Sunday, December 21, 2014

BUS STORY # 424 (Wow)

Bus Stop Santas” by Lynn Friedman. Posted with permission.


I’ve been posting bus stories weekly through eight Christmases now -- the ninth is just a few days away. I’ve always tried to have a Christmas bus story for Christmas week, but finding one -- mine or someone else’s -- is the hardest thing about Bus Stories I do. They are not easy to come by.

Once again, I’m having to settle for a generic, non-denominational, “nice” bus story that at least evokes some of the human warmth most of us associate with the holiday spirit -- and this one truly warmed my heart. I’ve also tried compensating for the lack of a Christmas story with the Christmas-themed bus photograph at the top of the page.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ride.


I’m sitting on the bench reading and waiting. The woman at the other end of the bench is taking care of business. She’s on her phone, and she knocks out a series of calls with a crispness and efficiency that make me wonder if she’s an executive secretary when she’s not riding the bus.

“Sir, do you know the date?”

I look over and, yes, the executive secretary has just asked me the date.

I’m pretty sure it’s the 27th, I tell her.

She looks through an organizer. Thursday, she says, half to herself.

“It’s definitely Thursday,” I affirm.

“Between work and everything else, I can’t even keep track of the date,” she says. She goes on to describe committees she’s on, research projects she’s in the midst of. She says she can hardly wait to retire. Her parents are retired now, lucky dogs. But, she tells me, they deserve it. She and her brother put them through hell when they were kids.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Her brother is married, with two kids who are giving him hell. She doesn’t have any kids herself, but she does have a husband who’s filled the role. He’s not working, and she’s the sole support for the two of them.

Disabled? I ask.

You could say that, she replies. He has a disability, but his real issue is how he presents himself. He has a grandiose sense of himself, and he ends up overwhelming, then scaring, the folks he’s trying to get a job with.

She’s got him in counseling for that particular problem.

I salute the effort both of them are making.

“Yeah, well, it doesn’t bring in any money,” she replies.

She says he could go on SSI, but he tells her if he does that, he’d be giving up. He wants to work; he wants to be normal.

There is a pause, and then she says, quietly, looking across the street, “I kind of admire that about him.”

I don’t say anything. I just sit there and all I think is “Wow.”

__________


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Bus Stop Santas” and is posted with the permission of Lynn Friedman. You can see Lynn Friedman’s photostream on Flickr here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

BUS STORY # 423 (Plan Your Ride: An Update)

Downloaded from Joseph M. Foster: Living the Outrageous Life

This past July, I posted a story called Plan Your Ride. The post described the three options then available on the ABQ RIDE website that enabled riders to plan a trip from point A to point B. Those three options were ABQ RIDE’s own Plan Your Ride, Google’s Maps, and Hopstop. I went on to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each option.



A couple of months ago, Hopstop disappeared from the ABQ RIDE website. This week, I discovered Plan Your Ride has also disappeared. Now, when you click on Trip Planning, you are taken directly to Google Maps. (I’ve found nothing about these changes on the website, nor in my review of the ABQ RIDE Facebook and Twitter postings.)

I’ve used Google Maps for planning bus trips both here and in other cities, and it has proven to be extremely helpful. But there are a few caveats. One is that I’ve found routes best taken using the Rapid Ride don’t always display on Google Maps when there are other options. For example, I can meet a friend at O’Neill’s on Central at 11:30 a.m. by taking the 11 to the Red Line at Nob Hill, then the 66 to O’Neill’s. Google Maps would have me stay on the 11, then walk a mile to O’Neill’s. Or else walk two miles to Central and take the 66 to O’Neill’s. The Rapid is faster, with minimal walking.

Another caveat is that your arrival time must be exact. For example, there is a neighborhood Asian restaurant, An Hy Quan, where I often meet friends for lunch. We meet at 11:30 a.m. Using the now-removed Trip Planner, I knew to catch my 11:07 departure to Juan Tabo, then five or so minutes later, catch the 1 to the stop across the street from my restaurant. The bus usually arrives around 11:32. Trip Planer always gave me options which included arrivals that were a little past my specified arrival time -- 11:32, in this case.

