Sunday, November 05, 2006

Public transit story #14: Parallel postulate

Last Wednesday, the first of the month, our rent was due. We pay rent directly into our landlords' bank account, as we use the same bank and it's a lot easier than mailing a check several days in advance. This month it was my turn to go stand in line at the bank. Whoopie.

So I boarded the #88 and figured I would have about three minutes' cushion for my transfer to the #51. Oh, how wrong I was; but if I'd been correct, you wouldn't be reading this, now, would you?

There was this very confused woman on the bus who had evidently been trying to figure out her stop for most of the ride. She kept insisting that she needed to get off at Acton Street (or, as she spelled it, "A-C-T-I-O-N Street"). The driver and the rest of the passengers kept telling her, "This bus runs along Sacramento Street. Acton's the next street over. They don't intersect."

"But I have to get off at Acton!" she repeated.

"No, you have to get off at a cross-street. You're going to Acton and what?" we all asked.

"A-C-T-I-O-N! I can see the #88 from there and so I know this bus stops there!"

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Finally I said, "Maybe you want to get off at Addison?"

"Or Allston?" suggested another passenger.

"Addison? Yes, that's it. No! I want Acton. Maybe this is my stop coming up." The bus driver pulled over to the stop, which was Channing. "No," said the woman, "I think it's the next one."

So we stopped at Bancroft. We stayed there a while, so that she could debate with herself whether this was her stop. Finally: "No, this isn't it. It's the next one."

The next one was Addison. As the driver was pulling over, the woman said, "Oh, no, it was the last one! Now I have to walk all the way back there?"

"I can't turn this bus around for you," said the driver. "You either get off here or you get off somewhere else down the line."

"Where's Acton then?" she demanded. We all pointed to the left. She grumbled off the bus.

"I don't know what her deal was," said the driver as she pulled away from the stop. "Doesn't she understand you can't get off at Acton and Sacramento when they don't intersect?"

With all that delay, I missed my connection. The #51 pulled up just before we did, and even though the driver tapped several times on her horn (secret code for "hey! transferring passengers!") and I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me toward the bus, the #51 (which had neither discharged nor picked up anyone else) closed its doors while I was still a few feet away. Yes, I knew another would come in 7 minutes, but it was the principle of the thing:

AC Transit might break some rules now and then, but one thing it can't violate is Euclidean geometry.

(And speaking of lines, the one at the bank did indeed suck.)

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