First-world problems

bus

My car is in the shop. Nothing horrible, really, at least I don't think so. I'll know more when the mechanic gives me an update tomorrow. Exhaust system issues. It's an old car, things happen.

Being without it for a few days isn't a big deal, but I did have an umpiring shift to cover this evening at Capitol Hill. Fortunately, Cap Hill is the only one of our parks to which I don't have to haul equipment to and from, it all stays on site, which makes getting there without the car less cumbersome. Ye olde metro buses can get me there and back in about an hour's time each way.

Theoretically.

I know from plenty of experience that relying on the bus can be a tenuous thing, so I made sure to leave early enough to accommodate delays. Particularly since no matter what, on a Sunday I have no practical alternative to what we refer to around here as "the crazy bus," i.e. the KC Metro E Line. Up in my neck of the woods it's generally not a big deal, but from the city limits on into downtown the route is often populated by a demographic cohort that is underprivileged and in various manners unhealthy. Thus, riding the E Line is unpredictable.

Still, things went smoothly on the way down and I got to the park with 20 minutes to spare. I used the time to chat up some of my favorite players that were in the game currently being played under the early-game umpire's watch and remark on the start of Major League spring training and generally shoot the breeze while defending my fellow umpire from some criticism. (I mean, yes, he did miss that call at first, but given the bases-loaded situation you got to cut him a little slack; he's only got one pair of eyes and they can't watch all three bases at the same time.) It's playoffs, people get testy.

That game ended and I relieved my fellow ump and took over, grateful that the lights at Cal Anderson park were working again and there were no obnoxious soccer players getting in our way on this cold evening. New teams took the field and I let my ego soak up the comments from both departing and arriving players—"dude, what the hell, why didn't we get you for our game?"; "hey good, Tim's here"; "you're so much better than the other umps"—and I was enjoying things. I made two bad calls, one on a ball/strike decision that was irrelevant as the next pitch was put in play, one more important on a hard grounder over the bag at third base that I called fair and that led to several runs. In the moment I didn't know if it was fair or foul, the angle from home plate on that kind of thing is pretty bad and there was no time to shift position, but it has to be called immediately anyway, so I pointed fair. No complaints, but I still wasn't sure, so after the inning I went to the third baseman, a guy I've seen a lot of doing these games, and asked him. He said it was foul. I believe him, he's not a troublemaker. Oh well. There were a few other bang-bang plays I know I did get right despite some pushback (playoffs, people get testy), so there.

The winner of that game was to play again immediately following in a semifinal match, but as we were nearing the start time for that one I wasn't seeing anyone new show up. Usually by the 5th or 6th inning the teams for the next game are at least partly there, warming up on the sidelines. We were running a bit late, but with no next team waiting I didn't rush things and let the game go the full 7 regulation frames as the Chop Zone Outlaws emerged victorious with a nice double-play turned in the home 7th to secure the win.

Still no opposing team and we were well past the permissible grace period to avoid a forfeit, so I called off the second game and packed up the gear, thinking I'd get home early and get to warm up. The Metro Transit app on my phone told me I could catch a bus in a short few minutes and be home in under an hour. Good, I needed dinner.

But this again involved a transfer to the crazy bus. So it was not to be.

In addition to the typical E Line happenings—a guy sat next to me and started rapping a tune about Jesus; two stops for wheelchair riders that required some delay; the expected onslaught of fragrance from unwashed bodies that gives me empathy for fictional Vulcans on fictional human starships—something happened just as we entered the on-ramp to the portion of Aurora Avenue that becomes limited-access. What happened I still don't know, I haven't been able to suss it out, but we stopped in the middle of the long ramp, stuck behind a disabled bus immediately ahead. Why we couldn't go around I'm not sure, but we were stuck and given where the bus was, the driver didn't want to just let us all out; there was a small shoulder, but next to that a big concrete divider with another lane of traffic and an elevation drop on the other side and opposite another divider beyond which was traffic going the other way. Pedestrians were not accommodated there.

So we waited for help. Some Metro mechanic or tow vehicle or something to clear the way.

But nothing happened. I got through the latest episode of the Fast Politics podcast in its entirety before the first passenger rebelled and broke the cover over the emergency release on the back door and let himself out. The driver resealed the door best he could, then went to talk to the driver of a third bus which was now stuck behind us. Before long other passengers pulled the same maneuver and reopened the door and just walked out into the street. Fortunately, this is on a Sunday night when traffic was relatively light.

Eventually Metro officials had blocked off a makeshift pedestrian route for us to exit the bus and walk back along the on ramp to what my California relatives would call the surface street, and we got to wait for the next E bus to arrive with two other complements of passengers. That took a while (during which time it started to snow), then we all crowded into the next bus, which made a bit of a detour to rejoin the highway later on, and I managed to get to my stop and exit the bus before the headache that had started building as soon as I got on the overcrowded coach had gotten truly unbearable. The few-blocks walk back to my place in the snowy sleet wasn't quite enough to clear my head but it helped.

The thing is, had I stayed to work that second game, because of Sunday schedules and such, I would have had an alternative to the crazy bus. There is a night-owl route out of Northgate that gets relatively close to my place, I could have taken the train to Northgate and caught that instead; barring other complications, I actually would have been home well before I actually made it here.

Alas. 

I've got another game to ump tomorrow night. This one I have to haul gear to, so my car better be ready by then. Otherwise I have to brave the crazy bus again, but with a 10-pound bag of softball gear. [Cue sad trombone noise.]

Comments

  • Posted by Wth on February 26, 2024 (46 days ago)

    I do enjoy reading your writing about your life"up there" in the Seattle environs!

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