Kinetic Motion - Blog

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What a Long, Scorching Trip It’s Been

The temperature is hanging in the high 90s, and the breeze down K Street comes like heat belching from an open oven door. As the 950 to Annapolis rolls into view, a woman who obviously doesn’t bother with a lot of calorie counting risks heatstroke by sprinting toward us.
This is not a day to miss the bus.
The first sign that something is wrong comes when two people push their way off before we can get on. Nobody ever gets off the evening bus for Annapolis until it gets to Annapolis. Next, the driver refuses to take my money.
"Free ride today," he says. "I got no A/C."
Have you ever wondered whether bus windows open?
They don’t.
The woman in the row ahead is looking my way and pointing to the vent above her seat.
"Do you think the heat is turned on?"
"No. That’s sucking air from outside. It’s 98 degrees, you know."
Everybody who has a cellphone uses it to tell somebody about this great adventure.
"I’m sweating big time, honey," the woman in row three, window seat, gushes into the phone.
The mood verges on giddy when the driver reveals that he is a last-minute fill-in who doesn’t know the route out of town. A front-row woman in a yellow sundress takes command, pointing out the turns with help from other folks who yell out stuff like: "No, not a full left [turn]. You gotta angle to the left! Thatta way!"
The joyful energy is short-lived. An elegant businessman — dark suit and briefcase — puts his carefully folded jacket in the overhead and loosens his tie. Sweat seems to be bubbling from his forehead.
Now we are caught in the lurch-and-stop traffic on Route 50 just past Kenilworth. Reality is sinking in. It’s another 40 minutes to downtown Annapolis, and inside this sealed metal box that is our chariot, it’s somewhere above 120 degrees. (How do I know this? I’m the weather page editor!)
My shirt is soaked through, and I see sweat coming through my pants at the knees. Knees can sweat? Who knew?
A mutiny breaks out from the rear of the bus as we clear under the Capital Beltway.
"HOV! HOV!" comes a chorus of shrieks at the realization that we are in the far right lane, three lanes from the nirvana of HOV land. Traffic is crawling. "Would somebody up front tell this idiot to get over to the HOV!"
They are hostile now. I notice I’m the only person on the bus with a water bottle. I clutch it tightly. They’re not getting this!
Applause erupts as our driver bullies his way across to the HOV lane. The businessman has shed his tie and now unbuttons his shirt. His eyes are glazing over. His mind could be floating anywhere. But in reality he is in an oven, rumbling down Route 50, his starched white shirt now sweat-pasted to his torso. He strips it off. Every inch of both arms, from wrist to shoulder, is covered in tattoos. If only the secretarial pool were here to see this!
The curious knee sweat has spread to reach from my waist to ankles. The eyes of the woman across the aisle appear to be sinking so far into her head that they soon may reach her ears.
Someone hisses at the driver, "Didn’t you think before driving out here in a bus without air conditioning?"
He says: "The shop said they just started the bus. I said, ‘It’s hot.’ They said it would cool down when the air conditioning kicked in. How did I know it’s broke?"
A woman in front of me appears to be undressing. I try not to look. Then I do, and wish I hadn’t. Are people eyeing my water bottle? I suck the bottle dry in a moment of Darwinian triumph. Then, filled with remorse and compassion, I try to recall my CPR training.
The sullen silence is broken as Annapolis nears. Two women are lusting loudly for a shower. They go into greater detail than I need to hear.
I step off the bus into 94-degree heat. It feels cool.
And the ride was free.

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