The bus didn't come, but never mind, I allowed for that.Then the second bus didn't come and I missed my appointment downtown and phoned Metro to squawk.
As the only man to reach Metro to complain in the past year, I shall say how it works and what the upshot was.
"You want Consumer," said a nice lady, "and their number is zub-zub."
Which I phoned. No answer. Phoned again. No answer. Back to the nice lady.
"I will try it for you," she said. (Disconnect).
Back to the nice lady, who gave me another zub-zub, which I phoned and got a baffled person who, I think, prepares tax forms.
Up to this point, I realize I am not telling anybody anything new. But just wait:
On the 10th try, I got a man whose name in my notes is Buffalo Bill though that can hardly be right. Anyway he was cheerful and said:
"Ten calls. Well, let's see if we can't make the buck stop here."
"That would be very nice," I said. "Now what I'd like to know is why the N-2 bus did not come down its usual route at 12:12 and 12:36 this afternoon. Specifically, why did it not pass 48th and Chesapeake as it should?"
"There's been commotion at the Iranian Embassy," he said, "and the Massachusetts Avenue lines are off schedule."
"That's what another man at Metro told me," I said politely, "but what has the Iranian Embassy snarl got to do with 48th and Chesapeake?"
"It could make the bus late," he said.
"But I'm not talking about a bus being late," I said, speaking slowly as to a handicapped person or a German, "I'm talking about the bus not coming at all."
"You mean it hasn't been passing that stop at all," he said.
"Exactly. If it were merely late I wouldn't be calling, because it's commonly late. The guy probably smokes an extra cigarette and starts late, figuring he can make up time on the route, which as a matter of fact he usually does."
"Well," he said, "there's no reason the bus should not have stopped at 48th and Chesapeake that I can see. "I'm glad you called. Otherwise, we have no way of knowing. I wish more people called."
"How do you expect them to call?" I said. "Nobody ever answers that number you have for complaints, and not many people have time.
"Since I missed my lunch appointment with the editor from New York I now have plenty of time -- I think I told you this is the 10th phone call. And the only way I ever got anybody was by saying I was doing an article for The Washington Post and needed somebody at Metro to comment before blasting off."
"Ah," he said. "We had six people manning those phones. Then there was the budget cut. We only have two now. One of them is out having a baby, and the other one works partime, so I agree it's hard to get through."
"What people keep telling me when waiting for the bus," I went on, "is that there's nothing wrong with Metro that new management wouldn't solve. If a driver doesn't show up, surely thee can be a reserve pool or something. As it is the bus simply doesn't run."
"It's like The Washington Post," he said, "where I used to work.
"Some distributors are conscientious and good, and others are not. You do what you can."
"I'm not the spokesman for The Post," I confided, "but I don't think it has any higher priority facing it than getting its papers delivered. And if you're running a bus company and the bus doesn't show up at all, people say to hell with it and take their cars in the future. There is bound to be a way to have relief drivers."
Well. We chatted some more, about The Post and Metro -- neither corporation unduly flattered, as it happened -- and Buffalo said he'd make a note of all this.
"And in particular," I said in parting, "it's dumb for some yo-yo down there to blame it on the Iranian Embassy which has nothing whatever to do with not showing up on 48th Street."
In a few minutes he phoned back.
"Hey," he said, "I have a memo here from the City, saying they're cutting down trees on Chesapeake, so the N-2 bus has been routed temporarily down Western Avenue."
I thanked him and got in my car -- not believing Metro or its fiendlings for one second -- and tried driving the bus route myself.
Sure enough. The city tree trucks had blocked Chesapeake so thoroughly you couldn't get a bicycle through, let alone a bus.
Now you might ask why the city needs to block a street to cut down a tree, or why sufficient notice cannot be given so that a little notice can be scrawled on the bus window saying that next Tuesday the route will vary because of the city tree-cutting.
But there are only so many hours in the day, and I can see the city might find itself able to send trucks out to cut trees without being able to give much advance notice.
The point, you will have noticed, is that Metro had bypassed the Chesapeake stop for good reason.
Now some writers -- if you will sit still for a moment of explanation about how high-minded certain writers are -- would have said nothing. Some would have waited till they caught Metro red-handed, as it were, and then lit into them.
But if they were blameless, their story should be told, as well as if they were satanically at fault.
And God knows nobody wants to discourage the city's tree-cutting trucks, either. There's a dead tree, been dead for a whole year, in the neutral strip of the sidewalk right across from my house. Been there a year and the city is going to cut it down. One of these days, they say.