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April 19, 2005

Just another act perpetrated by The Man

I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

So, yesterday was a relatively uneventful day. Go to work, attend some meetings, drink some coffee, ponder the design of a banner ad, you know... the usual. At 5 p.m., I walked outside and waited for my bus. La la la.

The bus was late, which is not uncommon. But it was cool, I had my headphones on, and I was rockin' out to TOTO. Toto, ya'll. That's just sad. (But in my defense, it was on the radio, not on the iPod.) "I bless the rains down in Africa......"

Anyway, the bus arrived. Everything was normal. I found a seat near the front, about five rows in. Before long, I was getting into a little busriding-knitting-Toto groove when some crazy lady, disguised as a normal bus rider, turned to me and started complaining.

Crazy: (blah blah muffle shshsh blah)

Me: (takes off headphones) Whu...?

Crazy: Can you TURN that stuff DOWN? I can HEAR it coming from your HEADPHONES.

Me: Uh... hu..? You can hear music from inside my headphones, two rows away?

Crazy: I had to sit RIGHT NEXT to a girl all day today BLASTING those headphones and you people are so rude, and I couldn't tell her to turn them off and blah blah blah blah

Me: Um, I'm going to move now.

So, I moved to the back of the bus, because Crazy Lady wasn't about to shut up and frankly, she was ruining my Toto experience. Then the bus made more rounds, and picked up more passengers, and we all got on the freeway to go home to our beloved valley. Then the bus caught on fire.

Wait, did you catch that part?


The engine is in the back of the bus -- not in the front -- and I, too, was seated in the back of the bus (thanks, Crazy Lady) which has only one exit. Located, of course, in the front. And before long, smoke starts filling the bus and then Crazy Lady starts screaming OH MY GOD WE'REGONNADIE. Which, if you think about it, isn't a completely unrealistic response to your bus being on fire, but it would be a hell of a lot more effective to scream while hauling ass off the burning bus.

Ah, but no. That is not what happened. Because that would be logical.

Crazy Lady starts freaking out, which causes other people to panic, and everyone loses their damn minds and tries to stampede the door, and had the bus been MORE on fire, yours truly would have been a crispy pork rind on the 6 o'clock news. Luckily, the bus was more of a slow simmer than a raging fire, so I managed to get out (FINALLY) and stand with thirty other people in the middle of the I-5 at rush hour while smoke pours out from the bus.

You may not think this is a big big deal. Before I myself moved to this insane city, I DID NOT KNOW FROM TRAFFIC. Standing out on the side of a road wouldn't be super smart, but certainly not life-threatening. But freeways here are impossible to describe. Twelve lanes, bumper-to-bumper. Honking. Gesturing. Occassional shooting. And the 5 (by the way, everyone here calls freeways "The Five" "The Four-Oh-Five"" "The Ten" ... I don't get it either, I just play along) anyway, the I-5 runs the length of the entire state of California and is full of truckers and cars and fumes and now, apparently, buses on fire. It is a very busy freeway, probably the busiest in the whole entire world (heh) and there we are, standing on a median, watching the traffic of an entire city come to a crawl before our eyes. And people started honking at us. (That wouldn’t be my first reaction to seeing a bus on fire, but then again, I am not an idiot.)

So, let's recap. I'm on the bus. The bus is on the freeway. Rush hour. Downtown Los Angeles. Crazy people disguised as normal people. Bus catches on fire. We stand on freeway. People honk.

What now? Well, is it just me or does this seem like an awesome time to break out the camera and start taking pics!




Before long, the cute (and brave and strong and did I say cute?) firemen have extinguished the bus. The bus is no longer on fire, engulfed in smoke, so the cute (hot, strong, smart) firemen decide it's safer for us to get back on the bus and wait inside rather than wait on the freeway. Good call. So, we get on the bus and we wait.

And we wait.

And we wait.

