TriMet Tales, Not the Final Chapter (But it Should Be)

15399019_10211748068883540_1477338520_oPhoto by Becky Hoven

I bore myself with the stories I have about public transportation. It’s not interesting to those who aren’t immersed in bus lines and breaches of etiquette on the train. By condensing my experiences and employing some snappy editing, I’m hoping to provide a thrill ride of a blog post. I been riding TriMet max trains and buses most weekdays since this school year started. Everyday something happens. There’s a mechanical issue or some one acts out in public and it becomes an epic story of what I endure for my commute.

Maybe because I’m spending an hour each way I’m desperate for a little entertainment. I can equate my travels as a kind of living theater although it’s always improvised. The man who fought so gallantly with the transit employee checking for proof of payment and looking over the old ticket stub he’d been handed was one example. “Give me back my bus pass,” the man demanded before pulling down the red emergency flap to open the door only to be chased and caught. I felt the horror of his situation. If someone took my bus pass I wouldn’t have exact change or any money to get on a bus after work.


Real theater occurred the afternoon I was sitting across from two goth guys–a couple. One of the men was on the phone with his mother making plans to meet up with her and trying to help her confront her fears of dealing with the technology needed to navigate the online TriMet system. His frustration was humorous yet identifiable and riveting. There were hang-ups and his partner tried to soothe him. All the while I was thinking about how goth one of the guys was adorned with multiple gothic accoutrements while the guy on the phone only seemed semi-goth. Did I have a problem with the costume designer in this living theater? Maybe.

There’s dramatic intensity when people want a bus ride but have no money. Nobody rides for free and bus drivers enforce this rule. I witnessed a desperate woman trying to get into the hills of South West. It’s like a mountain up there so who would want to make that climb if you could bum a ride? The bus driver showed no sympathy as he drove off without her. Too bad I never have exact change, I could have paid her fare.

The first couple of months on the train I didn’t see any authorities checking for payment. One recent time, the first guy confronted offered up a crumpled piece of paper and some rambles. It took so long a line of people formed and they all got off at the next stop. My assumption was they took advantage of a getaway opportunity.


That’s my beef about the train. Anyone can ride free risking the possibility that they might get caught. There’s no supervision so you get the early morning electric guitar playing guy, unplugged at least and the drunk man, who pulled out a wine bottle and asked me if 2012 was a good year. I was more flipped out by seeing that the cork was floating in the bottle. Another morning there were two different people on either side of the train engaged in monologues. They were amazing from the snippets I heard. There’s a climate that borders on fear of breaking the silence, especially in the morning. People seem to clam up when others are acting badly. No one was willing to do anything about the two men, under blankets that were sleeping and taking up five seats on either side of the car. My reaction get out at the next stop and move to a different car. When I got off the train that morning I looked back through the window and saw the two guys, still asleep, taking up space. I’m not sure who is supposed to police this kind of thing. It may not be a big deal to let people sleep unless you really need a seat that morning.


Taking buses and trains means you get to have run-ins with a regular cast of characters like the guy who wears beige overalls every day. A guy wearing the MC Hammer pants shocked me. It might have been because he was normal from the waist up. I looked down and saw the puffery and the intricate and flamboyant design of the garment. The tapering around the ankles was a give away but not even Hammer would be caught wearing Hammer pants theses day. Most days I appreciate a bit of weirdness and hope for what I call “bus luck.” Bus luck is getting to a train or bus stop as the vehicle is rolling in as opposed to approaching a stop as a ride is pulling away resulting in a 13 to 16 minutes while sitting on a wet bench.


I wrote about Trimet in the past after having minimal public transportation experience. Everything seemed exotic and strange, every experience magnified. Years of being a bike commuter left me little need for buses and trains. Now I have a route all mapped out that works. Despite break downs, weather challenges and the odd behavior to witness the system is pretty good. The effort to try to get so many people where they need to be is ambitious. During rush hour there’s usually a bus or train every 15 minutes with multiple bus routes that can get me in the same general vicinity. And yeah, it probably takes three times as long but at least I’m not driving. I have time to practice karate, play an electric guitar, work on a monologue out loud if I prefer or write my next blog post on my phone with my thumb. I usually keep to myself at the risk of boring anyone.


