For a change of pace, here is a little story about something I observed about ten or so hours ago, a bit exasperating, but also admittedly a bit amusing. I boarded a bus in Kent with the intention to go to Seattle. As the bus continued to admit passengers there seemed to be a minor crisis brewing up front. I observed that a man who was carrying an unwieldy stack of 10-gallon plastic buckets was engaged in a discussion with the bus driver. He also had some skinny little mutt on a leash; the man looked a bit scruffy himself in dirty T-shirt and jeans. Anyways, he was trying to explain to the driver that he was a police officer, and the dog was a part of the police K-9 unit. He asked the driver if he wanted to see his “badge,” and he proceeded to produce what appeared to be (by its shortness) an expired bus transfer pass.
During this entire episode, I was under the distinct impression that what we were witnessing was the kind of bluster typically employed by small-time hustlers, to make as much commotion as possible in the hope that the driver would eventually overlook any improprieties in order to avoid a prolonged confrontation. Not all bus drivers will cooperate, of course; some will stand their ground and refuse to budge on “principle,” regardless of how much it inconveniences other passengers who may need to be somewhere at a certain time. There are also bus drivers who if they take a dislike to you on sight, will create the circumstances in which a confrontation can escalate, especially if the would-be passenger believes that the driver is singling him out for rude behavior merely out of some prejudice, or just having a bad day.
I wasn’t sure what exactly inspired the driver’s decision to create this situation; perhaps he thought that this passenger with all this “baggage” was up to no good. In any case, the excuse he gave was that the would-be passenger needed to pay fare for the dog; I had to agree with the man that this was a requirement I had never heard of. Perhaps it was a regulation on the books, but I was certain that if so, it was rarely enforced—unless, of course, the driver took a visceral dislike to you, as this driver evidently did to this man. Nevertheless, this man did himself no favors to his cause by continuing to insist that he was a police officer, and that he didn’t need to pay for his pathetic-looking dog because it was “K-9.” Furthermore, he kept referring to his police badge, which he never produced, and which was obviously failing to make an impression on the bus driver (or anyone else) anyways. If this was how police officers behaved off-duty, the citizenry certainly does have a reason to be concerned.
Despite the fact there seemed to be no satisfactory resolution to either party, the man made his way to the rear of the bus and sat down. I thought this little episode was over and we’d be on our way. But after five minutes and the bus made no tracks, I realized that we were not going anywhere. The driver left both the front and back doors open, and everyone now knew that the he was “serious” and was waiting for the man to remove himself, which he refused to do. We were still waiting by the time the next scheduled bus was supposed to arrive, and since by now more people had boarded the bus and there would soon be standing room only (and this was the first stop on the route), I decided to vacate this bus and wait outside for another bus.
The bus remained put, and presently I observed a Kent police car arrive at the scene, apparently summoned by the bus driver. The man who would be the object of police attention also observed the arrival, and thinking the better of remaining on the bus, vacated as well. The bus driver pointed out the offender to the police officer, upon which a “discussion” took place. The man actually had the balls to repeat the same story he told the bus driver; after all, he could be arrested for “impersonating” a police officer. The officer tried to play it cool, avoiding possible escalation with someone who if not short a full deck, needed to work on his hustling program. The officer played along with the claim that the dog was part of a K-9 unit; the “amusing” part entered the picture when the officer tested out the dog to see if it was “trained”—ordering it to “sit.” The dog didn’t seem to comprehend, and its owner, seeing that his story was suffering with credibility issues, also ordered the dog to sit, with the same result. In fact, the closest the dog came to “sitting” was when it shortly thereafter proceeded to do a number on the sidewalk as its owner insisted on pressing his “case” to rapidly diminishing effect (I could tell, because the officer by then could not refrain from a chuckle or two).
By this time the officer had indicated to the bus driver that the situation was under control and that he could continue on his route. The whole scene reminded me of something out of a “Barney Miller” or “Reno 911” script. I couldn’t help but think that it was unfortunate that all of society’s miscues could not similarly be sitcom material.