And before long, Crazy Lady starts yelling at the nice lady bus driver. Crazy Lady suggests that the Los Angeles Department Of Transportation needs to send taxicabs out to get us if they aren't sending a bus. (Because, YES, the city can really afford to send a fleet of taxis out to get us when they can't afford to maintain their own buses, which catch on FIRE.) Yet Crazy is just yelling, yap yap yap. Before long she is joined in this bitchfest by Crazy Lady #2, and also Crazy Man. They start yelling and complaining and threatening the driver, who is at this point barely keeping it all together.

After another 25 minutes of sitting on a semi-smoky bus in the middle of the I-5, the Sheriff's department arrives. Followed ten minutes later by the California Highway Patrol. But yet ... no bus. We have basically every public service on the scene EXCEPT another bus. Or a mechanic.


The Highway Patrol Officer, also HOT, was obviously not happy about a large, disabled bus blocking the Golden State freeway for over an hour during rush hour. He made the driver call her dispatch office again, and he took the phone from her.

Cute CHP Officer: If you don't send a relief bus and a tow truck in ten minutes, I will have the Highway Patrol tow service impound your bus, and the driver will come with us.
Bus Driver: (sniffle)
Crazy People: Yeah! They should all be FIRED! Blah blah blah (yelling)
Cute CHP: Ok, ok, now, everyone just calm down.

Ten minutes pass.

CHP Officer to Bus Driver Lady: Ma'am, I need you to call your dispatch again. It's been ten minutes.
Bus Driver Lady: (small voice) OK.
CHP: (on phone) We have a tow truck coming, your bus will be impounded and your driver is going to have to come with us. (more talking)
Crazy People: Yeah! Tell them they should all go to jail! This is criminal! We've been waiting here blah blah blah....

Finally, FINALLY, after almost two hours in the middle of the freeway, another bus comes to rescue us. I was one of the last people off the old, smoky bus and as I walked by the lady driver, her eyes were red and her hands were shaking. I felt so awful for her. So I put my hand an her arm and said, "Oh, it's fine! Don't worry! You did a great job! Those crazy people are just mean. You were awesome!" And then she started crying. Bawling. She just put her head on her steering wheel and cried. And I knew exactly how she felt. You know that moment? You're holding it all together -- just barely – and then some random person shows you one shred of human kindness and you just lose it. Cry cry cry. I have been there so many times, and I felt so awful for her I almost started crying myself. She did her best. It wasn’t her fault the bus caught on fire.

So, after some back-patting and Kleenex-shuffling, I got off the old, on-fire bus and onto the new not-on-fire bus. The woman sitting beside me saw my face, and the Kleenex.

Lady: What's wrong?

Me: She was so upset! The bus driver. She was crying. And she has to go with the law now. I feel so bad for her!

Lady: I know. And did you hear her telling the officer how it was her first day?

Me: What?

Lady: Yes. I know! It was her very first day on the job!

NO WAY. I cannot believe it ... I may have finally found someone who has worse luck than I do. I did not think it possible. And I felt so bad for her, and so upset about seeing her cry on her first day (and here I should mention it was waaaaay past cocktail hour for old Aunt Purl) and I right then and there I just broke ghetto on the bus and started to get my own crazy on.

I stood up -- on the bus -- and said to the mean, bitchy Crazy People seated in front of me, YA'LL SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES. That bus driver did her very best and she was CRYING and it was her FIRST DAY ON THE JOB and ya'll were horrible mean to her and you should be ASHAMED.

Oh yes, yes I did. I said it. Out loud. And all the sudden Crazy Lady #1, Crazy Lady #2 and Crazy Guy were quiet as little mouses. Didn't even turn around. Wouldn't even look to see who was calling them out (which was me, Crazy Lady #3, apparently.)

But can you imagine? Your first day as a bus driver and your bus catches on fire and you have insane crazy passengers and the Department of Transportation won't send you a backup bus and then the law comes and hauls you off with the bus. And then you cry. And all your passengers have been sitting on the I-5 for two hours. And traffic is a nightmare. And everyone is yelling and carrying on and oh yeah, THE BUS WAS ON FIRE.

Really. You just can't make this stuff up.

Posted by laurie at April 19, 2005 10:58 AM