Trimet Tales: The Final Chapter Part 2

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It was a simple Facebook post from Jovana a while back. It struck me when she said she was giving up taking public transportation due to obnoxious people. It had me wondering what it took to make that decision. At last year’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, I sat down with Jovana to find out. Nate’s comments were appreciated as well because he was familiar with the legendary lady in question.

Jovana:  So remember that big lady who was on the bus.

Nate:  Yeah, I’ve ridden on the bus with her.

Jovana:  She would be on the phone all of the time.

Nate:  The entire trip.

Jovana:  Yes, and she was really obnoxious and I would dread getting on the bus with her.

Nate:  Six years ago when I rode the bus she was on the same bus all the time and I couldn’t believe—I was like, oh no not her. I would get off the bus. I would wait twenty minutes for the next bus to avoid her. I swear to God.

Jovana:  It was awful. So my first experience with the bus was, I had not ridden the bus until this summer, this past summer.

Nate:  You hadn’t ridden anything TriMet related.

Jovana:  When was that May?

Nate:  Yeah.

Jovana:  June, something like that. So I would ride it from downtown from the big pink building, US Bank Corp. tower, there’s a bus right in front of that. I’d take it to Nate’s work in Tigard and, I don’t know, it’s maybe like ten stops. I would get on the bus and the very next stop she would get on the bus. This woman, she’s a big lady. She’s white. I know far too much about her life. She’s a temp at some place.

Nate:  She’s big. She’s disproportionately big.

Jovana:  Yeah.

Nate:  She’s just big. From the waist she’s got this, you know those things you used to bounce on as a kid.

Jovana:  The top and the bottom.

Nate:  Like two of those together. That’s the lower portion of her body. She takes up at least three seats on the bus.

Jovana:  Yeah…So you know people, generally, they’re not on the phone on the bus or other forms of transportation because it’s loud and there is a lot of attention or whatever. People read to themselves.  A lot of people are quiet. This woman, she couldn’t hear. She was screaming into the phone.

The Portland Orbit:  Oh no!

Jovana:  And personal things like how her job is really awful. She’s a temp at this place. She’s been there so long. They won’t give her a permanent position and she thinks it’s because she’s a woman. She’s yelling at her 14-year-old daughter, I don’t know, something about shoes, I remember, like screaming on the phone. This happened four or five times, every time I would get on the bus, argghhh, and if she was not on the bus—whoo wee, this is going to be a great ride. And she would always sit right across from me.

Orbit:  Oh God!

Jovana:  Right across or a little bit to the right, always within kicking distance

Nate:  Yeah, because the bus is not a lot of space then when someone who’s not normal sized, all of a sudden, they’re in your lap.

Jovana:  She was loud every single time. She was bitching about everything. Why don’t people like me? It was like because you’re so loud and rude and listen to yourself and no wonder no one wants to hear this and then she would gossip about people. She was irritated about them and other people gossiping, I was like you’re fucking gossiping about them here, right here, I can hear who you’re complaining about.

Orbit:  I guess I was wondering, like, what I had written about, I was trying to figure out why people aren’t more conscious of other people. They just feel like they need to make their phone conversation. That supersedes everything.

Nate:  Yeah!

Jovana:  I think people are just oblivious.

Nate:  Yeah!

Jovana:  They have no idea that there are other people on the bus, other people on the road…

Nate:  Or other people on the planet.  They think their problems are the universe’s problems.

Jovana:  They have limited perspectives

Nate:  There was an attack on America in 2001? When was that?

Jovana:  Yeah.

Nate:  They have no idea, no concept of anything.

Jovana:  Some people are that way. They have no idea that they are not the only person in the world.

Nate:  They tell me that everyday in traffic. I don’t know if I believe it.

Orbit:  Did that kind of color your whole TriMet experience.

Jovana:  I hate it. I don’t like…

Orbit:  Because you think that’s going to happen again?

Jovana:  It’s going to happen again and there is nothing you can really do about it. As much as I wanted to say hey lady stop talking can you just be quiet, I only have three more stops, you can’t really say that. Maybe I should have said that. The bus driver isn’t going to do anything about that and all the other people on the bus are feeling the same way. I haven’t ridden the bus since summer time. It’s obnoxious and I would much rather wait at work, spend an extra hour at work by the time Nate comes down then have to go sit on the bus. You have to listen to everyone, it’s crowded, everyone is in a hurry like we were just talking about. Nobody has any perception of what everyone else is doing. It’s just like all I can see is myself.

