Monthly Archives: April 2008

Another bus-based union

Three years ago, on his way home from work on the 308, Troy Kleweno saw Christie Hsieh. Six months later, he talked to her for the first time. And now, folks, Troy and Christie are engaged.

Tuesday afternoon, Troy devised a story to bring the two back to downtown Seattle. With a little pre-planning from Metro, the stage was set. When the 308 reached Lake City Way, Troy made his way up to the front of the bus, and using the bus intercom system, asked Christie for her hand.

(Source: Transportation Today)

I keep trying to tell y’all!

You can watch a video of the proposal, if you’re into that sort of thing. I can’t front: I am.

Congratulations, Troy and Christie!

Southbound 48, 6:30 PM

Three young women from the University of Washington are sitting in the front section, passing the time on the ride home.

College woman 1: “Next year I’ll be a TA for juniors and seniors. They’re not going to respect me.”

CW 2: “Just bring a big-a** ruler on the first day and beat the crap out of one or two of ’em.”

A discussion ensues about ways to intimidate undergrads, most which involve yelling and yardsticks. Some are more elaborate and require props and professional actors.

CW 1: “I just don’t want to be one of those stoned TAs coming in saying, ‘I don’t have anything prepared today, so why don’t you just work on homework? But if you have any questions, don’t ask me, ’cause I have no idea.'”

Ridership has its privileges, part II

Yesterday, Chicklet, Nerd, and I spent the afternoon at Green Festival, a two-day green-living extravaganza that was held at the Convention Center.

The bad news: I forgot to bring the coupon for free admission that Seattle City Light sent us. The good news:There was a discount for all bus-riding festivalgoers. Between the two adults (Chicklet was free), we saved 10 bucks, not including the money we didn’t have to spend on gas and parking. This left more money to spend on food: a veggie plate and two sambusas from Horn of Africa, and a delicious fruit smoothie from Tiny’s.

The festival was great. We enjoyed all the booths (me: the fit greenies powering computers by pedaling stationary bikes; Bus Nerd: the folks dispensing information about solar energy) and running into friends and fellow transit geeks. (He-ey, Garlin, Ellen, Andrew, and Vic!)

My favorite part by far (aside from the food, that is): two life-size pictures that you put your face through to take photos–like that octopus they have at the Aquarium. One was of a happy bus chick enjoying a leisurely walk with her dog. (Hope she wasn’t headed to catch a Sound Transit route.) The second was of a stressed-out driver, angrily shaking her latte at the world. (My friend Char, who told me about the life-size pics before I saw them, said they reminded her of the “successful man/unsuccessful man” cartoon I posted a couple of weeks ago.)

Here’s Chicklet as a happy bus chick:

Chicklet at Greenfest

She was traveling in the Bjorn, so it was hard to get her face through the hole without knocking the dang thing over.

No one wanted to be the angry car chick, but here’s a picture Char took of the empty cartoon:

Angry car chick at Greenfest

Perhaps all that poor driver needs to relieve her stress is access to this wall, which we spotted on our way out of the Convention Center:

Convention Center schedule wall

So many routes, so little time!

Candy paint ain’t just for cars

My little brother, Joel, a third-year dental student at the University of Washington, recently returned from a trip to Port au Prince, Haiti, where he donated his time (mostly pulling teeth and filling cavities) to people who don’t have access to dental care.

On Thursday night, Joel came over to show us pictures of his trip. Because he was visiting me, these included lots of pictures of Haitian buses. They’re called “tap-taps” (pronounced “top-tops”) by the people there, and they are amazingly beautiful. Check it:

A tap-tap in Port au Prince
A tap-tap in Port au Prince

Here’s what I was able to find out about tap-taps online:

Camionettes” (which literally means small trucks) also known as “Tap-Taps”, play an important role in Haitian public transportation.

… the body is made of wood or metal. The body is usually the work of several professionals: carpenter, blacksmith, electrician, painter…

It is the artist who gives to the ‘camionette’ all of its beauty. The artists paint all types of images using a mixture of colors. This is what allows us to say that “Tap-Taps” are not just a means of transportation, but also symbolize the Haitian appreciation of cultural and artistic values.


On the fronts and backs of the ‘Tap Taps”, there is always a space for written messages. There, you will usually find words of thanks (‘Thank you God’, ‘Thank you Virgin Mary’, etc), or other religious phrases (‘Blessed be the Lord’, ‘Long Live Jesus’, ‘Holy Altagrace’, ‘Papa Legba‘…), or words of love, etc

(Source: HaitiXchange)

A Benz-themed tap-tap
A Benz-themed tap tap
Tupac on a tap-tap
Tupac lives!
Don't giv-up (Photo credit: Mark Schutte)
“Don’t giv-up”

I found this last message especially moving , particularly given the historical (and very recent) injustices perpetrated on Haitians.

I’ve always admired my brother for his choice to go into dentistry. He’s developing skills that he can use to make a living and to give back to the world. (Would that I had such skills!) I’ve never been prouder of him.

Joel and some new friends (Photo credit: Mark Schutte)
The future Dr. Saulter with some of his patients

Speaking of losing stuff…

Lost and foundI receive lots of mail from folks who’ve left important items on the bus. Some of the stories end well; most do not. Though Bus Nerd has been extremely fortunate of late, he once lost his PDA on the 545. It never made it to the lost and found. Back when I lived in Houston, I lost a book from my university‘s library on the bus I rode to school. By the time I ‘fessed up, they charged me for all the days it was late (25 cents per) plus the cost of the book. That was one expensive novel–especially for a broke English major who had checked the book out precisely because she couldn’t afford to buy it.

Your turn. Ever left anything on the bus you couldn’t afford (financially or otherwise) to lose?

