‘Hop on the bus, Gus’

First-time SCAT rider applauds the service

Harriet Cuthbert
Harriet Cuthbert

Recently, I had the occasion to use the local public bus service, or SCAT, its official name. I was being held hostage — figuratively, of course — by my car mechanic, who spent four days fixing my vehicle. My only option to retrieve the car was to take the bus home from downtown Sarasota and, eventually, to head back to his shop.

CommentaryTo “scat,” in jazz terms, is to sing with nonsense syllables (Webster’s). But I am here to talk about the Sarasota County Area Transit system. While waiting for my departure at Lemon Avenue, I observed my fellow travelers. We were definitely a mixed bag, so to speak, as we waited for our designated buses, all of us going to our own destinations.

Many regular riders greeted each other like old friends. They sat and smoked and schmoozed as if they were on some large Southern verandah, enjoying an iced tea — sweet, of course.

I saw tourists with local maps, setting out their itineraries, many speaking foreign languages. Other locals were probably like me, using the bus for a more specific and short-term reason.

I boarded the No. 11 to Siesta Key and was astonished at its cleanliness, the comfort of the seats and, especially, the excellent air conditioning system. I loved sitting high up, enjoying the ride along Tuttle Avenue to Bahia Vista Street, on to Southgate Mall and then over to Siesta Key.

We stopped at one point to pick up a lady in a wheelchair. Suddenly, the female bus driver pushed a few buttons and a platform appeared; it was lowered to facilitate the passenger’s boarding. Then, the bus driver pushed some more buttons on seats, and they magically folded up to make room for the wheelchair. The rest of us watched this phenomenal “performance” in awe.

The bus driver and her special rider greeted each other like old friends. It was simply beautiful to watch. When the passenger disembarked, we saw the same mechanical procedure, but this time in reverse.

As I started to climb down from the bus at Siesta Public Beach, pausing to thank the driver, I could not help thinking how absolutely wonderful our local bus system is. We have all the necessities and all the benefits available to help all kinds of people, and our county staff provides this service with smiles and cheerful “Hellos.”

I look forward to my next bus ride — and to making friends with the driver.