Hell is other passengers

Like the city we call home, the riders of Portland’s public transportation are an eclectic crew, made up of unique individuals caught in the midst of the urban scramble to get from here to there. Your journey may be long, and include inconsistent transfers and drawn-out waits, but you’re never too far from your fellow rider. Though they can be loud, abrasive, silly or sweet, they’re always exceptional. When you’re caught in the monotony of work, school or travel, the person beside you is what defines your ride. You never know who you might find yourself sitting with, but chances are it’s one of these people.

The Transit DJ
This Tapout-wearing-Beatz-blasting-Rockstar-slamming gentleman is kind enough to grace the rest of the train with his masterfully crafted playlist. What’s that? You wanted to unwind with some Philip Glass after your excruciating nine-to-five? No need, because the Transit DJ has a full hour of Waka Flocka Flame, Wu Tang and Disturbed on repeat. Ask him to turn it down? Big mistake. It’s not happening. There’s only two ways of getting out of this: he leaves or you do.

“My playlist is better than your playlist.”
“If you don’t want to hear it, you can get off the MAX.”
“Fuck you.”

The MAX Missionary
Everyone has experienced the street preachers and the plaza pastors, but there’s nothing quite like being trapped in enclosed quarters with a man who has his heart set on converting you. He’s out to save your soul, but there’s nothing to save you from thirty minutes of polite nodding and awkward conversation while he reads you scripture. A simple “no, thank you” won’t send him away, and any debating only throws fuel on his heavenly fire.

“Excuse me, you’re going to Hell where you will burn for all of eternity. Can I have a minute of your time to talk about salvation?”
“Just take the mini Bible.”

The Weekend Warrior with a Clipboard
Don’t make eye contact. Whatever you do, don’t ma- ahh, shit. It’s too late. He’s singled you out. You’re trapped. These sneaky buggers are bad enough on sidewalks and bus stops, but it’s even worse getting cornered on the MAX with someone who is trying to guilt you into signing a piece of paper to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Once you get sucked in to a conversation with these clipboard weekend warriors, there’s no escaping until you’ve signed their petition with blood. I mean, come on! What sick son of a bitch doesn’t care about starving children, protecting the rain forest and stopping sex trafficking? All they need is your signature (and sometimes an address, phone number, social security number, credit card number, blood type, first born child, etc.).

“If you really cared about starving children, you’d sign.”
“Do you have a minute to talk about polar bear rights?”
“Just sign the damn thing.”

The Desperate Isolationist
For the love of God, please leave this person alone. Can’t you see they have their headphones on and they’re trying to read? The only way they could be more obvious about wanting to be left alone is if they hung a sign around their neck. This poor person is always the victim of unwanted conversations from the Drunk Daves, the High Harrys and the Awkward Flirters. They’re the only glimmer of hope humanity has on the bus. Just… try to not extinguish that spark, okay?

Nothing. They’re trying to read. Shh! 

The One With Relationship Problems
It looks like she’s having relationship problems again. Things are going downhill fast. How do you know? She’s choosing to use this quiet time on the bus to break up with her boyfriend. If you wanted to get the juicy details without any obvious eavesdropping, you’re in luck. She isn’t afraid to tell Brad off at the top of her lungs, and it doesn’t matter that the bus is packed tighter than a can of sardines. The only thing louder than her fiery yells is the uncomfortable silence from the rest of the riders around her.

Indecipherable screams stringed together with curse words.

The Driver’s Best Friend
Good ol’ Al has been ridin’ this route for comin’ on 45 years now. He remembers when bus fare was a nickel, people were friendly, and you had to walk uphill in the snow both ways just to get to work. Now that he’s retired he mostly just rides the same old routes for kicks. He knows the history of everything, and he’s not afraid to tell you all about it. He’s a chummy guy, and he loves to chat it up with his best friend, the driver. Lend him an ear and you’ll get your fill by the time your stop comes.

“Kids these days!”
“That reminds me of a story…”

Drunk Dave and High Harry
It’s a miracle they can even get on the bus, really. They stumble on giggling and reeking of intoxicants and stale tobacco. Bracing for support, they meander to the back of the bus before collapsing into a lethargic pile on a bench. Drunk Dave is hiccuping and sweating booze out of his pores and High Harry’s giving off a mean contact high that is fumes away from turning the bus into a rolling hot box. Be warned: They aren’t just TriMet’s comic relief. They range anywhere from Beavis and Butt-Head to Mac, Dennis and Charlie on the rowdy scale. These two have been known to projectile vomit and relieve themselves of other less ideal bodily fluids in motion. It’s best to keep your wits about you when these two are on board.

“Sure, you’ve tried Dark Side of the Moon and the Wizard of Oz, but have you tried Echoes with the end of 2001?”
“Heh. Heh. Heh.”

The Vancouver Visitors
These people aren’t from around these parts. It was probably the fanny packs that gave them away. Paranoid of coming into the “big city,” they keep their belongings close and their pepper spray closer. You want to feel sympathetic when they can’t find their way into downtown Portland, but after missing your MAX because they fumbled with the ticket machine for ten minutes, it is vengeful yet oddly satisfying to send them hiking in the opposite direction, hoping they get lost on Burnside.

“We’re in the Free Zone, right?”
“Excuse me, driver? Can you hurry it up? We’re running late.”
“This is why we don’t go to the city!”