Sunday, August 27, 2006

BUS STORY # 3 (Hey!)


For the first four weeks I rode the bus, I went to our facilities on the north side or the near northeast heights or downtown. When the time came to resume working at the office, I discovered taking the 6:48 a.m. No. 11 got me to my desk around 8:05 a.m. Now, my boss is not a stickler about time. She expects us to do our work, and she’s astute enough to hire folks who are going to voluntarily deliver more than the requisite 40 hours. Still, there is this little construct I have in my head that 8:00 a.m. is the start of the workday. Which means I feel compelled to put my lunch in the refrigerator, boot up and go right to work. So I switched to the 6:28 a.m., took the Rapid Ride to Yale, and caught the 7:15 a.m. Yale bus which gets me to my desk around 7:35 a.m. where I can check my personal email and “stand around the water cooler” discussing sports, politics and the weather with a clear conscience.

The “Yale bus” is really the Downtown-Airport bus (or the No. 50), but to the considerable knot of us who catch it where Yale and Central intersect and who work in the various offices and industrial complexes scattered along Yale between the UNM campus and the airport, it’s the “Yale bus.” Among the regulars are four blind folks. One of our stops is the New Mexico Commission For The Blind. I was initially puzzled when this stop was announced overhead, the bus pulled into the stop, and the blind passengers stayed sitting. I finally figured out they ride the bus to the airport and catch the Commission office on the backside so they don’t have to cross the busy street.

The bus itself is interesting. It’s an alternative fuel bus that runs on natural gas. It’s smaller, more like a trolley, with a continuous bench around the perimeter, so that everyone sits facing the aisle. There is a raised platform in the back, and that is where the non-handicapped and non-elderly passengers are supposed to go. The blind folks sit up front, of course.

One afternoon, an old blind guy with a white flattop and cane boarded the bus and went for a seat behind the driver occupied by a younger woman. “Hey, you’re in my seat!” he hollered, staring over her head. The woman jumped in her seat (so did I). She apologized, got up and moved down the bench several seats, then began laughing. I like to think her laughter came from the combined realizations that she really was sitting in the handicapped area, and with how deftly she had been played by this “helpless” old blind man. Like me, she was learning there’s more to riding the bus than just climbing aboard and sitting down for the ride.

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