Of all the people who get on my bus the Grizzly Bears are heads and shoulders above all other at being the most annoying and yet somehow comical. You would think that drunks, the abusive, the pissed off or drugged out would be the biggest pain in the driver seat, but by far it is the Grizzly Bear that is the most annoying
“What is this driver thinking?” you say. “Is he talking about real bears?! Has he gone bonkers?” Maybe I should explain a little just what a Grizzly Bear on a bus is.
It all starts back about ten years ago. I was sitting, well laying, on my couch deep in the grip of bronchitis. There was this nature show on the big screen and since I was to weak and tired to reach the remote, that was two feet away from me, I had to watch it.
The nature show followed grizzly bears in Alaska. You see, a Grizzly has powerful muscles, strong claws, long bad-ass teeth and they are built like small tanks. They are not very sociable, especially with other big male grizzlies. You will never find a Grizzly Starbucks or a friendly hookah bar for Grizzlies to hang out in—besides, they are ardent non-smokers (little known fact there for ya).
They have a great, bordering on phenomenal, sense of smell, great hearing and only one problem: they don’t have good eyesight. But when you are the apex predator on the North American landmass, who cares about sight?
Now, bears are like humans in that they develop personalities. There are mean bears, happy bears, curious bears, and murderous bears, scary bears, stupid bears and bears who like Justin Bieber.
Unlike humans, who receive years of teaching to learn how to turn on the TV, cook Top Ramen and start a car, as a bear you get only a rough class from Mom when you are young and then you are sent on your way.
There are no bear universities;
No Bear community colleges;
No vocational training;
No Debbie Dodson School of Bear Trucking (no matter what BJ and the Bear had you believe in the 70’s).
Bears get on the job training and they develop highly individualistic ways of handling issues because each bear is on their own.
They patrol the woods looking for whatever they can eat, salmon, trout, honey, the occasional yummy fit off road cyclist or hiker—you know: the regular bear meal. Then it happens…
This is where it gets good...
You see, once in a while, these big brown bears run into one another.
They catch a glimpse way out there of another bear approaching. Thinking quickly, the Grizzly bear realizes that he better handle his shit or he will be laughed at by all the little black bears and raccoons up in those trees. So he mans up—or, more to the point, bears up—and refuses to be intimidated.
The bear then puts on a little show, he does this by exaggerating a wide bowlegged walk as if he were the John Wayne of Ursidae family. “Look at me!” thinks the bear. “I look huge. Only a big bear would walk like this. I’m so freaking huge!!!” You see bears think they are so smart, just look them in the eye, see that look. Ok it could be hunger but it's not, it's smug bear superiority.
The problem is, and no bear gets it, is that the other bear across the way has come up with his own solution as well and guess what? It’s the same damn thing. “Look at my walk! It’s so big! I’m huge!” thinks the other Grizzly bear.
Now, no bear is going around to the other bears and whispering from behind a tree “Hey buddy, yeah you with the missing claw… come over here…. You want to learns a way to be the big bear? I can do that for ya.”
That never happens.
Each bear solves the problem of running into another big bear the same way..
It makes no sense, because if the funny big bear walk makes you look 10% bigger and the other bear is doing the same thing and is 10% bigger... oh, you can see where I’m going here. Only, don’t try to explain it to a bear. They don’t like math at all and especially hate fractions and percentages. Believe me I know, I tried. On a personal note to the Washington Park Zoo management, I wrote the math problem on the window of the tundra exhibit. Sorry about that.
So I’m laying there sick as a dog thinking “Stupid bears, humans are so much smarter than you…. Ha!. We have space craft, air conditioning and house music and you have scratching logs, fleas and tics, well two out of three ain’t bad.”
Ha! We rule!
THUMBS! THUMBS! THUMBS!
Ok, I’m a bit of a speciesist.
Dang it! I lost my place here... What am I talking about? Oh yes. Grizzly bears on my bus.
Fast forward a few years later and a few dead end relationships and I’m now a bus driver. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I’m right out of training. Only guess what? Ya it hits me one day that we humans are hardly smarter than those bears.
I could not believe my eyes and ears.
You see I’m talking about fare cheats—not just any fare cheats, but Grizzly bear fare cheats.
Not the guy who comes in a few cents short, or the mother with three kids that forgot her pass. Not the high school student trying to sneak on. I’m talking about the rare class of fare cheats I like to call the ‘Never Payums.” They pull the grizzly bear routine all the time. The Grizzly bears always do the same thing.
The first 10 times you see this you buy in to the con.
The second 100 times you see this you are so bored.
The Third 1000 times you see this you are pissed
By 10,000 times I’m sure your brain will blow out of the side of your head.
You see, there are no fare cheat schools, no fare cheat universities, nor are people are meeting in clandestine rooms planning some sort of social action together. “Hey let’s all not pay at the same time in the same way. All in favor say GRRRRRROOOOWWWLLL!” Sorry. That was a call back to the bear thing.
Each one of these “Never Payums” do the same freaking thing.
It got so bad on one run I was getting it four or five times per round. To combat the mind numbing fatigue of this repetitive stupidity I wrote the Grizzly bear script.
Grizzly Bear Script
Bear Act 1.
First they get on and walk past the driver. either saying they have their fare or saying nothing at all. Either way they just blow on by the driver betting that the driver is intimidated and is in too much of a hurry to worry about one Grizzly Bear.
Bear Act 2.
They then proceed to do nothing or maybe, if I’m lucky, make a half-assed attempt at pretending to look for the fare. They say they have it but you already know they don’t.
Bear Act 3.
