Two years ago my husband and I waited, with others, for an AC Transit bus on the corner of 55th Street and Telegraph Avenue. When the bus came, the driver stopped and allowed the able-bodied people on. Then he closed the doors. “I’m running late,” he sho uted at us. “You’ll have to wait for the next bus.”
He drove off before we could reply. The second bus appeared a few minutes later. The driver let down the automatic lift and I pushed and pulled Ralph and his wheelchair onto it. The lift went up and I m aneuvered the chair down the narrow aisle into the special section for wheelchairs. It wasn’t easy. Ralph’s electric wheelchair is big and bulky and difficult to manipulate in small spaces. Passengers had to move. The strap that goes around the wheelchair in order to secure it was short. We had to re-situate the chair several times. The people around us were patient, but I couldn’t help feeling as though we were inconveniencing everyone.
We were taking the bus because our van had broken down. We could not use Para-Transit because they require 24-hour advance notice. The van didn’t break down until just before Ralph was to attend a meeting at the Center for Independent Living. So much for independence.
After the meeting, we caught the Number 40 bus heading in the opposite direction. “Hurry up,” said the driver when she stopped at the corner and opened the doors. “I’ve been picking up wheelchairs all day long and I’m late.” This was not a positive start. I could feel my blood pressure rising.
At the intersection of Ashby and Telegraph avenues, the driver put the lift down to allow a woman with a walker off the bus, and that’s when all hell broke lose. The lift would not go back up. It was stuck in the down position, meaning, of course, that Ralph was stuck on the bus. “Everybody off,” ordered the driver. “You’ll have to catch the next bus while I get this fixed.”
Everyone got off except for Ralph and me. We waited for the mechanic. Ninety minutes later we were on our way. A trip that should have tak en less than 30 minutes from CIL to our doorstep, it instead took almost two hours. I vowed never to use AC Transit again.
But I didn’t keep my promise. I like leaving my car at home and walking to nearby destinations, or, if necessary, taking a bus. Las t year, when I started graduate school at San Francisco State University, I began using BART regularly. This commute includes a shuttle ride from the Daly City BART station to campus and back. When the shuttle is behind schedule, I take MUNI. Sometimes, instead of walking the half mile from my house to the MacArthur BART Station, I take the No. 15 AC Transit bus that stops at the corner of 51st Street and Martin Luther King Way.
Last week I was running late. As I walked down MLK, the No. 15 roared past me. I ran to the bus shelter, but when I got there the bus had pulled from the curb and was idling at the traffic light. I knocked on the bus door and looked at the driver. He looked back at me and shook his head no, then stared straight ahead at the red light. I knocked again and asked to be let on. He ignored me. Plenty of time passed before the light turned green. He could have easily let me on the bus and not been delayed, nor caused any drivers behind him to be inconvenienced. Though not against the curb, the Number 15 was still in front of the bus stop.
I vowed, once again, not to bother with taking the damn bus.