Google Maps is precise. Using 11:30 as an arrival time will not give me the same option. In fact, for this same trip, Google Maps tells me to catch my bus 22 minutes earlier, get off at Juan Tabo, then walk a mile to the restaurant.

A final caveat is that Google Maps doesn’t necessarily have the same schedule for ABQ RIDE that ABQ RIDE is using. I discovered this disconcerting fact earlier this week when I went down to my stop ten minutes before my bus was scheduled to arrive according to Google Maps, and almost missed my bus! I assumed my driver was way early, but when I checked the bus schedule against the actual arrival time, I found my driver was within five minutes of being on time.

I’m not sure how ABQ RIDE conveys its schedule changes to Google Maps, nor how long it takes Google Maps to incorporate those changes when it receives them. I now am sure that whenever I need to be some place on time, I better double-check the Google Maps directions against the ABQ RIDE schedules -- both for departures and transfers. It’s a pain, but not getting where you need to be when you need to be there is a bigger pain.

Still, the availability to riders of a reliable trip planer is an excellent service, and Google Maps is a wonderful tool. And the real key to making all this work is for the drivers to stay on schedule. That’s even more important than a trip planner. And, in my experience, ABQ RIDE continues to do this well.

__________


Last week, under the Holy Cow! link to the right of Bus Stories, I posted this link: Too few bathroom breaks drove bus drivers to adult diapers. As the report speculated, the Dept. of Labor did indeed come down hard on King County Metro. This week, a Seattle bus driver comments: About Those Urine-Soaked Seats...

Sunday, December 07, 2014

BUS STORY # 422 (A Muslim On The Bus)

Photo by Hazel Thompson; downloaded from The New York Times.

I board and start up the aisle, looking for a seat. A guy all in white, with a white beanie, smiles and nods at me. I take a seat across the aisle and one row behind him.

He looks late 20s, light-skinned, mixed race. Close-cropped, curly black beard. The beanie is a lacy, white-knit cap which looks like an oversized kippah or an undersized toque. The pattern makes me think of Irish lace. Google will tell me later he’s wearing a kufi.

He’s also wearing what for all the world looks like an old-fashioned cassock, with two buttons where the notch for the Roman collar would appear, except it is white. A very bright, very new white. Below the hem, I see long sheer black socks and black dress shoes.

Muslim, I’m guessing, but I’m not sure.

As it turns out, we both get off at Juan Tabo. And, as it turns out, we are both waiting to cross north together. And so, while we are waiting for the light, I ask:

“What does your dress represent?”

He explains it is Islamic, and he wears it to set himself apart from the world and to remind himself of his religious obligations.

I tell him the only temple of Islam I know of in Albuquerque is on Yale.

He says, gently, “We call them ‘mosques.’ Yes, I am working for them now.”

Holy Moly! I can’t believe I said “temple!”

I ask him if he was born into Islam.

No, he came by it in his studies of religion. He adds that true Islam emphasizes love for one another, and tolerates the different beliefs of others.

I refrain from asking about the different competing beliefs within Islam, some of which seem pretty devoid of love or tolerance. But what religion doesn’t have these internal discrepancies? Even that Koala bear of organized religion, Buddhism, has had its not very Buddhist moments recently in Tibet and Myanmar.

I say instead that I’m sure he gets asked about this a lot.

He laughs, and says Jesus was tested, the prophets were tested, how can we think we won’t be?

My Muslim projects a remarkable lightheartedness. I would call it joyful if I did not sense it was rather new, rather put on like the kufi and robe. Rather like another new convert who urged his fellows to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” A faith and a conviction, bright and shiny and new, which has just begun the process of becoming internalized.

It’s not an easy thing to set yourself off from your fellow man in so deliberate a way as by your appearance. It can put people off. I remember when long hair on males first started showing up in Texas. A boy could find himself in trouble. These days, advertising yourself as a male Muslim isn’t risk-free, even in laid-back Albuquerque.

I confess to favoring the St. Francis of Assisi way of bearing witness in the world, including on the bus: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Clothing and iconography count as words. Any old hippie could tell you that. And any old hippie could tell you the words are not always understood by the listener the same way they are intended by the speaker.

