Monday, January 25, 2010

The AlphaBandit Strikes!

I don't usually have an opportunity to laugh on the 54C, the PAT bus I take just about every morning and evening to and from Carnegie Mellon University. But, today was an exception.

I boarded the 54C, bus 2609, near Lulu's Noodles on Craig Street in Oakland for my trip through lower Shadyside, central Bloomfield, and the Strip District and on to the North Side where I disembark for the Mexican War Streets.

The bus was of an older model, dirty and creaking from rusty springs as it labored up Craig Street. I climbed aboard after an elderly man who used the aluminum handrail. The bus was being captained by a scowling, middle-aged driver with reflective sunglasses and a Fu Manchu beard. Minding my own business, I looked for an empty seat near the middle of the bus, not concerned about a window seat since the windows were coated with the splashed remnants of recent snows and road salt.

Actually I was mostly concerned with getting an intact seat, as many of the seats were half popped off, springs protruding. I found a seat and pulled a book from my bag, in this case "Repositioning" by Jack Trout, and began to read.

Before the bus turned on Liberty Avenue, many of the passengers de-boarded for the new Children's Hospital, leaving only a few North Side bound passengers. That's when I spotted the work of the diabolical villain I will call "The AlphaBandit."

If you ride the PAT buses, you will see a series of signs on the windows. From the front of the bus, they begin with the request, "Please step to the rear." If you've ever been on a crowded bus near shift change in Oakland or at class changes at Pitt or CMU, you'll know how crowded the buses get. Most people ignore the signs so that they can lean near the wheel wells in the front of the bus and put their packages in the spaces above the wheel wells. That area provides a place to better balance on the usually unbalanced buses.

Anyway, the signs are meant to solve a problem most drivers don't want to be bothered with, crowd control. The drivers seem resigned to their crowded fates and ignore the bunching of humanity at the front of their vehicle while plowing along giving their standing riders a thrill on every turn.

After asking the good folks of mass transit to move back, the next sign prods riders gently by asking, "A little farther please." That's precisely where the "AlphaBandit" struck on bus 2609. A nefarious and clever wordsmith, the "AlphaBandit" moved several letters in the decal sign to create the message, "A little fart...please."

I know. I know. It sounds so juvenile, doesn't it. But, come on, if you've ever ridden the bus, you'll know it isn't a real pleasurable or thrilling experience. We PAT people have to take our bus entertainment anywhere we can get it. And if it's in puerile entertainment, so be it. I laughed and snickered at that sign for 15 minutes like a twelve year old kid until I disembarked at West Park.

Maybe I was tired. Maybe I was giddy from a day of teaching. Maybe it was the effects of my head cold and runny nose. Whatever it was, I was entertained by the work of the "AlphaBandit" and look forward to his/her next creation. In fact, I wonder how the "AlphaBandit" might modify the last message on that bus, "Thank you for stepping to the rear". I know it will have something to do with the word "rear". Anyone have any suggestions?

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