Back door!

On my way home the other day, a woman (who apparently needed to get off at 23rd & Union) waited until all the other passengers getting off at that stop had disembarked before moseying toward the back door and mumbling something inaudible in the general direction of the driver. The oblivious driver proceeded to pull away from the stop. “I want to get off,” she called out, louder this time. The bus kept moving. Before the driver had made it halfway down the block, she was screaming, “I want off! I want to get off!” at the top of her lungs. Thankfully, the driver pulled over and let her off. (My ears wouldn’t have survived the ride to Marion.)

Then, today, on my way to work, a man who got off at my stop asked for the back door so quietly (and for some reason, listlessly–it wasn’t that early), I’m surprised he heard himself. Like I said to Bus Nerd, who witnessed it with me, it was the weakest “back door” I have ever heard.

There’s something thrilling (and, for us shy types, at least, a little bit terrifying) about getting off at the back door. Will the driver notice you and open it automatically, or will you have to (gasp!) draw attention to yourself and your need to disembark? And will you be able to get the driver’s attention (along with everyone else’s), or will you find yourself stuck on board, embarrassed and forced to hoof it back to your original destination?

I’ve made something of a hobby of observing “back door” requests.

There is the casual, confident, open-sesame-style command of the experienced rider (Back door!), who never questions whether the request will be granted.

There is the red-faced, whispered entreaty (Back door?), the one that begs, “Please don’t look at me!” and apologizes for the inconvenience.

There is the polite request. (Back door, please.)

There is the shouted, indignant demand of the entitled. (Back door!)
(Subtext: “Do as I say, public servant!”)

There is the shouted, indignant, demand of the panicked. (Back door!)
(Subtext: “Didn’t you hear me? Please don’t drive away yet!”)

My favorite “back door” of all time, though, was by young man (who was actually trying to get on the bus) at Montlake several months ago. He stood in front of the closed doors, resigned, and muttered (more to those of us lined up behind him than to the driver), “Back door, dude.”