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September 9, 2004

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Three Drivers.
1st one was from England,
arrived 1968.
retired after 28 years
@ Boeing. said he took
the job driving because
he got bored but then
confided that the stock
market took more
out of his pension than
he did. they only guaranteed
16 hours but it was
a busy summer so he
averaged 31 a week.
i got off at the new bus
station, bought a $2
4-trip card (a rip-off
cz i only needed 1 but
i guess they've got to
cover the costs of their
costly card-readers),
jammed coins into one
of those cheapie vending
twist-dial lock boxes they
have in flybynight offices
(in this case peanut m&ms
from temporary construction
trailer bus customer service
area where they searched
for a ferry schedule), a dime
fell through cash drawer crack
and i pocketed it, sole soul
waiting for the 208...

the viet nam vet
wants to talk politix
with the driver,
driver says he can't
on the job.
it's a free country,
the vet insists.
not when you're
working, the driver
says. how can
you say that? the vet
asks, insisting it's
a free country.
not at work, the driver says.
i get paid to drive, not talk.
but a little further
down the road
he relents and pulls out
a 9-11 dollar bill:
someone gave me this,
he says, points out the
URLs, but the vet with
button on his cap
doesn't seem moved
by the internet, looks
at the bill with mixed
comprehension. we all
get off at cascade mall.
seemed friendly
& cracked jokes
but guarded his
authority jealously,
the kind who never
admits an error, ad-
monished the passengers
and hid his anger beneath
a veneer of politeness
(a northwest practice).
but over the radio
a different story,
one driver to another:
there's a woman waiting
at such-and-such stop.
don't let her on. she's a
little confused. what she
wants is the 205, not
208. she's going to the
their dialogue went back
and forth. they had lots
of time and few passengers
so they took a special
interest. there was no way
that woman would get it
wrong. meanwhile, our
driver cracked jokes w/
a man who slept through it
and who all the elderly
women knew and reminded
when it was time to wake
up and get off at work.

the victoria clipper stops running after labor day so i thought i'd try the train/bus combo.
traveling like that requires something other than patience--utter resignation is more like it.
you've really got to let go of preconceptions such as time and destination. you're either
on a bus or waiting for one. the fellas at the train stop (no station to speak of) directed
me to the wrong SKAT bus stop, thus adding two hours to my journey (though on the
upside i saw an antique press at the herald offices and bought a $10 mt. vernon salvation
army ukulele). the bus was populated by the elderly, the infirm and me. few buses on
convoluted routes. they said get off at the mall for the transfer to anacortes so when
we got to the big box stores and parking lots i asked, is this where i get off for the 410?
no, that's at the mall. the whole town looked like a mall to me. we got the to real mall,
end of the line, we all filed off. an hour to kill, i ate a sbarro pizza slice: $2.79. i hadn't
been in a mall for 5 years or so; at 11:15 am it was all shiny floor reflections that
made me want to spend money. i tried, but the bookstore was ludicrous in its
selection, nothing but cliches and doggerel in the art, literature, and poetry sections.
the slew of bush-bashing books made see opposition as just another cash transaction.
nope, nothing there. my money and i went to radio shack--maybe i needed a certain
adapter, splitter, or jack? an old woman was looking for an ink cartridge for her '80s
tandy computer. they didn't have a replacement. one clerk suggested searching internet,
but she couldn't handle it. i don't want a new computer! she just about yelled. i walked out
of there, checked the YOU ARE HERE map for the nearest toilet. turned out to be
in the octaplex, quiet carpets and posters for sequels to movies i'd never heard of.
i found the can and made my deposit. it was better than any movie. found the exit.
back to the stop, the same vet from the other bus noticed the ukulele neck sticking
out of my bag and asked if i'd play him a song. i asked him if he knew much about
ukuleles; i wondered whether the strings (high-low-low-high) had been mistrung
or if it was supposed to be that way. he didn't know, but another passerby commented
on the type of wood used in the body and i'm sorry to say i didn't commit it to memory.
i've got a bet going with katie cramer--who can wear their Built to Spill/Pixies bumbershoot
wrist tag the longest? the vet noticed mine and asked if i'd just got out of the hospital.
the short bus came, i got on. 12:15 pm and the day hadn't started.
good thing--that way it would never end.