- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Mory Watkins just wants to be able to sleep peacefully in his row house on Benton Street NW.

This is all he wants, this 38-year-old owner of an asset-tracking company. This is all he expects from the city. Just let him have a restful night’s sleep. Please.

“I’m not trying to rub people the wrong way,” he says.

But there is no rest for the sleepless along Benton Street, a residential thoroughfare nestled between Wisconsin Avenue and Glover Archibald Park that is on the route of the brake-shrieking, ear-ringing Orion II minibus.

Mr. Watkins has come to be something of the Bus Man of Benton Street the past 18 months, when he first started lobbying the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to resolve the decibel-packing buses that terrorize the neighborhood.

Mr. Watkins has shot videos of the buses, talked with a good number of the bus operators, implored the transit authority to feel his quality-of-life pain and taken his appeal to the advisory neighborhood commissioners who represent his bone-rattling stretch of Ward 3.

He has learned everything you ever could want to know about the brake-plagued, high-maintenance Orion II bus.

His modest pursuit is motivated out of self-preservation.

“I would just like to be able to sleep,” Mr. Watkins says.

Instead, he has been sentenced to live his version of “Groundhog Day,” only he relives his ordeal each night, as he wages a lonely battle from the confines of his bedroom, tossing and turning, just waiting for the next screech of the Orion II bus, and the next one and the next one, just waiting and waiting until, finally, he is able to drift off to a fitful sleep out of utter fatigue.

“One bus can wreck the night,” he says.

Most people count sheep. Mr. Watkins counts the Orion II buses that beat down on his neighborhood.

It is not as if Mr. Watkins has not tried to adjust to the Orion II bus. He wears earplugs before retiring to a bedroom in the back of his home, which is as far removed from the street as possible. He is equipping his home with soundproof windows, a $3,000 cost.

Sometimes, almost in desperation, he spends the night in his fiancee’s home in Falls Church.

Mr. Watkins has made a number of proposals to the transit authority: Curtail use of the D2 route in the daytime and halt it entirely late at night, if only because hardly anyone rides the buses in the wee hours.

Another suggestion is to reroute the nightly drops and pickups to Wisconsin Avenue, mere blocks from Benton Street.

Mr. Watkins understands that these recommendations do not necessarily meet the needs of all the residents.

But he is grappling with a larger issue than the convenience of public transportation, which is the necessity of a good night’s rest.

That is his dream. The Orion II is his nightmare.

He cannot get a good night’s rest, so long as the operators of the Orion II buses are working the brakes, blasting them in the quiet of the night, letting them ring out like the chimes of the Washington National Cathedral. It is the curse of the Orion II bus. Hear it roar.

Mr. Watkins is not about to let it go. No way. He is in this to the finish. Life is too short to be held hostage by an Orion II bus. And so the Bus Man of Benton Street is set to reiterate his proposals to the transit authority at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting tonight.

“I am not a vindictive person,” he says. “I don’t want anyone to lose a job. I just want to have some peace and quiet in my home. I do not think that is asking a lot. I have videos that prove these buses are running empty at night.”

He has passed out fliers to galvanize the neighborhood.

“Say no to bus noise,” it reads, for they are sleepless on Benton.

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