Nate:  Do you remember when I told you about how I was on the bus and I had my headphones visibly in and people would just talk to me and I’d look at them and go, what, okay and then just hope to God they wouldn’t talk to me again. And they’re not friends they’re complete strangers and you try to look as mean as possible.

Jovana:  My mean face doesn’t look right.

Nate:  I can do approachable really easily.

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Orbit:  Was there any straw that broke the camel’s back or did you have the opportunity to not have to take it?

 Jovana:  I suppose not everyone would have the same opportunity to not take it but I was able to be like you can just come and pick me up after work and I’ll just wait here. It would be nice sometimes to leave work and then get over to Nate’s, that extra half an hour that he doesn’t have to drive would be nice to not have to put him through that because traffic people are the worst.

Orbit:  Gonna see that lady again?

Jovana:  God, I hope not. I know what area she’s in, any downtown bus is probably not going to happen for me, probably not in the east side or west side because I don’t like those people too.

Nate:  The fact that I ran into her too.

Jovana:  Yeah.

Nate:  That’s was a long time ago, totally inconsiderate. I had to turn up the music as loud as I could on my phone and it was like really is this really happening?

Jovana:  And people would have to sit next to her and she’s screaming on the phone and these poor people are like trying to block it out as much as they can. She’s the worst, whoever she is?


Mean face practice off the bus!

Tip of the pin to Josh G. for a link to this site:

As always we salute the rants:

TriMet Tales: The Final Chapter Part 1

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The go-to blog post subject matter when you’re desperate, out of time, suffering from a hectic, unending work week–with my sixth straight work day spent proctoring an LSAT exam at the law school—has me turning to the subject matter of public transportation which has a never ending supply of tragicomic, people watching opportunities.

Two people having a discussion is usually fine. Two people having a one-sided heated discussion on a crowded Max train becomes exasperating. I listened to a woman trash the good name of her man for what seemed like hours in uncomfortable lecture time but was probably only ten or fifteen minutes. This was talk of a personal nature when the lady managed to list her significant other’s faults, berate him up one end and down the other all while complaining about her health and talking about a seizure condition. It made me wonder it people just don’t understand that anyone within earshot can listen to their personal conversation or diatribe, in this case, if it’s delivered in a public space. There’s also the consideration that maybe we want the option of not listening. I know it’s times like these that call for ear buds and filling my head with any other sound possible.

There was a point when the woman decided to move to the center of the train. I appreciated this break from her talking until moments later the woman began having a seizure. I have no idea if her getting riled up caused the seizure but I appreciated the people who rushed into action. Someone contacted the train operator while someone else called 911. I was equally impressed and annoyed by the commotion. The train remained at the next stop. We waited.

I kept thinking if the woman had opted for a nice quiet train ride, she might have controlled her rage. She could have taken time to outline her talking points to better take her mate to task in the privacy of their living quarters and possibly avoided her stress and maybe even the seizure. After this experience, I came across some first aid information that explained that not all seizures require medical attention. Seizures can be scary for those having them and those observing them alike, and not being a doctor or even that good at first aid, I would not be in the position to make the call or not make the call for help. Ultimately I was not delayed for long. Ambulance services were quick to respond. Soon the train was on its way and I chalked this medical melodrama up to another side note in my history of riding the TriMet rails.

2010 mid summer 017

As always we salute the rants:

Trimet Tales #2


If you’re like me, you might also hate it when you have to stand on the Max train when  no seats are available. Already you’re stuck with crowded conditions and maybe you’ve spent a few minutes hunting for a seat or contemplating, in short order, if you want to squeeze next to someone in a crammed car.

I found myself standing on a blue line train one afternoon hopeful that I’d find a seat when I transferred to a yellow line train. I stood next to the door when three adolescent guys entered train. They stood and talked.

