It was to be a “normal” Friday workday. I arrived at the park and ride and immediately noticed our Security Chief’s yellow truck was not present. But what could go wrong? I get out of my truck, look around and dash for the bus with the other “runners” on a cool Friday morning. Safe on the bus with bus buddy Joe, I knew today was another ordinary day. As we settled in for the ride, maybe Joe & I could catch a few ZZZ’s. I did not sleep, but Joe did.
We got to Hawk’s Prairie Park and ride, the bus stopped, opened all the doors, and Joe awoke and ran for the door. All the bus buddies yelled, “NO JOE, NO JOE!” He stuck his head out the door and then retreated to his seat, with that smile only Joe has.
Now on to Olympia. But when we came to Joe’s stop and we yelled, “Now Joe,” he waved us off! Why did Joe continue on? Only Joe knew… But I was not concerned as the Back of the Bus buddies awaited me this evening.
4:16 pm – Ready to board the 603 and head home for the weekend, a few less people at the stop, never anticipating what awaited me on the 603. Stepping on the bus many unfamiliar faces greeted me. As I moved to the back of the bus I noticed the Captain’s seat was open. Could I sit there? Did I have the training and skill to hold down that position? What would happen in the case of an emergency without the Captain? Then I noticed the co-pilot’s seat was also empty. I continued to scan for other crew members: No Joe. No senior riders. No trainees. Just me.
I choose my base of operations. Still not comfortable looking at the empty pilot seat, who would take command for a long Friday trip to the 512 Park and Ride. As we moved to the next stop, I’m relieved to see Motorcycle Jim come aboard. But he sat toward the front of the bus on this atypical Friday appointment with Interstate 5. People began to leave work early as the 512 and 609 riders joined us. I knew the tradition of our senior rider was to beckon riders to open seats, so I had to make a decision, move to the Captain’s seat and redistribute new riders or allow standers. I wanted Captain Sue to be proud of me, so under the weight of leadership I transferred to the Captain’s seat, believing the training I received from our Captain, Pilot, and Back of the Bus Blogger was near complete. After all, I knew what to do if we went over a bridge into the water, I had “Heads Up” installed on my Kindle, and I could discuss juggling, if necessary.
The bus -now near full- heads for Interstate 5. Funny noises started to emerge from the motor box. Eyes fell upon me as bus buddies old and new want to know what was happening. I drew from our Captain’s technique and smiled and stated have faith our driver will get us home safe, it is time to settle in with your iPad, iPhone or kindle and read that book.
All became quiet. No laughing. Little conversation. But the motor box noise persisted. As the bus pushed north and the traffic grew heavier, the tension lightened. I scanned the bus buddies for signs of fear or panic, and thought to myself what would Captain Sue be doing now? How would I draw on my training from her if this ride terminated or fails premature? The bus made it through the JBLM slog ok, but I could tell we did not have the power to keep us in the traffic flow necessary to get us to the 512 park & ride. I glanced forward and saw light on the driver’s panel not normally there. We stayed in the right hand lane as to indicate we might not get to the Lakewood exit. The bus got slower and just passed Gravely Lake exit as we rolled to a stop at the side of the road. A hush came over the passengers. The engine still running was shut down by the driver and he announced dispatch would send another bus for us. Passengers started to become disgruntled, after all people want to get home so they could go to the Peanuts Movie. I remained calm as Captain Sue taught us how to walk to the park and ride, but she would not want us on the highway at this time in all the heavy traffic. So we waited. It was necessary to draw on “old” bus stories to keep clam, orderly and cheerful bus buddies.
Then like a gift from the angels came Sound Transit 574 heading to Sea-Tac, with many empty seats. We exited 603 and boarded 574 with plush seating and plenty of room for everyone. All the discomfort was forgotten as we were escorted to our destination only 20 minutes late.
As we exited the 574 with smiles and laughter I knew the training provided by our pilot and Captain got us home safely.