The things she carried, part IV (or, Four bags and a baby)

Warning: If you are freaked out by words like “breast milk” and “lactation” (Lord knows I have my moments), you might want to skip this entry. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thursday before last, after 20 weeks of baby bonding, I returned to work. The separation, though difficult, was made easier by the fact that I left my little chicklet in the capable hands of her father, who has begun his (significantly shorter) parental leave. I digress.

Like a lot of new mothers, I use an electric breast pump during the work day so that Chicklet can get as much breast milk as possible while we’re apart. Unlike a lot of new mothers, I schlep the breast pump to and from work on the bus. (I only work three days a week, you see, and I sometimes need the pump on off days and weekends.) The pump and all its associated parts pack well into the discreet, medium-sized duffle bag they came in, but carrying that bag and my regular bus chick bag, especially during crowded commute times, can be a challenge.

On my first day back, Bus Nerd and Chicklet had an appointment in Redmond in the late afternoon, so we decided to meet at Overlake Transit Center and ride home together. Between the three of us, we had four bags: diaper bag, bus nerd bag (Nerd is still resisting combining his stuff with Chicklet’s), bus chick bag, and breast pump duffle, which, in addition to the pump, contained several ounces of milk.

Having been away from Chicklet for the entire day, I insisted on strapping her on for the ride, so Nerd kindly offered to carry my bus chick bag and the pump. (The man has a virtually unlimited carrying capacity–a good quality in a bus nerd.)

The ride to Montlake was long (due in part to bad traffic and in part to a stupid decision to try riding the 256 instead of my beloved, reliable 545), the wait at the Montlake stop was longer, and the forty-late home was standing-room only. Chicklet and I were offered a seat in the front, but Nerd had to stand in the back with all the bags until a seat opened up. The whole experience required enough shuffling, stacking, and other maneuvering to throw off even the most seasoned bus nerd.

And throw him off it did.

A few minutes after we arrived home, my (helpful, well-meaning) husband realized he had left the breast pump on the long-gone 48.

There’s not much of a market (I hope) for hot breast pumps, so we weren’t afraid it would be stolen, but, given the inconvenience factor, the perishable milk, and the fact that the pump was loaned to me by a friend, waiting until the next day to pick it up at Metro’s lost and found was a last resort. Nerd considered chasing the bus in a cab (as he did during the November wallet fiasco) but decided instead to intercept the coach on its way back north.

He first called the rider information line to see if the folks at Metro could contact the driver for him. As expected, they said they could not, but they did tell him what time the bus was expected at our stop. Nerd watched Tracker until the bus got close, then went outside to catch it.

After enduring a rather public interrogation from the driver, which involved questions like, “What was in the bag?” and “What color was the pump?” (turquoise, for those who were wondering), my hero returned with an intact pump and couple of bottles of (thankfully) unspoiled milk.

Since that incident (much as it pains me), I have stopped taking my bus chick bag to work. I keep my wallet and phone in my coat pockets and shove an umbrella and the book I’m reading into the duffle with the pump. I feel naked without my bus chick necessities, but I don’t want to risk losing that crucial piece of equipment again, and it’s easier to keep track of one bag. (It’s also a lot easier to find a seat without so much stuff to carry.) And the good news is, I’ll only be schlepping the pump for a few more months.

Now if I can just figure out how to manage Chicklet’s stuff

Eastbound 27, 2:40 PM

Two men sitting in the front of the bus are making small talk. A couple of minutes in, they discover that they both spent time in Arizona.

Man 1: “Where in Arizona did you live?”
Man 2: “I started out in Yuma, but then I got tired of the snowbirds and bought some property near Avondale.”
Man 1: “Yuma? Why would anyone live in Yuma?”
Man 2: “Oh, I was just stupid. But I learned. When folks from Yuma die, they ask for an extra blanket in Hell.”

Speaking of animals on buses…

Recently (OK, back in February), Todd from the Czech Republic e-mailed to share information about Dogs on Board!, a campaign to allow pet dogs on buses and trains. From DoB’s mission statement:

In Europe it is the norm that people can take full-size non-assistance dogs on urban transit, regional trains, intercity trains and so on, though rarely on intercity buses, generally for half price and sometimes for free, sometimes with a muzzle and nearly always with a leash, with the driver or staff empowered to remove transit customers and their pets if there are problems.

In Canada and the USA the situation in unfortunately nearly the opposite, with only a handful of transit operators allowing full-size dogs onboard…

Metro, of course, allows dogs and other pets (let’s talk later about why it’s so hard to find any information about it on the Web site), but several other agencies in the region (Sound Transit, for example) do not. Todd and the folks at DoB are looking to change that.

At the beginning of the project, Dogs on Board! Will focus on three types of environments for pilot projects (in order of emphasis):

1) The six large cities/metropolitan areas in Canada and the USA which have core transit services (and or multiple suburban services) that currently allow large pet dogs: Boston, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, and Toronto, in order to lengthen and create the “canine mobility chain”…

While I certainly appreciate DoB’s efforts, I’m not sure how I feel about allowing dogs on buses. My gut tells me it’s a good thing. After all, I’d like transit to be usable for as many people as possible, and lots of people have pets. (Heck, I had a fifteen-year old dog when I went car free in 2003.) On the other hand, there are lots of folks with allergies and fears–not to mention aversions to strong, unpleasant odors–and I can’t help picturing chaos (three dogs barking their heads off at each other, or blocking the aisles on a crowded route) whenever I consider the issue. Bottom line: I’m on the fence.

Zeus on the 11
Zeus, one of Metro’s cutest canine customers


Your turn. Is allowing dogs on buses a good idea?