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The Bus Hippos: a story for children. Little Timmy rides the bus to school every day. Not the school bus; there aren't that many school buses to be seen in Philadelphia. He rode public transportation, tokens jangling in his pocket, making sounds like money. Every morning he rides the bus to his school, and in the afternoon he rides the same bus home. The bus is a big one, and says SEPTA on the side. Timmy wasn't sure, but he suspected that this was the Spanish word for "bus", displayed there to help people who didn't speak English find their way around. Some days, if he is out of the house in time to catch an earlier bus, there are plenty of empty seats. Other days, when he runs late, the bus is packed full of people, and he has to stand up in the aisle, clutching a pole as the bus lurches from red light to red light, reaching speeds of 45mph halfway down the block between the lights. It can be a challenge to ride the bus like this, with a backpack full of books and lunch foods threatening to topple him over backwards in the middle of the aisle. Occasionally, when he first began to ride the bus on his own, he would make the mistake of turning around quickly to look at something out the window, and knock a poor elderly woman in the head with his backpack. But he learned quickly and now rides the bus like a professional. There is no mass-transportation obstacle or challenge that he cannot handle with grace and skill. No challenge, that is, except for the Bus Hippos. We all know that a bus is no place for a hippo, and we might come to expect that the bus driver would take it upon himself to enforce the strict "No Hippo" policy engraved on a plaque underneath the token and fare collecting machine in the front of the bus. But Bus Hippos are not like ordinary hippos. A Bus Hippo looks like an ordinary person. They can be tall or short, fat or skinny. If you passed one on the street, you would probably never even realize that you had just seen a Bus Hippo. There is only one way to recognize them: Bus Hippos have the unique and terrifying ability to turn a fairly roomy and comfortable bus-riding experience into a packed-in-like-sardines, filled-beyond-capacity, claustrophobia-inducing nightmare. Their technique is simple, yet almost flawless in its execution. A Bus Hippo simply boards the bus at the front, pays fare via token or pass or cash, just like the rest of us, takes a few steps down the aisle, and stops. Stops right there, regardless of how much aisle space lies ahead, how many people are trying to board the bus behind him or her, or anything else. The end result, of course, is a bus divided into two sections. The PH, or Pre-Hippo side of the bus, is in the back. These people are generally pleasant, good natured people, for city folks anyways, happy to move their belongings to free up an empty seat, or slide further down the railings to allow more riders. The AH, or After-Hippo, side of the bus is quite another story. The bus driver will continue to let on as many people as possible, even though those people are mostly standing on the stairs in the entrance to the bus, or possibly sitting in the driver's lap. This one, perhaps elderly, perhaps small, but always determined person, has found the strength to stem the tide of humanity, to create a wall of tightly packed human matter from dozens of hapless commuters. This person, this Bus Hippo, will not be moved. To her right, she sees the anguished faces of riders gasping for breath, struggling for one square foot of floor space to call their own. To her left, a veritable bowling lane of unused aisle space, a New World of bus space, which with each stop becomes more and more spacious, since by now the PH side riders have reached their stops and are disembarking. Eventually, the bus will be lumbering along with its rear section sticking up into the air, as more and more enter the bus from the front, and the final passengers who are able leave from the back. Those brave enough to try and climb around the Bus Hippo are met with a glare. "Excuse me? I'm standing here." To the Bus Hippo, this spot right here is the best place to be on the bus. Near enough the rear exit to be convenient when it is time to leave, conveniently located to the pole or grab handle of choice. Grim is the fate of those foolish commuters who board After-Hippo. Please. For the children. For Timmy's sake, don't be a bus hippo.

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