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As much as it bothers me when people bring their pungent personal odors on the bus, I always just buckle down and tell myself to stop acting so spoiled and get over it. It’s the bus. If I wanted to avoid all the annoyances that come along with public transportation, I should just drive my own car, catch a cab, or walk.
That said, this morning when I was about to board the 90 bus at 18th Street and Columbia Road NW, I knew I was in for a sensory experience. I’d dashed across 18th to make the bus before it pulled off without me. As I fell into the queue, I noticed that the last passenger to board before me had all the indicators of an ensuing stench. His jacket and jeans were torn and soiled, and he was toting two large, tattered black garbage bags. And then, when I got close enough, I did indeed smell the aroma.
After paying (with cash, not a transfer) the odorous man hurried to the very back of the bus. I sat in the front. All of the passengers who were sitting towards the back of the bus made kind of a rude show of huffing and puffing and gathering up their things and moving to the front. So the odorous man sat in the back alone and silent.
We rode a few blocks and it wasn’t so bad. But at 15th and U Streets, the bus driver pulled over and walked to the back of the bus and told the man very indiscreetly, “Man, you’ve got to get off this bus. You’ve got to catch another bus. You’ve got people getting sick on here because of you.”
The odorous man quietly gathered his bags and descended the back steps. The other riders then thanked their valiant bus driver for making the ride more comfortable. But something about the whole scene sort of hit me wrong. Of all the signs I’ve ever observed prohibiting various activities while on board, I can only remember “no smoking”, “no eating or drinking” and “no stereos without headphones.” But I can’t recall any signs that read “no odors.”
Which caused me to wonder, aside from it being mean and somewhat discriminatory, was this bus driver’s action legal? If a person pays to ride, shouldn’t he be able to ride regardless or his personal fragrance or odor? It’s the friggin’ bus! And furthermore, when has Metro ever given a damn about passenger comfort? I would think that repairing their decrepit vehicles would come before putting paying customers out on the street.