January 9th, 2008


It's hard out there for a pedestrian

This morning on campus, I catch the 68 as a lazy shortcut to the lab. I hop on at Campus Parkway, and we take the turn onto campus. After the first campus stop, we pull into the intersection, and then stop.

I look up. There is a blank-faced, defiant man-child standing in front of the bus, doing a stare-down with the driver. The driver waves him on, but he stands there, refusing to move. The man is in his early twenties, wearing REI-style clothes ("active" and expensive), blond, blue eyes, no beard, not obviously intoxicated. "Let me on the bus!" he shouts.

"No!" says the driver, clearly and distinctly. The driver honks suddenly, and the guy jumps, but doesn't leave his position. P., an acquaintance of mine, cycles by and exchanges words with the man. The passengers grow restless; one stands and walks to the front and asks the driver to be let off. The driver refuses ("I'm not opening the door right now."). I start to sketch the guy, since this story is already shaping up.

The driver calls the supervisors on his radio. "I'm being held hostage here -- I can't move the bus while he's standing in front of it." The man shifts his gaze a little, and angrily, defiantly, crosses the street, now standing in the middle of the street. He starts shouting at the driver: "you're acting like a child!"

"You can't stand like that to stop the bus! there are rules here!" says the driver out the window, and pulls the bus through the intersection. Man-child, furious, standing in the middle of the street as we turn right past him, leans back and punches the bus.

"He broke the window!" I hear a passenger say, and indeed he has spangle-fractured the window just behind the driver. The driver pulls the bus a hundred yards farther down Stevens Way, and calls again on the radio. The police are notified, and we stop at the medical center to wait for them. Nearly all the passengers get off the bus, and -- being all of two blocks from the lab -- I tell the driver I'll talk to the cops and tell them what I saw.

I do -- I see a happy gleam in the officer's eye when she sees my page full of sketches and dialog snippets. ("White, about six feet, blond, 160-180 pounds", I say. "Good witness," she says, like I'm a puppy.)

I end up taking a drive with the officer (in the front seat, not the back) and she drives me past the guy, who is now standing, hat off, cuffed, at the stop in front of Meany -- not ten yards from his site-of-punching. without his hat, he has chin-length blond hair, and I tell the officer that I'm not sure without the hat. She gets out of the car "don't get out of the car!" and asks the three (! large!) cops standing with the guy to put his hat on again, and we drive past again. Yep, it's him.

And that's how I got a ride to the lab from the UWPD. Even though I'm pretty sure how I feel about anybody who attacks the bus (I'm indignant at them, and a little scared -- anybody who attacks a twelve-ton motorized vehicle with their hand has self-control and self-worth questions) I feel a little funny about cooperating with cops.