I have the notion that if Jesus were to have shown up today rather than 2000 years ago, he’d still be likely to pick another backwater like Albuquerque, and he’d still be more likely to recruit from a demographic more likely to be riding the bus than driving a Lexus.  Just like then, we wouldn’t know his followers by their clothes. The only way I imagine they might stand out is they wouldn’t be having loud, obscenity-laced conversations in the back of the bus and they wouldn’t be taking up more than one seat, but would be leaving the aisle seat open and inviting access, would be offering their seats to the women and the elderly when the bus is full, would be helping people with their bags of groceries and their walkers and strollers, and would be saying “Thank you, driver,” when they got off.

Now that I think about it, there’s an awful lot of folks like that riding the bus right now. But I’m pretty sure if one of them invited me to get off the bus and come follow him... Well, let’s just say, oh me of little faith.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

BUS STORY # 421 (The Ticket)

Downloaded from ebay.

It wouldn’t have happened if the concert hadn’t been scheduled in Santa Fe on Sunday afternoon. Or if the Rail Runner didn’t have such a skimpy Sunday schedule. Or if ABQ RIDE didn’t cut off my neighborhood on its Sunday routes.

Of course, it also wouldn’t have happened if I had been paying attention to the speed limit instead of spreading my focus to the coming concert, the lively conversation my wife and I were having, and the magnificent vista that opens out before you when Tramway turns west and drops down toward I-25.

I saw flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I thought it was an ambulance, and slowed, then pulled over to let it pass. It slowed, too, and pulled up behind me. The “ambulance” was an SUV driven by a Sandia Pueblo police officer.

I consider myself a conscientious driver. I am attentive to speed limits, and especially attentive on this particular road. Many are the times I’ve seen cars pulled over here. Many are the times I’ve been tailgated, then angrily zoomed around, because I was holding to the limit. Many are the times I’d watch those drivers rocket downhill with impunity and wonder where the cops were.

Be careful what you wish for.

The officer told me I was going 54 in a 40 mile-per-hour zone. I was genuinely surprised. He also told me that my record was clean, and I had some options. One of them was to make a court appearance without admitting guilt. Apparently, some judges will let someone with no previous driving infractions off on the condition they attend a driving class.

I asked if that meant the ticket would be thrown out.

Yes, assuming the option was offered and I took the class.

I found myself conflicted. If the judge gave me a break, I would not have to pay the fine and I would not have to face the probability of increased car insurance premiums for who knows how long. On the other hand, there was no question I was guilty of speeding.

More, even though I had not been intentionally speeding, nor driving under the influence, I had been engaged in what is a current public safety concern: distracted driving. I’d been so distracted I’d forgotten where I was, and had not even seen the speed limit sign.

I elected to acknowledge I’d violated the law and to pay the fine. The fine was $90.00 -- exactly the cost of my annual bus pass which I had purchased partly to save myself all that money driving a car would cost me.

I feel at peace with my decision. But for the record, your honor, it wouldn’t have happened if public transportation had been an option.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

BUS STORY # 420 (The Other Side Of The Mountain)

Albuquerque and the Sandia Mts.  Downloaded from Retire in New Mexico.

It’s a pretty cool November morning when I take the front row seat on one of the new 600s. Sitting on the aisle-facing bench seat in front of me is a kid who looks like he’s in high school. He looks over at me and says he didn’t think it would be this cold this morning.

He’s wearing an orange T-shirt. I see a lot of kids wearing T-shirts in this kind of weather. I read somewhere it’s supposed to be a school kid’s I’m-a-tough-guy kind of thing. But a tough guy wouldn’t be telling me it’s cold this morning. He doesn’t look like he’s trying to look like a tough guy, either.

I tell him it’s been cool like this for a few mornings now.

He tells me he’s surprised. He’s from the other side of the mountain, and he didn’t think the city got this cold.

I ask him where on the other side of the mountain.

Moriarty.

Moriarty is a town of some 2,000 folks forty miles east of Albuquerque. To get there, you take I-40 through Tijeras Pass -- “Scissors” Pass -- which cuts between the Sandia and Monzano Mountains.

“You really are from the other side of the mountain,” I tell him. I ask if he’s going to school here.

