The 5:30 PM run of the route 20 (O-Town to College Town) which I drive one evening a week is a little different than most loops. In general, early morning runs leave each transient center once an hour at ten minutes to the hour. The inbound (to College Town) and outbound (to O-Town) buses pass each other at about the midway point between the two towns. I should point out that the first three runs leaving College Town are like express runs because they go directly from the College Town Park ‘n’ Ride near the freeway to O-Town and bypass the southeast corner of town (where the mall, Walmart and other large shopping centers are located). This is for the benefit of county workers commuting from College Town to the Butt County seat of O-Town so they can get to work on time.
Around nine o’clock the runs drop down to once every two hours. In the afternoon, the departure times switch to ten minutes after the hour (to allow folks to get from work or school to the buses), and again the route 20 buses start running about once an hour. I say “about” because there are buses leaving the College Town Transient Center at 3:50, 4:30, 5:10 and 6:10, to accommodate all the people returning home from work and college.
By contrast, at the O-Town Transient Center, in the afternoon and evening, after the usual ten-after departures, there are buses leaving at 4:00, 5:00, 5:30, 6:10 and 7:10. The 5:00 and 5:30 buses also skip the SE corner of College Town and go directly to the Park ‘n’ Rice (which should be called “Ride ‘n’ Drive” if you’re going home), to complement the early morning expresses. Personally, I’ve never seen the point of this, since those county workers are merely returning home, and it doesn’t matter if they’re a little late, although I love being able to avoid what I’ve dubbed the “mall crawl” during rush hour traffic.
Another thing you need to know to understand the wacky story I’m going to tell is that the transit system has a policy we call “the extra three”. If the bus I’m driving is running late, and someone needs to transfer to another route, I am allowed to ask the driver of the desired route to wait an additional three minutes past their departure time. The only time we are allowed to ask for more than three minutes is if the other run is the last one of the day. Then, the recieving bus must wait as long as necessary (within reason). Of course, this only applies if the two runs in question are actually connecting routes. In other words, the first bus must be scheduled to arrive at or before the departure time of the second bus. For example, if I’m driving a local College Town bus that isn’t scheduled to arrive at the transient center until 6:24 PM, and someone on board wants the last route 20 to O-Town which departs at 6:10 PM, well, that person is just shit out of luck. You probably wouldn’t believe how often that particular scenario comes up.
The 5:30 route 20 out of O-Town is peculiar because it isn’t scheduled to arrive at the College Town Transient Center until 6:14 (despite skipping the mall crawl), so technically it isn’t a connecting bus with any of the buses which pull out at 6:10, even though that is only one minute past “the extra three”. In the case of local routes, it’s not the end of the world if someone misses one of those runs. It may be inconvenient and irritating as hell, but at least there will be another bus an hour later.
Where it gets sticky is in when it comes to the last route 40 to Mountain Town at 6:10. The transit authority is strict in its insistence that the 5:30 inbound route 20 is NOT a connecting run with the last route 40, and I support their decision. There are some drivers who will ignore that rule, but I am (usually) not one of them. I know that sounds harsh, but the transit authority redeems itself (and therefore me) by providing a special route 31 which goes directly from O-Town to Mountain Town once a day at 5:05 PM. There are also ways to work around the lack connection at the transient center and the fact that since the 5:30 20 skips the mall crawl, it has no bus stops in common with the outbound 40. If the passenger is fit enough, they can be dropped at a particular stop at Olive and 8th Street (the westbound one-way street into town), and then they can hustle over one block and back two to the 40 stop at Pine and 9th Street (the eastbound one-way street out of town).
Unfortunately, the typical person who wants to get from O-Town to Mountain Town of an evening isn’t even aware of the existence of the route 31, let alone the obscure fact of the lack of a connection between the 5:30 20 and the 6:10 40. So, about once a week I have to deliver bad news to someone,
or stress about trying to get them to 8th and Olive in time for them to run and catch the 40. A lot of passengers will wait until the last minute to mention their desire for a transfer to the 40, and for that reason I will tend to run a little later than necessary so that by the time they do, the 40 is already long gone. Evil, maybe, but they don’t tend to forget that lesson.
Okay, enough backstory – now to the wackiness. We were on the highway a few miles from College Town on the 5:30 inbound 20 when this very twitchy young man came up from the back of the bus (the preferred choice of all sleazy weasels, scuzzy buzzards and mangy rangers) This guy just could not sit or stand still. He asked if he could catch the route 40. I tried to explain that I didn’t connect with that bus, and of course he began whining and pleading. Finally I told him that I could try to drop him at the aforementioned stop so he could run over and try to catch the 40. He didn’t seem to completely comprehend what I was telling him. That’s the trouble with a lot of druggies and head-cases – you bend over backwards to try to help them, and they fuck it all up anyway because they can’t keep a thought in their head for more than a few seconds.
Against my better judgment, I radioed the driver of the 40 to tell him that I was going to drop a guy at 8th and Olive so could he please give him the extra three at 9th and Pine. He informed me that he was running late enough that I should just go ahead and bring the guy all the way to the Transient Center. I tried to inform my wiggly passenger of this good news, but it just seemed to confuse him more. He kept trying to get out at every bus stop from the Park ‘n’ Ride to the transit center. Finally at one stop he seemed bound and determined to deboard. He said that he was just going to run over one block to the corresponding stop on 9th Street. I told him that the 40 didn’t come down that far. He dumbly repeated, “It doesn’t come down here?” I said, “No, it turns down Pine Street”, which he also had to repeat in stupefaction. I told him very emphatically that if he got out then, he would miss the 40. He decided to stay aboard, but he said, “I don’t trust you, man.” I said, “I’m trying to help you here, buddy.” After a few minutes he seemed to see the sense of this, and apologized. He said he just needed to get to Mountain Town because the doctors up there would give him Ritalin instead of Adderall. He said he didn’t like Adderall because, “I…JUST…CAN’T…MAKE…MY…BODY…HOLD…STILL!” This was said through clenched teeth, which just added to the creep factor.
After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at the Transient Center, and I was horrified to see the 40 starting to pull out! I quickly grabbed the radio and called the driver, saying, “Hey Route 40, I thought you said you were going to wait for me!” The 40 did stop, and I was grateful to see the back of Mr. Wiggles.
After that, I determined to just stick to my guns and let wachy people who won’t read a bus schedule take their chances.