Editor’s Note: This is a series in which Daily Press writers overhear and observe happenings around Santa Monica.
CITYWIDE — In the Big Blue Bus Transit Store on Broadway, a customer is surrounded by towels, beach balls, flip-flops, bags, T-shirts, mugs and rubber duckies — all emblazoned with the BBB logo — but all he wants to do is buy a day pass.
“Have a big day!” reads the envelope containing the pass, which opens up the entire city of Santa Monica — not to mention many surrounding areas — to its holder. A bus stop, served by several of BBBs’ 21 regular, rapid and mini lines, waits just outside the door.
A man dressed in a blue dress shirt and a knit cap asks people for change — to cover bus fare, he says.
“I’m a student. It’s my first day in Santa Monica,” he explains. “I never dreamed I’d look like a derelict!”
A man sings softly to his two daughters as he pushes them along Broadway in a double stroller. It’s about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The Line 1 bus pulls to a stop, and then the driver takes off, tailgating a black SUV and honking at a silver sedan that cuts him off as he makes a left turn.
“Whoa,” says a girl in a bright sundress as the beach comes into view. She and another woman get off the bus at the next stop.
A young girl and her mother examine a map of the city. The girl clutches a pair of bright pink sunglasses.
“This place looks good,” she says to her mom, giving her the thumbs up. The woman nods in agreement and the girl pulls a yellow cord to her left.
“Stop requested,” a calm female voice intones from speakers near the front of the bus.
Everyone exits the bus at Venice Way and Main Street, just one stop before the end of the line. Indecipherable graffiti is splashed on the grated metal of the bus stop walls.
The bus heading back down Main fills up quickly. A woman in a purple shirt struggles to find the correct change.
Three people exit the bus at Bay Street, a transfer point for lines 7 and 8. A man eats a bag of Fritos at the stop, as Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” blasts from a passing car. He finishes his Fritos at about 11:15 a.m., just as the Line 7 bus arrives. He fishes in his pocket for change.
“My baby, he’s always asleep,” comments a woman in a tight pink tank top, settling into her seat. Across the aisle, a man sports a faded dress shirt that hangs open across his chest.
A flood of students gets on at the Santa Monica College stop. One man pushes a stroller and studies the line information.
“Does this go to UCLA?” he asks. His small son makes a few gurgling noises in response.
“What did you say?” the man asks. “Are you talking to me?”
Aboard the Line 7 bus going the opposite direction, a man in a Dodgers hat drums a rhythm on his arm rest.
“She likes to talk,” argues a woman in a pink shirt with the sleeves rolled up, who happens to be the only one talking on the bus. Her male companion nods in agreement.
Several passengers exit at Lincoln Boulevard. A cool breeze from the ocean gently disturbs an empty coffee cup, which lies next to a dirty blue blanket in an abandoned shopping cart.
Three taxis from different companies pass by, but no one waits at the stop, which is also served by Line 3. All that’s changed by 11:45 a.m., though — at least 10 people wait, some more patiently than others.
A woman in a white T-shirt, damp with sweat, feeds Pringles to her young son. He keeps trying to wander off, so she wraps one leg around him to keep him still.
A screech of brakes sounds about three blocks up the street. The offending car soon slides to a stop at the traffic signal adjacent to the bus stop.
“All that to come nowhere, to stop at this red light,” comments a man carrying a shopping bag full of minestrone soup and corn flakes.
The Line 3 bus finally arrives — and it’s packed. The only open seats are next to a sleeping man. His head droops on his chest, his legs splayed at such an angle that he occupies half the seat space on either side of him.
In the back row, a man signals to a friend standing on the sidewalk outside.
“Robert!” he calls. “I’m on my way to a job interview.”
The bus pulls away from the stop, the man strikes up a conversation with a young girl sitting across from him.
“She’ll turn 3 next month,” says her mom, proudly. She clutches a handful of tissues.
Most riders read, use their cell phones or simply stare into space, waiting for their stops to come up. Some will be riding for a little longer than expected, though.
“Do you know when this stops at Venice Beach?” asks a man in a yellow T-shirt with a towel wrapped around his neck.
“It’s back that way,” answers a woman in green, pointing. “You should have taken the number 2.”