Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bus Lines: They Can't Arrest You, but They Can Shoot You

I’ve been a bus rider since I was thirteen. Yes, I do have a driver’s license, a brand new one, actually (lousy picture, but thank you, California). However, I’ve found that, for me anyway, using public transportation is more convenient most of the time. I don’t have to worry about finding a parking space or dealing with distracted drivers, meandering pedestrians, and a variety of emergency vehicles. And riding the bus is less expensive than adding a second vehicle to the household.
Several times during the week, I’ll take the neighborhood bus to the downtown transit center (DTC). From there, I’ll walk to either the library, Starbucks, or Barnes & Noble. All three are within reasonable walking distance, and I can use the exercise. I don’t know who or what created the bus schedules, but whoever or whatever was responsible for them did a great job. Most of the buses arrive at and later leave the DTC at the same time. If I want to travel to one of the outlying shopping centers or to another city, I generally have a short wait before transferring to another bus.
Once in a while, the neighborhood bus runs late, and I miss my connection. That’s when I spend twenty or thirty minutes doing some serious people watching. Hey, it’s a bus station, and bus stations do tend to attract “interesting” people. I try to be inconspicuous when observing fellow bus riders (or the individuals who seem to just hang out there every day). I admit that I sometimes pull a notebook and pen out of my backpack and jot down my observations. Discreetly, of course.
Well, no one has asked me why I’m taking notes. Not yet.
Several individuals roaming around the area have (unsuccessfully) asked me for money, but people usually mind their manners. So far, I haven’t witnessed anything wilder than a man screaming obscenities at no one in particular. (I moved away from that one pretty darn fast.)
Last week, I overheard a driver and a passenger discussing a fellow who has been permanently banned from the DTC. Among other things, he made inappropriate suggestions to a female bus driver. “It takes a lot to get you banned from the transit center,” the driver said. “Whenever that guy shows up, we call security.”
Security, in this case, is the transit police. The transit police can enforce rules, resolve conflicts, and order people off the property. Sounds like they mean business, and they do. However the business they’re allowed to mean is rather limited. I recently learned that the transit police are not authorized to make arrests. In the event of a serious issue (I don't want to even imagine what that might be), they must send an SOS to the city police. That seems a bit odd because the transit police are armed.

Hmm…. So they can’t arrest you, but they can shoot you.

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