Tuesday, January 10, 2006

14TH ST. NW: Adventures From the Back of the Bus

GREETINGS ALL. Sorry I haven't posted in such a long time. Things have been busy lately. But I thought I had to share an adventure from last night. I was on my way to Cue Bar on U Street NW, the newish subterranean pool hall between 11th and 12th streets, when I saw a man try to squeeze out the window of a moving Metrobus.

LET ME SET THE SCENE. I have found that if you are coming from Arlington (where I work) the quickest way to get to the U Street corridor is not by going all the way to L'Enfant Plaza to transfer to the Green Line, but get off at McPherson Square and catch any of the various buses on 14th or 16th streets NW: The S1/S2/S4 buses on 16th Street and the 52/53/54 buses on 14th Street. The trip normally takes about 10 minutes on either bus line and if it's after rush hour, the bus isn't all that crowded at McPherson Square. But as the lettered streets head toward the bottom of the alphabet, the scene changes as more people pile on after Thomas Circle.

I FOOLISHLY TOOK A SEAT in the very far back of the bus. It's in the back of the bus where mischief can abound, far back from the bus driver. And around Q Street, a man asking for money was making his way toward the back. He instantly set his sights on me and I could smell the liquor on his breath as he approached.

"Man, I'm not gay or nuthin," the man told me. "I just want some money ..."

He sounded like he was going to finish his request, but he looked out the window.

"HEY!!!! ... Oh, no. That's not my stop."

He continued, squeezing closer to me. I think he was drinking whisky, but it doesn't really matter.

"Man, listen, I'm not gay or nuthin," he repeated. "I just want some money so I can get some food."

He gave out a big sigh, the alcohol wafted about.

"C'mon ..."

JUST AS THE MAN WAS TRYING TO GUILT ME into a donation, he jumped up as the bus passed Cafe Saint-Ex at T Street.

"Driver, stop the bus!"

Was he trying to get to Saint-Ex's Gate 54? Or was he trying to get to Yum's fine Chinese take-out at Wallach Place?

"Ahhh. Driver! Stop the bus! You missed my stop!"

For the record, the man never pulled the cord to request a stop. Remember, at the back of a sort-of crowded bus, the driver isn't going to hear your voice requests to get off the bus.

"I need to get off the bus! Ahhhhh! Stop driver, stop!"

So the man approaches a nearby window, slides it open and sticks his leg out. The man continues, with a limb hanging out over 14th Street: "Driver, stop the bus!"

Then passengers start saying: "Driver, stop the bus! Driver! Stop the bus! The man's gonna jump!"

But the bus continues on toward U Street. Oddly enough, nobody had thought to pull the cord. So I did just that as the man was talking to another man seated next to the window in question.

Bus jumper wannabe: "I need to get off the bus!"
Adjacent man with glazed-over eyes: "Man, don't do it man. Don't go like that!"

Looking back on the situation, I have to think about that very important 1994 action movie "Speed" (image at right). There's a situation where the police bus pulls up to bus with the remote bomb timed to explode if the bus goes below 50 mph. Under orders from the mad bomber, no passengers can get off the bus, but the bomb squad can freely go between the buses. At one of these interactions between the police bus and the soon-to-be-bombed bus, a foolish woman who is visibly stressed about being on the doomed bus attempts to jump across to safety.

Like the dialogue and acting abilities of Keanu Reeves at that critical moment when the woman gets blown up by a small explosive device and is pulled beneath the bus, the drama at the back of the 52 bus last night was just as awkwardly pensive. Where were the casting directors last night?

Glazed-over eye man, again: "Man, it's not worth it. Don't jump out the window!"

But as one could have noticed, he would have had a really tough time squeezing out the window since it only could slide open so far to prevent such dramas.

The bus pulls up to U Street, the man's leg was still out the window. I got up and left the bus. I never saw if he was able to slide on through the window of it he left the bus through normal means. But 20 seconds later as I'm safely away from the scene, the man in question ran screaming across U Street, running back toward T Street, destination unknown.

I guess such things happen on a warm Monday night.


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