It occurred to me that I didn’t know many teenagers, never saw them hanging out anymore and I’d lost touch with what they do and what they’re into. Having been one myself, I was curious about today’s teens and how they deal with these times. At least two of these guys were carrying skateboards and Subway sandwiches, which seemed typical modern gear. One of the boys was wearing a crooked bow tie and on old suit jacket. Probably not the sole representative of teen fashion but I figured he was trying to work it.

They weren’t lost in their phones though, they were talking. I wasn’t eavesdropping. Due to close quarters there was no way I wouldn’t have been able to hear everything they said. One of the guys bogarted the conversation.

He was telling stories of his misspent youth. The first story involved his punching a cop during a demonstration while other officers looked on and some how this was all right, and nothing was done about it because the officer’s riot gear face shield was up. There was another story featuring, you guessed it, more police officers. This one had the kid spraying a fire extinguisher at an officer and miraculously getting away with it. While these stories were entertaining, it hit me that they probably weren’t true. A third story has since become murky to my memory because part of me was thinking this guy was making stuff up to impress the other two guys. As I recall it was another epic tale about another battle with authority.

When the train made a stop the story teller got off while the other two guys remained. This gave me the idea that maybe the two kids didn’t know the other boy as well as I thought. I waited a few minutes and then directed a comment to the guys who stayed on the train. I had a certain amount of confidence that they were aware of the BS that had been coming out of his mouth when I asked them if they knew whether there was a reward out for the guy who had gotten off the train explaining that I could use some money.

My question was met with little acknowledgement and no information about how I could parlay the confessions I’d overheard into any kind of cash. Maybe my comment was another in a series of dumb things said on the train that afternoon but when you’re looking for additional income, it never hurts to ask.

Catch up with all the lastest rants on this site:

You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Officer Henry Groupper pronounce the phrase “cash reward.”

Trimet Tales #1


I’ve been riding the Max on Mondays for substitute teaching work in the Beaverton School District. Once a week is enough to keep it interesting and not make it a dull routine. Someone always seems to act out when I’m on the train. One morning getting on the yellow line at the Denver Ave station heading downtown, I noticed a guy wearing a sparkly New Year’s pork pie hat. His odd style caught my eye even before he stood up and started doing Tai Chi. My internal suburban panic mode kicked in as I tried to assess the threat level. Soon after I was making cynical asides in my head critiquing his Tai Chi abilities. Kung Fu Tai Chi is what it looked like—too fast, too jerky. Although I know nothing about Tai Chi. It seemed wrong.

The kid in front of me intrigued me. He was stuffing his backpack with a healthful lunch of seaweed soup in tupperware and another container of beans and rice. I saw the soup sloshing and could imagine it spilling in his backpack. His food out shined my sad provisions that included an outdated can of chunky beef soup and a serving saver of dry Raisin Bran.

Tai Chi guy moved closer. He was standing ten feet away looking at me. It did not seem like a good time to jot down notes. I eyed the train’s panic button that would allow me to contact the train’s driver. Since seeing his behavior I had debated if it was okay to flail about in a Tai Chi manner in public on a Max train when there was no apparent Tai Chi class scheduled or instructor in sight. It seemed threatening. He had demonstrated some karate looking moves and could flip out at any moment and start kicking ass. His hat made him look like he was on a New Year’s Eve bender nine months after the fact. He looked more crazy than tough with his slight build and tight faux leather maroon jacket. I was hoping he’d get off the train. Maybe my Jedi Mind Trick worked because he hopped off at the next stop.

The kid across from me pulled out a text book. The only two letters I saw from the title were a P and an H. Physics, I thought, nice, a scientist. The pictures were sketches of the human body which caused me to conclude that it was an art book. Now I was looking at another Portland artist. No, the title had the word physical in it. It was the human body. The kid will be a Doctor for sure. Science wins.

I had to get prepared to spend six hours working with children with autism so maybe analyzing my fellow travelers and seeing a guy acting strange wasn’t such a bad thing after all. I wondered what his aim was. Did he need attention? Did he want to connect with other people and talk about Tai Chi? The mystery remains, but this guy seemed to want to follow a Max train tradition of doing what he wanted to do in public. I arrived at my sub job early and while in the staff lounge I stumbled across a picture of Robert DeNiro in US Weekly, doing what else, but Tai Chi while rehearsing for a movie role. Maybe Tai Chi is not such a bad way to start the day.

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