation about his life was full of paranoia, frustration and despair, such that I wasn't aware he was high until the day after (inexperienced as I am). As is my habit, I treated it all the while like a serious conversation about his life, thinking that he would remember it all the next day. (: