The Marine View Driver: The Blue Bucket

By Mike Smith

A simple yet normal day on the Seattle Streetcars.

I’m calling this article The Blue Bucket because, well because there is a blue bucket in it.

I was taking a break at Panera on Broadway and a bus pulls up across the street to drop off passengers. One man gets off carrying a blue bucket—the star or our story—and removes his bicycle from the bike rack on the front of the bus. The bus pulls away and I hear a bang. Blue bucket man is banging his bucket against the side of the public garbage can. He is apparently dumping his own garbage can into the public one. A sort of refuse transfer in the vein of Russian nesting dolls. The smaller can into the larger can which is collected into a bigger can which goes to the landfill. The cycle of life as a Starbucks cup writ large.

I watch as he bangs his bucket a few more times to completely empty his receptacle. I go back to my reading. I am startled from my reading a few moments later by the familiar sound of blue-bucket-on-public garbage can.

This time I am surprised (more accurately, amused) by the sight of a person dressed as a homeless guy—I say dressed as a homeless person because ratty smelly clothes with rips and stains on them are de rigueur on Capitol Hill.  Rich kids from Seattle University dressing to “identify” with the homeless. You know, ineffective solution to the real problem. A sort of sartorial virtue casting.

But I digress.

This second fellow was simply enjoying the sound made by the bucket banging on the cage around the public garbage can. I was of course surprised, as you must be, that the bucket was left in situ in the first place. But it was. In the process, Number Two made some pretty fine dents in the bucket. Still blue of course, but wounded. Blue, I guess in a way, was half-way prophetic. The other half being black.

Suitably satiated, owner Number Two walks off. Leaving the bucket behind.  Back to my reading.

Less than an hour later, as I am operating my Streetcar down Broadway, I see another budding capitalist in filthy clothes carrying the blue bucket under his arm like a well-loved stuffed animal. The satisfied smirk on his face reveals an obvious joy at his new-found treasure. I’ve often said there is nothing like a dented blue bucket in one’s hand to give one auspicious confidence in the future. With a blue bucket (handle intact) I can take on the world. I am obviously not the only one who thinks so.

As I travel two more blocks in the Streetcar I stop at the light. Another person, with an equally beloved bucket appears from behind the building on the block. Now this bucket is loaded with filthy lucre. Really filthy! It appears to be very heavily laden with bricks or some sort of (s)crap. I know it was heavy because of the conveyance with which fashion maven Number Three was employing: an office chair with not four but five wheels. Every transportation engineer knows that more weight requires more axles on the ground. And a pretty handy truck it was. Our man pushed his “cart” almost effortlessly across the street and proceeded to sit with his “burden” at the bus stop to wait for the next bus. What a satisfied look was on his face, too. I’m certain his look will change when he’s given the sad news that the bus cannot accommodate an occupied office chair. But hope appears to spring eternal on Capitol Hill. With this high degree of entrepreneurial spirit perhaps we should change the entire location’s name to Capital Hill.

This all occurred on the same night within an hour or so. Imagine what might take place in an entire day!

I did see another event around 1:00 am that was a bit disturbing. A young woman decided to run across the street in order to “beat the light”: a soon to be Olympic sport enjoyed by pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists alike in Seattle. She made it, too! But that victory was tainted by the severe faceplant she placed on the sidewalk immediately after the finish line. She lay their a few seconds as her friends ran to her aid. As they tried to help her up it was obvious she was not hurt badly but getting her to stand again was probably not the right move. Her body was in violent opposition to her blood alcohol level and was beginning to simultaneously shut down and… I believe “ralph” is the colorful phrase often used in this context. The situation was sort of tense for a second. However, the surrounding non-friends of our heroine believed it quite funny and hid it not.

I had to move on but all appeared to be well again when I came back 15 minutes later. I’m not surprised, though. Police and citizenry have been through a similar scenario many times. The entire community gives a giant shrug and presses on. Practice being made perfect makes these type of occasions as routine as a bus ride.

The above is a normal day on the First Hill Streetcars. It only costs $2.25 to buy a ticket; your admission gets you an up close and personal view of some interesting activities. Get yourself a sandwich, jump on the Streetcar and you’ve got dinner and a show!


Hop on board The Blue Bucket Special!


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