(Author’s note: Though I have only been riding the No. 15 Rio Linda Boulevard-O Street Regional Transit bus for a few weeks now as part of my daily commute to and from work, I find it a great source of stories and unusual characters to write about. I plan on sharing these stories and characters with you all from time to time. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoy living the stories.)
One evening, as I was waiting at Eighth and K streets for the bus home after a long day at work, I noticed a woman riding a bike and carrying a large garbage bag full of empty cans. What drew my attention, however, was not the large bag of cans; it was the woman’s outfit. She was wearing a pair of neon-orange overalls. As the bus pulled up and those of us at the stop heading home for the evening climbed onboard, the woman got off her bike. She went to the front of the No. 15 and put the bike in the carrier rack. She then boarded the bus with her bag of cans. The woman showed the driver her pass and started to move back toward the seats, stopping to search through the small garbage can at the front of the vehicle. Finding no cans, she set down her bag of cans on the floor. Before taking her seat, she paused and unzipped the top part of her overalls, tying the sleeves around her waist to keep the overalls from falling all the way to the floor of the bus. Completing her task, she adjusted the top she wore underneath the overalls and took her seat to enjoy the ride north.
One of the first evenings on my way home on the No. 15 bus, I took my seat and watched as an unassuming, nondescript gentleman got on the bus. He was talking, but I really didn’t think anything of it. I just assumed he was using a Bluetooth device that I couldn’t see. He took a seat and continued talking as the bus started to move. After a few blocks, the man was still talking and had begun moving his head around. I realized quickly that he didn’t have a Bluetooth device and was talking to a fellow bus passenger only he could see. After a few more blocks, the man pulled the stop request cord and got off the bus at the next stop, the whole time still carrying on his conversation. As the bus pulled away from the stop, I looked out the window and saw the man still talking to the invisible fellow passenger who apparently had gotten off at the same stop.
Within the past week on my trip home, the bus pulled up to the stop outside the Greyhound terminal on Richards Boulevard to let on waiting individuals. One of the people who boarded the bus was a woman who seemed out of breath and in a panic. She told the bus driver in a voice loud enough to be heard by everyone on the bus that she had just gotten off a Greyhound from Portland. Someone had taken her luggage, ID and money. While the Sacramento Police Department had taken a report on the incident, they could not offer her help or a place to stay. She said they told her that there was a Catholic church at the end of the bus route that would provide her with some emergency funds if she could get there. She asked the driver if it was OK for her to ride the bus without paying the fare. The driver after agonizing over the situation for a couple of minutes relented and let the lady on the bus. The woman was very appreciative and sat down as the bus pulled away from the Greyhound terminal. Sitting in my seat a couple of rows back from this drama, I began to think to myself that there was a Catholic church, St. Joseph Parish, not far from the Arden-Del Paso light-rail station. I made my way to the front of the bus and let the driver and the woman know this. The driver thanked me for the info. She told the woman that she could get off at the light-rail station and walk the couple blocks to St. Joseph’s and try to get help there. The woman agreed and seemed very thankful to the bus driver and me. After a few minutes, the bus pulled up to the light-rail station, and the woman got off. As the bus pulled away after letting on other passengers, I looked out the window and saw the woman, not walking toward the nearby church, but standing where she had gotten off the bus. She was smoking a cigarette and looking very angry. I still can’t decide if she was telling the truth about what happened to her, or if she was making up a sad story as a way of getting out of paying fare to ride the bus.
My final story for this column happened this Tuesday, in the morning, after I had gotten off the No. 15 at Seventh and K streets and was waiting for my connecting bus to work to arrive. It was a chilly morning, even for this hardy Midwesterner, and I was wearing my University of Wisconsin-Parkside sweatshirt (picture included here in the story for your viewing). Three young men, definitively showing signs of recent drug use, walked by where I was standing. One of them pointed at my sweatshirt and said, “Yo, dudes, look, a sweatshirt with marijuana leaves on it. Cool!” After a few seconds, he giggled and realized his mistake. “Sorry, man,” he said to me, “my mistake.” He was right. The leaves featured on the sweatshirt are laurel leaves as part of my alma mater’s logo, not marijuana leaves.