They will then start their verbal excuses without moving.
a)”I got my money or transfer right here….”
b)”You can go ahead and drive I have it....”
c) “I just got off another bus….”
Bear Act 4.
Once they realize you are not moving they return to the front of the bus then pull out one or more of the following but never before a long search.
- Expired transfer from another day, usually a handful of them.
- Expired pass from another month.
- Two dimes.
Bear Act 5
After informing them what their lack of payment will earn them they start
“The Grizzly Bear Show”
First they go to the stage. The stage on the low floor busses is over the right side tire platform near the front. On a high floor bus they will just turn around and face everyone. It isn’t so important where they are, so much as that everyone can see them as they then pretend to once again to search for that mysteriously elusive fare.
Remember the song “The Macarena,” that catchy 1994 South American tune where the dance has everyone touching themselves? The “Fare Macarena” looks the same. They will get really pissed upset and verbal but search really, really slowly. I saw one woman with two pockets pretend to search her pockets seven times each in her Grizzly Bear Show.
Come on sing it with me: the Bear Fare Macarena!
I thought I had my fair
but I left it in my wallet
I thought I had my wallet
But I left it in my jacket
I thought I had my jacket
But I left it in my closet
Bear Act 6
Two solutions branch out from here.
- Someone on the bus pays for the bear… mission accomplished.
- The Grizzly bear raises a big stinking growl-a-thon and leaves the bus.
Either way, the driver and everyone on the bus is out the time it took to put on the Grizzly Bear Show.
There is one more solution and some of you afternoon commuters on the Hawthorne bus may remember. A crotchety old Grizzly Bear pulled the same trick and got all the way to Bear Act 6 with the money raised for him by all those concerned bus riders. “Stop picking on him driver!” said all the do-gooders “Can’t you see he’s homeless?” They collected up the money and as soon as they gave it to him he turned and screamed out “F-YOU!” right in their faces and walked off with the change. I closed the door and rolled away.
After pulling that on two different busses I picked him up on my return trip. This time he had an honored citizens ID, paid a dollar and can you guess what he had? Come on, guess! A fresh 40 ounce can of beer in a bag. He went to the back of his bus and I drove him to his apartment. That’s right: not homeless at all.
Now each grizzly bear has their own style. After all, they each learned this on their own. Some go right to Act 5 and put on a show at the stage that would have you believing that the crushing weight of the world is on their shoulders. “Just listen,” they will tell you.
They are on their way back from the hospital, just missed the previous bus, bought a day pass that morning, ride every day to ____, just got released from (detox or jail). Some have the sort of handicap that only seems to show up on the bus when they are in front of everyone at the stage.
Each driver solves this in their own way.
Some drivers just drive on, too scared for their jobs to say boo. They take the Grizzly wherever they are going. Yes, feeding a Grizzly Bear a meal is a well known way to make them go away or stop, right?. No chance of them ever repeating that show once they know they can get a free ride from you.
One driver I have seen knows most of the Grizzly Bears and makes the worst of them show fare or payment before even opening the door.
Here are a few classic Grizzly Bears that I have named.
Hospital Bill: always going to the emergency room no matter what way he is going. Day or night, night or day it’s hospital time and he is in great pain. Apparently his doctor works late late late and in some odd, unsanitary places.
There is Big Brassy Yeller: "I will have your job for this.” She always has the money, but she will call you any one or a combination of the following: Fat, stupid, whore, bitch, gay, racist, mean, F...., C....Sucker, I want to make Big Brassy flashcards with those words and put points on them and see how much I score when she gets on.
Africanators: a mother and son couple who never seem able to speak English while on a bus but order without problem at Burger King when I’m standing behind them, In the six years I have been driving have never purchased a fare from any driver. Yet they ride all day on the bus, They are so well known that they won’t even try to board a bus with a veteran driver. I just smile and shake my head and they know better.
Ralph McStagger: When he is not pissing in the bus shelter after a Saturday night marathon of brain cell pickling adventures, he is one of the classic classic Grizzly Bear actors. He always has a bike but I never see him ride it. He believes that if he talks fast and yells loud enough he wins.
Pretend you are a driver. On a busy run you will run into at least two grizzly bears a day. Think of that: 2 a day is 10 a week. That’s lets say 40 a month. That’s 480 a year. Lets say you been driving 5 years that means you have run into 2400 of them. Lets say the average one eats up 4 minutes from you and you have 9600 minutes of Grizzly Bear fun. That’s over two and half weeks of sitting watching the same stupid Grizzly Bear show.. You think that doesn't get old.
It’s awfully repetitive and dreadfully—I mean stone cold dreadfully—predictable. I have often thought of printing out the Grizzly Bear Acts on a three by five card to hand out. Can you imagine how big the Grizzly Bear reaction would be to that? To know that they are the most perdictable part of my week?
9 out of 10 times I would just let someone ride if they just asked. Once they go into the act and eat up my time... Well, do you feed Grizzly Bears?
So next time you’re on a bus and you see the Grizzly Bear show please do one of the following.
1. Sing the song "The Grizzly Macarena"
2. Stand up, go to the front of the bus right in front of the “Stage area” and chant “Bear Show! Bear Show!” while spinning around taking all the attention from the act of the Grizzly bear.
3. Sit there and enjoy the show with your newly-won wisdom and don’t throw away your money.
Just don’t blame the driver. Remember it’s your time the Grizzly bear is stealing and the poor driver is just putting his time into his 9600 minutes of Grizzly Bear fun time.
Now you know more.
Remember love your driver, Roll Easy and above all else:
Don’t Feed the Grizzly Bears!!!