Ballard-Columbia City, SEATTLE The #18 driver gruff and boxer-nosed waves aboard a Hispanic worker with bags of discount food. "Take a transfer, man."
He shoos stringy teens past the pay box. "G'wan, go!"
No deep discount here, but he calls the depot to check my travel plan, a new one tonight.
The next driver cracks the code of south Seattle buses. "Take this route, not those. Avoid electric cars, they're slow. Go for express service that zips down I-5 or the busway."
He drops me at a convenient corner, far from any stop.
The Emerald City stands accused of chill and not in a hipster sense. A classic Craigslist rant explains why it's "an angry, unwelcoming, repressed, socially backward little city".
Reason four after technology, darkness and geography is paralysis. "Too few roads and a lame transit system mean we all spend too much time in our cars, alone and stationary. This isolation becomes second nature."
Guilty as charged: the only thing rapid about our public transport system is the pace of international ridicule.
But for the last few believers, the bus has unexpected moments of beauty.
And even on the worst days when I'm howling in the rain at least I'm not pumping 17% of my income into the auto industry.