He’s out of school, and glad to be. He’s on his way to work at one of the sports stores in town. He says he told his his boss he ought to hire him given all the stuff he’s bought over the years. He laughs.

So he lives here now?

He does. Going on four months now. That makes me wonder how it is that this is the first morning he's noticed the cold.

I ask if he’s glad to be in the big city, or if he finds he’s missing home.

He misses home. Says this straight up. Says it may be country, but he just feels more comfortable there.

And that’s when I understand what’s going on. A city kid wouldn’t be likely to start up a conversation with an old guy on the bus, especially a conversation that showed some vulnerability, some loneliness.

I think about asking him if he has any plans beyond the sports store. But then I think better of it. Maybe he’s already having those thoughts himself. And, even if he isn’t, he doesn’t need any more second-guessing material from me this morning.

I give him a smile, he smiles back, and we lapse into silence. I get off before he does, and wish him luck. Surely he’ll be going home for Thanksgiving, but I didn’t think to ask at the time. Then I think better of asking that question, too. Anything other than a heartfelt yes would have been hard for both of us.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

BUS STORY # 419 (Shorts 38: Other People's Shorts 3)

Downloaded from Instagram:kam0372.

***

Emily Ackerman reports she was escorting her friends’ 3-year-old daughter on the NYC subway when the little girl sees a very large, very tattooed man -- and I mean very tattooed. Face tattoos. Teardrops and crosses. She points right at him and says loudly, “Look! Look! A pirate!” Embarrassed, I do the lame adult thing, haha no no shhh. She then says, “Right there! Look at him! A pirate is right there!” Large tattooed man says, “No sweetheart, I’m a construction worker.” She then gasps, “You mean pirates can be construction workers, too? Whoa!” Subway car cracks up. My week was made.

Posted on Facebook by Emily Ackerman, via my daughter.

***

A while ago I was on the 205, just riding home from work, like I do.
The bus driver was making a reasonable attempt to be friendly, bidding each passenger a good day as they got off the bus.
Until one woman got off the bus.  The bus driver said, "Have a good day!" as she got off, and she didn't say anything; she just stared straight ahead, ignoring him completely.
After she got off and the doors were closed, the bus driver muttered, ". . . or not."  Several of us had a good chuckle.
Fairness requires the observation that she might have actually been having a really bad day.

Have A Good Day... posted March 20, 2014, by BUSNINJA, on BUSNINJA.

***

Over and over, she tells him that she did exactly what he asked and she’s pissed that he doesn’t appreciate her. But he said he can’t rely on her, so she’s telling him, over the phone, for all of us to hear, exactly what transpired. She asks him, repeatedly, to confirm that she did indeed do what was expected of her. Their words hit and expend their force, like two fifth graders hurling water balloons at each other. It escalates and the entire bus can feel their relationship tearing at the seams. Humans have the capacity for great art, tremendous acts of courage, and love that triumphs over evil. But sometimes the tantrums suffuse all reason and we lose the ability to be our best. Or even just plain decent. Small scale on the 120 to downtown or large scale across the globe, it plays out and breaks my heart.

Vanishing Reason, posted July 22, 2014, by Richard Isherman, on Bus Stories: Observations on Life In Transit.

***

The second grader stepped onto the bus with all the confidence and resolve of a modern day Meriwether Lewis.  He was dressed in cargo shorts with the standard one hundred and fifty pockets filled with the items needed for a grueling trek across the vast wilderness.  His t-shirt extended well below his waist line and he wore a black dress belt around his waist.  Not in the loops of his pants, just around his waist on top of the t-shirt.  On the belt there was a small nylon pouch.  He stepped beside me and with the sound of Velcro being parted he produced a compass from the small pouch.  He held it out for me to see and informed me, "I will be keeping us on track today."  He looked at the compass with a concentration that is only known by those who realize that the lives and safety of innocent people are in their hands.  He pointed down the road and said, "That direction is," there was a momentary pause as he found his bearings, "that direction is, that away."  So we went, that away.  He looked at me shrugged his shoulders and said, "Hey, I looked at the directions and they looked hard so I'm not exactly sure how this thing works yet."  Lucky for us the school was due, that away, from where we were.

