My best friend Liz rides the bus all over Portland with me. We like waiting for buses and entertaining ourselves and everyone else at the bus stop. Downtown stops provide the best crowds, but a random innocent in SE isn’t a bad audience, either. Riding the bus is also good. We continue to work to provide a good time for the bus at large, but we can also go incognito to eavesdrop on other passengers, elbowing each other over particularly good bits about Wanda’s recent breakup or Doug’s missing snake.
Not every bus wait or ride is that great of a pleasure, but a every now and again a truly special moment comes along. The most painful, and most reenacted, took place seven or eight years ago on the #15. Cruising up from downtown, the packed bus had slowly emptied out. There was no air conditioning on our bus, and I’m not even sure if there were air conditioned buses back then. It was nice to sit, but the heat was enough to dampen even our spirits.
By the time most of our fellow riders had decamped at Good Samaritan Hospital, I was wilted. Liz seemed to be equally done in, and we continued down NW 23rd in silence. The two or three remaining passengers were scattered about the bus, also silent. Bus fumes lightly wafted down the aisle, and I could smell my own sweat slowly fermenting. Our driver was quiet, having used up her good cheer with the poor souls on crutches who had just staggered off the bus to the hospital.
I slumped against Liz, while trying not have too much of our sticky skin touch. The plastic seats that are now mostly gone from the Trimet bus fleet were seared into the backs of our legs and arms. It was the longest, grossest bus ride ever – probably all of ten minutes.
And then Liz started to quiver. She clutched her stomach and starting muttering “Oh no, oh no.” I was concerned, going into caretaker mode. “Liz, what’s wrong? Are you okay? Do we need to get off the bus?” She didn’t respond, only getting greener and greener.
Her quivering turned into heaving, and she started to make little retching noises in the back of her throat. She kept shaking her head about getting off the bus as we came up to the turn onto Thurman. I was really worried the turn would cause her to hurl, and she looked super concerned as we started to round the corner.
The bus driver was looking at us nervously, and the other passengers were perturbed, trying not to stare and failing miserably. What was wrong with these teenage girls?
I wasn’t feeling so hot myself, and I’m thinking, if she barfs, I might barf too. The ride was looking dire.
Horribly, the next thing out of Liz’s mouth was not vomit, but laughter. She had psyched all of us out, and although I was relieved, at the time I found the situation no more funny than the driver. I was fully convinced I was about to be covered with puke by my best friend on public transportation – not an activity I had any desire anticipate or live through. After hitting her a few times on the shoulder to express my displeasure at her skilled acting, it was time to get off the bus. Never have I been happier to depart public transportation. The driver also seemed pretty pleased to see us go.