The workhorse 46

By Better Bus Coalition member, Andy Shenk

The bus careens round a corner, nearly home to Government Square. Oh, but what it has seen today, the 46. 

New faces. Stopped precariously on Vine, a pause, before a plunge into the basin. A man darts to our door; the driver’s foot is itchy for the gas. Another fellow with red socks, red pants, red t-shirt and a Bulls hat gets on. A stroller and a baby toddling down the aisle. 

“What bus is that?” The driver wants to know why everyone is at her door, keeping her foot on the brake, letting another green light on McMillan flicker out. 

“Metro*Plus,” someone says.

Yep, it’s a driver switch up ahead. The Metro*Plus driver gets out, walks to a parked Metro car, passing his replacement on the sidewalk.  

“I’m not waiting in the sun,” the mom with the stroller says and pays her fare on the 46. 

Old smells. Highland and University. Mecklenburg Gardens. Brick homes that survived the desolation of interstates, hospitals and universities. If you live in an old American city, you know. 

Two men on a porch, sipping from a brown bag. We slam to a stop a few feet past them, the bus door framed by a telephone pole and a tree, enough space to squeeze on. An old smell fills the salon, pungent yet sickly, but we are all passengers on the 46. 

We stop. We start. Every turn, every light, our driver urges us past grocery stores and hospitals and a man sitting on the sidewalk in a recliner. 

White paper. Three passengers board, two men and a woman, and pay for transfers. Near the end of the route, I notice the white paper printed with bus directions in yellow highlights. It’s a long way around in Cincinnati. 

That darn Metro*Plus. It blows by us on the Vine St curve, free to float downtown while we groan and creak at every stop. 

The mistake. We are building a full head of steam after Liberty. 15th, 14th, 13th pass in a blur, before a “Stop Requested” brings the 46 screeching to a stop in Washington Park. 

A lady up front disembarks and is well up the sidewalk before someone notices her keys on the seat. Two seconds. A man jumps up, the driver blows the horn and she hurries back for a rushed exchange.  

Sometime after noon, the bus left the zoo. 17 turns and at least five, maybe six neighborhoods to go roughly three miles as the crow flies. 

Goodbye. We only stop once after crossing Central Parkway into downtown. It’s a sudden end at Government Square. Passengers off, passengers on. 

I step out the middle door, my little boy in my arms. I feel sad not saying something to the driver, not commemorating somehow the ride. But I just start walking. I’m tired, Henry is tired and it’s time to go home.