Opinion | Decent, good and chaotic: a glimpse into life on the Port Authority 71C


Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer

The interior of a Port Authority bus traveling along Fifth Avenue.

By Allison Dantinne, Staff Columnist

The public bus is an interesting gathering of Pittsburgh’s citizens, a demented family reunion featuring a wild cast of characters all wishing to achieve something and go somewhere. Those on the bus typically step on, pay for their ride and sit in a seat, playing with their phones or reading a book, or even daring to talk to those next to them until their stop. When they reach their stop, they exit quietly and get on with their day. It is truly a simple concept. But when someone breaks the collective social trust by choosing not to ride the bus like a good human, the 71C releases its overwhelming judgment — and I get to join in.

10:27 a.m. I finally stop putzing around and get out of bed to survey the fridge in search of food. Though I find a couple of leftover breadsticks and garlic dipping sauce, my body fights the desire to eat those cold, damp carbs. It yearns for vegetables. I resolve to give myself what I deserve and prepare to travel to Giant Eagle.

10:31 a.m. I exit my house, the frigid air whipping my face, and again scorn the concept of winter. I was meant to live out my life as a southern belle sipping cocktails on a wrap-around porch, or possibly a tumbleweed traipsing around Arizona. Nonetheless, I walk down my cobblestone street, hoping to avoid a fall that would break my sad, weak and recently sprained ankle. I arrive at the bus stop.

10:42 a.m. The 71C pulls up. I place my ID on the scanner as usual and filter to the back of the bus, finding my place next to the back door. I grip the railing as the light turns green and the bus races forward for the fast and furious two-block journey. Like blades of saw grass lining the bank of a mossy pond, I sway before my back slams into a pole.

10:43 a.m. I hear a woman a few rows in front of me talking into her phone and waving her fingers — adorned with beautiful, long, shiny, purple acrylic nails — in quick snapping motions. “No, but he done think he’s right.” She speaks into the phone, holding her hand out as though questioning how he possibly thinks he’s right. “No, like he wants to come over later,” she continues. “I’m thinkin’ he’s gonna apologize, but … yeah no, then I’m thinkin’ I’m stupid if I’m thinkin’ he’s gonna apologize.” I’m deeply intrigued. I wish to know what this man did to this woman with the fabulous nails. Either way, I think she’s right and hope he apologizes.

10:44 a.m. The man who should apologize is a boyfriend, and from what I gather, he forgot this woman’s birthday. If I were her, I would dump him.

10:47 a.m. There’s a man two rows behind the woman who should dump her boyfriend. This man has a green juice in what looks to be a Panera cup. Every time he takes a sip of the green juice, he pulls the cup back and looks at it in amazement, as though he could not believe he could purchase and enjoy such a concoction. This man’s shock and awe of his own green juice breathes life into the 71C. Life really is incredible, green juice man.

10:50 a.m. It’s a little weird to stand on a bus with minimal distractions. On a usual commute, I listen to a podcast about reality television, scroll through sorority crafts on Pinterest, hold a latte and judge how close I am to the grocery store by how long I feel like I’ve been on the bus. Not having my phone in my hand feels a little disorienting.

10:51 a.m. A man outside runs to the bus stop, hoping to catch this bus. I’m not sure if the bus driver acknowledges him, but nevertheless, he continues driving past the bus stop, leaving this sad man behind. This bus is a chaotic evil force.

10:53 a.m. More people get on at this stop, prompting the bus driver to yell at us to keep moving back. I now find myself in the part of the bus where all the seats face one another, pushed up against a man in a hooded sweatshirt. I feel like I’m waiting in one of those lines at Disney World that doesn’t have dividers and feels like a clump of people in a basement. I hate it.

10:56 a.m. A hoard of students exit the bus at the stop before Centre Plaza apartments. I am now able to move back to the front of the bus and into a seat. The world smiles upon me and I smile back.

10:56 a.m. There is something sticky underneath my feet and I realize I made a fatal mistake in not checking the seat before sitting in it. Is this karma for the time my sauce cup of balsamic dressing slid off the seat next to me and onto the floor, splattering and coating the floor of an 83 bus in sticky vinegar and oil and I pretended like it couldn’t possibly be me, despite also holding a salad and a fork? I might deserve the stickiness as penance for my past actions.

10:57 a.m. Green juice man has finished his green juice.

10:59 a.m. I feel someone touching me from behind, trailing a finger through my hair. I whip my head back, ready to curse the antics of the 71C, before seeing a little, wide-eyed toddler staring back at me, arm outreached. The mother apologizes, and I assure her it’s no big deal. The little boy reaches forth again, and I wave my fingers at him, brows arched, eyes wide. He laughs and the world feels soft. He is, as Lady Gaga would put it, talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, showstopping, spectacular, etc. In this moment, I believe the world, and more specifically this bus, is spilling over with beauty.

11:02 a.m. I exit the bus at Giant Eagle Market District, leaving behind the vehicle that houses the lovely little boy, the woman with the nails and terrible boyfriend, and the man in the hooded sweatshirt who’s still watching me as I leave. As the bus drives off into the distance, I question how so many people can exist in one space, intersecting for only a few minutes, with very minimal understanding of each other’s lives. I understand that the bus is where we decide as a community what is decent, what is good, and what is pure chaos.

Allison Dantinne primarily writes satire and humor for The Pitt News. Write to Allison at [email protected]