Tag Archives: back door!

Back door magic

When I was a young bus chick, getting off the bus at the back door was a really big deal. It wasn’t the actual act that was important, but rather, the moments of apprehension as I stood there, wondering if the driver would see me and open the doors without prompting, or if I’d have to draw attention to my shy self by hollering, “BACK DOOR!” at the top of my lungs – possibly even <gasp!> more than once.

Responses to a driver’s failure to open the back door are unique and telling. A polite reminder. A demand. A desperate entreaty. Other riders share the anxiety of the person who stands alone at the rear exit, trying to maintain cool and decorum as the panic slowly rises. Sometimes we show solidarity by adding our voices to the request, a chorus of back door!s rising together in the precious few seconds before the bus leaves the stop.

But just as the transfer trade has been diminished (though not altogether eliminated) by ORCA card payment, so too will back door panic slowly fade to the background of bus experience. Fellow bus chicks, behold.

back door magic

These are the rear doors on one of Metro’s new(ish)* buses. There is no need for help from the driver; simply tap gently on the yellow bars and the doors will magically open. The experience of using these doors is transformative. Amazing. Empowering. Magical. But, for a nostalgic type like me, it’s also a little bit sad.

In the short term, we will still have our back door drama. Most Metro buses don’t have the new doors. And the drivers I’ve talked to say most riders haven’t figured them out yet. They either don’t notice the instructions or do see them but shove enthusiastically on the doors, which won’t open if pushed too hard.

But over time, as coaches get replaced and riders get experience, “BACK DOOR!” will be no more.



* They’ve actually been around for about a year, but it took me a minute — ahem — to get around to writing about them. In my defense, I did talk about them here.

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.”