A Grand Google Bus Chase

September 01, 2017

This summer I worked at Google in Mountain View, California in the South Bay Area. Here, one of the many perks was the Google shuttle buses (affectionately referred to gbuses). Each gbus is outfitted with Wifi, leather seats, and a sleek dark exterior. On the back is a set of bike racks for weary biking commuters.

It was my morning commute on this fateful day that led to the most epic adventure I'd ever had, all before 10AM.

The day started off just like any other, waking up at around 8 to catch the 8:20 bus to work. Unfortunately, this day I was just a little too slow on the bike. As I reached the intersection next to the stop, I could just barely make out the bus speeding off in the distance.

Personally, I like to look on the bright side of things so I was just happy there was another bus in a short thirty minutes. The waiting area just happened to be a library, so I sat down and found myself a good story to read. The minutes went by before I knew it!

This time, I was determined not to miss it. I waited outside ten minutes early. I saw the bus coming around the corner a few minutes late and walked to the back to attach my bike to the racks. First, secure the top wheel, then the bottom wheel. Lastly, handle the frame support. I took my hands off and hopped back onto the curb...

And that was when I noticed the bus had started moving with me not on it.

Naturally, I did the one thing anyone would do in this situation: frantically sprint in the middle of the road while yelling "STOP!!" at the top of my lungs. Thankfully, we were on a residential road with plenty of stop signs. Unfortunately, no one in the real world actually completely stops at stop signs.

Just as I was about to resign myself to getting an Uber, a car pulled up to me on the road, and the driver said, "Hop in, I'll help you catch the bus". After a brief moment of hesitation, thinking back to all the times in my childhood, my mother told me never to get into a car with a stranger, I jumped in out of desperation.

It turns out, the driver was the mother of one of the other summer interns. She had waited for her son to get on the bus and had such a kind heart that she was willing to help me despite having her own daily schedule.

And so, the chase was on.

Bus Route

In the middle of the 9 AM rush hour, we weren't able to make much progress to catch the bus, but we stayed close enough behind that it was always in sight. I tried calling the Google bus phone line, which was somehow always busy when I needed it most that day.

Eventually, we both reached the second stop, but the bus had already started moving to the freeway. It shifted into the left lane and we followed, both behind the same red turn light. With only one car between us and the bus, I decided it was the best shot I was going to have before it went into the highway.

I leapt out from the car and started sprinting forward flailing my arms like a squirrel trying to fly. Just when I was an arms length away from my bike, hanging off the back of the bus, the light turned green and the bus drove away once again.

Resigned, I turned back and returned to the car, as onlookers in other cars just gave me a strange glance as I passed by.

At the end, the kind mother offered to drive to Google and I couldn't refuse at the end of that adventure. I showed up a little bit past 10AM, and I can certainly say it was one of the most exciting mornings of the summer.

I did end up getting my bike back after emailing lostandfound. It apparently happens very often, so they installed cameras on the backs of the buses, but we were slightly late, so I don't think the driver noticed me that day.

Side note: I realized a couple mornings after that the bus didn't actually turn directly onto the highway. Instead it makes a long U-turn. When I stepped out of the car, I could have just crossed the street and caught it when it was exiting the U-turn. :')