Go West Young Man, posted April 15, 2014, by Tom Brandon, on Mr. Brandon’s School Bus

***

This morning on the 22 Fillmore:
Mr. Fantastic's outfit - dark purple skinny jeans and a black and white leopard print shirt. Neon yellow wristlet, flattop haircut, Clark Kent glasses.
Hot damn.
No one else could have pulled it off.

Bus Report #789, posted January 31, 2014, by Rachel in Fog City Notes.

__________


The photo at the top of this story is downloaded from Instagram:kam0372.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

BUS STORY # 418 (“You Tell A Good Story, Too”)

Photo by Busboy


I’m heading for where the 157 stops south of Lomas, and I can see there are two people already waiting on the bench. I can also see they look like they might be homeless.

As I get closer to the bench, one of them stands up and moves in front of the near end of the bench. I’m expecting a request for money, but I only hear one word of what he says: “bathroom.”

I cup my ear and say, “Sorry?” I’m close enough to see the street patina that confirms my first impression.

I have a hard time understanding what he is saying, but I make out something to the effect that there is no bathroom here.

I ask if he’s looking for a bathroom. I’m thinking there’s a Shell station on the far side of the intersection I could point out. And then I see the other person still on the bench, a woman, has her jeans pulled halfway down her thighs. She is covered by her coat.

He is standing between us to give her privacy.

I look back up at him. He has a dark, weathered face, unkempt long hair straggling out from a baseball cap. He is looking right at me, and I look right back.

He asks me something with “marines” in it. His speech is not slurred, but it is thick and stolid, with a heavy Native accent. He speaks again, enunciating very carefully. Am I in the Marines.

I say no.

He says he thought maybe I was.

I ask if he was.

Yes.

How long ago?

’85 to ’89.

Where was he stationed?

Camp Pendleton.

And then where?

Fort Benning.

The whole time?

“I been all around the world. I saw the sun rise in Japan. It doesn’t mean anything.”

The woman is calling out something, but I can’t understand her, and he is ignoring her.

At this point, I am thinking about the approximately ten minutes it will be before my bus comes. I ask more questions and sort out as best I can the answers.

It is difficult. Part of that is his speech. I do not think he is inebriated. But I wonder if I am hearing the cumulative damage of alcohol or drugs, or if he has mental issues, or is maybe simply street-stunned. Or all of the above.

Part of it is his story. His sentences may be hard to understand, but they’re coherent. His story is not. At one time, I hear he is Navajo. At another time, Apache.

He tells me the government quit paying him his veteran benefits. Later, he tells me he had the VA send all his benefits to his three children on the res.

He tells me he is waiting for his brother to come pick him up. When I ask, “Here?” he tells me nobody knows where he is, everybody thinks he’s back on the res.

At this point, the woman becomes agitated and wants to know why I’m asking all these questions. Am I with the government?

I explain I just want to hear his story.

His story then becomes he is a forgotten veteran. He went over to Afghanistan and killed a lot of people, and now that he’s back home and not killing, he’s of no use to them anymore. He’s already told me he was in from ’85 to ’89; we didn’t go into Afghanistan until 2001. That we know of, anyway.

The woman chimes in they’ve even cut off their food stamps.

He tells me he used to love America -- he thumps his heart with the palm of his right hand -- but he feels differently now. No one cares about veterans, he tells me.

The anger is quiet but unmistakable. It’s in his voice and his eyes.

After a long pause, he asks me if I have any spare change.

I admire the timing.

I do not and tell him so. I’m thinking if he tells me they are hungry, I will offer to take them back across the street to the Burger King and use my credit card to buy them something to eat. But he does not.

Instead, he holds my eyes for a second, then says quietly, “You tell a good story, too.”

A bus pulls up.

“Your bus is here.”

It’s the Red Line.

“Not my bus,” I tell him. I wish it were.

But he has already turned around and headed back to the bench where the woman is seated. She’s moved from the end of the bench to the middle, and I see what I would have taken for a spilled soft drink pooled under and out front of the place where she’d been sitting with her jeans half-down.

The Red Line pulls out, and the 157 pulls in right behind it. I feel like telling the driver he got here just in the nick of time. But I keep it to myself. It isn’t until we’ve gotten to Coronado Mall that I hear Johnny Cash singing “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”