Sunday, August 13, 2006

BUS STORY # 1 (Imagine That!)


I suppose I had stereotyped my own neighborhood. When I headed out the front door to catch the bus my first day, I didn’t expect to run in to any of my neighbors. To my great surprise, there were two other guys waiting at my stop. They didn’t look like environmentalists and they didn’t look like they didn’t have cars. They looked, well, pretty much like me. They introduced themselves. Abel* is a numbers cruncher for the County Assessor’s office, and he’s been riding downtown to work for seven years. Dennis* is an attorney whose wife is getting her degree at UNM. He’s been riding since February, which is when he moved to Albuquerque. The way they welcomed me to the bus rider fellowship made me feel like I was a visitor at a Texas Southern Baptist church service.

They greeted the bus driver by name, then introduced me, adding, “It’s his first time. Be gentle.” This was the 6:48 a.m. Lomas bus (the No. 11 to the veterans), a milk run, with stops every two blocks. Just about everyone who got on knew almost everyone else on board. Work stories, family stories, and a lot of good-natured teasing got tossed back and forth. I was amazed at having stumbled over this little commuter community. I heard a Tom Waits lyric run through my head: “There’s a world going on/Underground.”

The next morning, the three of us were waiting at the bus stop expanding our introductions when Abel realized the bus was late. “I have to apologize for the bad impression this must be making on you," he said to me. "I just can’t believe this is happening on your second day. But the bus is hardly ever late. Really.” About that time his cell phone rang. After an “OK” and “thanks,” he said that was a rider upstream reporting the bus had just gotten to her stop and was running about 10 minutes late. Then he phoned someone else downstream to pass it on. A bus rider phone relay team. Imagine that!

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*Real name changed.

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