/ Bus Chronicles

Bus Chronicles #13

Yellow Wire

The other day I saw a kid trying to pull the stop bell. You know, that long chain of yellow wire that hangs all across the buss which, if you pull it, a bell dings and a "Stop requested" thing lights up in the front. This kid, probably 2 or 3 years old, was climbing all over his mom, pulling on her hair, biting her nose, tugging her earrings and kicking her stomach with his toddler-sized Doc Martens, trying to get at this bright yellow wire. Trying to pull it. He was quiet but sometimes laughing, and she was screaming crying and shouting like some kind of 2 or 3 year old.

Well today I've noticed something strange. But first I have to explain to you how the bus works.

First, some bus lines have many stops. Millions. Most of which the bus driver will skip if nobody's pulled that yellow wire, and if nobody is waiting there to be picked up. But those many-line buses still have a few stops they always go to. Transit centers, stops with transfers to several other bus lines, and things like that. Basically, you can consider those the main stops.

Still other bus lines have very few stops. As in, they only go to these main stops. These are your express lines, and the like. You don't have to pull the yellow wire, because the bus is going to stop no matter what.

What I've noticed today is just how many people seem to love pulling that yellow wire. As early as possible, right when the bus leaves the previous stop, they'll be waiting with their hand hovering in front of that yellow wire. They'll be waiting for the exact moment when they can pull that yellow wire, and make that ding, and light that thing at the front. Even if it's already lit, they'll pull the wire again to make that ding and re-light the thing. Even if it's one of the main stops, they'll pull the wire to make the ding and light the thing. Even if they're on an express line, and the bus is going to stop even if they have an aneurysm and they go limp, they'll pull the wire to make that god damned ding, and light that god damned thing at the front.

It's like popping a zit for these people. They just love that ding. They love that light. They get off on that ding and that lighted-up thing.

Or maybe they want to make sure everyone knows they didn't have an aneurysm. Maybe they're—if quietly—trying to show they're living people who are aware of their surroundings. That they're not dead, and not brain dead, and not simply programmed. Maybe they like that ding because it screams "I'm here. Something to do with my life takes place at this stop. Come with me and find out, I dare you."

But I really think it's just like that kid, climbing all over his mom's face without a care in the world for what she wants or what anybody else thinks. He wants that light and wants that ding because it was his first addiction. Hearing that ding when he was younger made his baby face light up, and now that pleasure is programmed into his brain forever. It's a part of him. He'll grow up to be one of those people who rings the bell at help desks even when someone is there. He's the kind of person who will ring your doorbell even if the house dog is barking and they know they'll be let in.

He's going to become someone who rings that bell and lights that light even on an express line, when the light is already lit and the bell is already dinged.

It's just one of those things that stays with you, though. Chronically—this person's first addiction is that yellow wire. And we've all got one. Some people wear the same color for some inexplicable reason; some people have a strange passion for birdwatching, completely detached from their office job of 20 years; some people stay in love with tractors, dinosaurs, certain kinds of music, or certain smells. They just stay with you forever.

About Bus Chronicles

Nick Giampietro

Nick Giampietro

Nick graduated from Portland State University with a degree in Japanese Literature and a minor in English, and works as a Software Engineer in Portland. He lives with his wife and dog-of-a-cat.

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