This morning as I was running out the door late to work, I paused on our stoop, convinced I had left something inside. Keys? Cell phone? Lunch? Check, check, and check. As I rifled through my purse I thought this pause has cost me a bus. After 8:30, the 57 bus is notorious for being sporadic and in some ways nonexistent. During that one pause, I pretty much gave up the idea that I would be on time to a 9am meeting.

Boston Bus by bradless9119 (Flickr)

Boston Bus by bradless9119 (Flickr)

Sure enough, as I walked up the street toward the bus stop, I heard the puffing psssssss and screech of bus breaks—a sure sign there was a bus only a few yards around the upcoming corner. Please don’t be a 57, please don’t be a 57. I decided to run for it. Then stopped. What’s the point? It’s probably not a 57 anyway. Then I saw, in the opposing store front reflection, the bus start to pull away. The side number quickly appeared as the bus pulled forward…5…7. Shit. The pause. It was the pause on the stoop. Minus the pause on the stoop I would be on that bus.

But amazingly, the world surprised me today. Perhaps leftover karma from my perfect flight last Friday? Perhaps just the 57 bus deciding to throw me a bone? Or the act of someone who just likes to help out? Whatever it was, as I walked dejectedly up to the bus stop, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a 57A approaching.

Usually the 57A is my nemesis. While the 57 runs from Kenmore to Watertown Yard and back. The 57A runs from Kenmore to Oak Square, thus not making it all the way to my final destination. The MBTA thought the 57A would be a handy solution to turning buses around faster (because theoretically less traffic goes from Oak Square to Watertown Yard). However, for commuters like me who are interested in going to the end of the line, each time a 57A comes by, it’s simply another bus that looks like it will take you where you want to go, but won’t. I have had many a day where the 57A taunts me bus after bus after bus, with no 57 in sight.

This time however, I decided to jump on the 57A and see if I could grab the 57 in front of it. Perhaps a long shot, I figured giving chase was better than waiting at the bus stop for the next half hour cursing the 57.

As the doors opened, the bus driver said, “Only going to Oak Square.” I jumped on and smiled to the bus driver, “Actually I’m trying to catch that other bus.” As I stepped past him to grab the nearest handle, he got on his radio. Although I couldn’t make out what he said, it sounded like he was signaling another bus. This was a first. In other attempts to do the same bus to bus switch, I’ve been told the drivers don’t have radios to be able to reach one another (either the other driver just didn’t have a radio or the MBTA has upgraded?).

The driver moved forward to the next stop, but then pulled over. Huh? With only two passengers on the bus (myself and an older gentleman), no one had called for a stop. The driver murmured something that I couldn’t make out.

Looking around, I realized that the driver had blocked in a 501 bus behind us (I guess he thought I had wanted that one instead?). “Oh, I’m actually trying to grab the 57 up ahead,” I said. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, the bus driver had his foot on the gas and his hand on the horn. The chase was on.

The 57 ahead had rounded a curve in the road far in front of us, but that didn’t stop my driver from beep, beep, beeping his way down Washington Street. Swerving around small cars and a small SUV making a turn, he continued quick beeps, his palm pumping on the steering wheel.

My hand gripped the bar tighter and a smile started to appear. This guy is going for it!

“We’ll get him!” he said and the bus continued to lumber forward. I smiled more fully. Here we go! Since passengers were either getting on the 57 ahead or had no interest in just going to Oak Square, my 57A rocketed toward the square, rumbling around curves, and accelerating at any and all spots possible. It was one of the fastest, most aggresive bus driving I’ve ever seen. We pulled up behind the other 57 at Oak Square just as it was putting its turn signal on to pull away from the bus stop. But the chase was not over yet. The bus in front was starting to pull out.

Beep. BEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. My bus driver frantically laid on his horn (probably concerning more than a few of the passing cars).

“Hold on there buddy!” the driver called out, waving his hand at the bus in front. Before we came to a full stop, he had the doors open, I was sprinting off the 57A, giving a breathless “Thank you!” to the previous driver and tumbling toward the semi-open doors of the clearly annoyed 57. Yes!

As I stepped up onto the waiting bus, the new driver didn’t give me even the slightest glance. He was not a fan of being flagged down apparently.

I didn’t care. I was just ecstatic that the 57A driver had gone so wonderfully, and comically above and beyond by giving chase—and as a side note, saved my morning. I made it to the office in time for my meeting, but more importantly the smile I had from his wonderful act of kindness lasted all day.

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