I took a different bus last Tuesday and had an evening I never had before. It was around 6:00 p.m. I was headed for a meeting at a place directly under the OHSU Tram in an area called Lair Hill.
Trimet's Trip Planner had recommended picking up the 9 Powell downtown and getting off at the Ross Island Bridge. But a 17 Holgate showed up first. I had an idea it stopped at the bridge, and the driver confirmed my suspicion.
I sat in front, on the bench. At the next stop, a man sat next to me and, in whipping out earbuds, whacked me on the nose with one. The force was something less than a nerf bullet.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Are you okay?"
"I think I'll make it."
"No harm, no foul."
"You're one of those nice Portland people."
We discussed the very niceness of Portland people and agreed that being nice didn't mean becoming friends. And we didn't. But the encounter set me up for the rest of the evening.
Around 9:30 p.m., after my meeting, I made it back to the bridge stop. A woman was waiting there. She let me know the bus was due in 10 minutes. She watched me go into a paper bag, where I had a bagel sandwich. As I unwrapped it I saw her staring.
"Starving. I'm homeless."
"Take half." I held the sandwich out. She grabbed the whole thing. As it came apart into halves she took one, saying, "Oh, sorry, I thought you wanted me to break it in half," and giggled.
We started eating, which made the bus come immediately. I was able to shove my half sandwich into the bag, but my new friend had no bag.
She said, "I'm just gonna eat it."
The bus was fairly crowded and I had to stand. But she found a seat on the front bench and ate.
After each bite she muttered how delicious the sandwich was. She asked me where I got it and all I could tell her was "some place on Corbett."
A crowd of ten or so young adults boarded together. My new acquaintance - not friend -- said hello to one of them and they bantered. Another woman, already seated, eagerly greeted one of the new male riders.
Suddenly everyone was talking to everyone. Turned out a lot of them had been at an evening meeting that had to do with recovery. I heard conversation about sober houses, roommates, jobs. The volume level increased by the block, but I had to leave before the party reached the next level.
I caught the 75 at Powell and Cesar Chavez. In a text exchange with my wife I planned to pick up a few things at Whole Foods, which was going to close at 10:00. At 9:52, the bus stopped at the Hollywood Transit Center. Whole Foods is two stops past the transit center, about a three or four minute walk.
A man boarded, He was skeletal, with sickly yellow skin and buggy eyes. He was dragging a large garbage bag filled with clanking cans.
The man and the driver talked. As they talked, the driver took out a small pad and took notes. I thought of walking to Whole Foods, but figured even a longish conversation would get me to the store a couple minutes before closing.
After a minute, the driver switched to a clipboard so he could write more extensive notes. Then the driver handed the man some of the notes. The man made some notes on the notes while they continued to talk. If I had known the lovely couple were on an actual date, I definitely would have walked.
At 9:56, the man clanked to a seat. There was still time to get to the store, if the driver would now go.
A woman and two teenage girls boarded. The girls sat and shared a cell phone while Mom searched for the fare. She found some money, but not enough. She pulled stuff from her purse, found a wallet, went through that without luck. Then she negotiated. Again, the back and forth between a passenger and the driver delayed my plan. At 9:58, I walked up and held out an All-Day ticket between the two of them.
"Will this take care of it?"
The driver, showing obvious embarrassment, said "Yes, it will."
A few seconds later we were moving.
At the next stop, I jumped out and trotted across Sandy Boulevard, only to confirm that Whole Foods had, indeed, closed. I turned from the locked automatic doors and -- luck was with me. The next 75 pulled up.