Sunday, April 08, 2007

BUS STORY # 28 (In Which My Wife Rides The Bus)

Although I’ve never tried to convert my wife to riding the bus, she’s felt compelled to explain why she remains firmly committed to her car. Her case is solid. While the current schedule can get her to work before her shift begins at 7:00 a.m., it can’t accommodate the fact that her shift rarely ends at “quitting time.” Even if she gets out on time, it can’t get her any closer to home than a seven-tenths of a mile uphill walk in the dark; can’t get her home without putting her on a street-light-illuminated corner for a connecting bus for up to 60 minutes. Not exactly the circumstances in which a solitary woman wants to put herself in this day and age.

Which is not to say if ABQ RIDE addressed all her concerns, she would then ride the bus. Right now, she can sleep until 6:00 a.m. on workdays. A bus schedule that would work would push that time back to 5:00 a.m. I suspect this would be the hardest sell of all.

Still, I think my stories have made her curious about the experience, so when I invited her to join me for a daylong conference at the new and swanky Embassy Suites and proposed we take the bus, she asked, “What time would we have to leave?”

“We’d have to catch the first Lomas bus, the one I normally catch at 6:13 a.m. That would get us there around 7:25 a.m. – we could get breakfast in the 20 minutes before the sign-in begins. It’s a straight shot down Lomas – no transfers, and it’ll drop us practically at the front door.”




“Are you sure? We could still drive.”

“No, let’s take the bus.”

We took the bus. Worked perfectly. We even had the incredibly good fortune of catching a bus back which was one of the few that still serviced our neighborhood. There were no great adventures, but there was a pretty good slice of bus life for her to share. On the way in, a young woman with a four-year-old sitting in front of us shared her academic strategies, her knowledge and experience of negotiating the bureaucratic maze of student grants, and a critique of various day-care and pre-school options in town. We could see she was determined and focused, and we concluded this was exactly the kind of person we were happy had these sorts of government-funded opportunities.

On the way home, I saw one of the morning Yale bus irregulars, an older woman with a pronounced limp and a cane. She was standing in the median when our bus pulled in, and she called to us to ask the driver to wait. He did. The traffic was heavy, and she was slow. It took a while. When she boarded, she thanked the driver, then she thanked us, then collapsed heavily onto the seat behind the driver. She then announced to the young woman across the aisle that her husband was finally out of his coma. Then she rolled up her right pant leg to display a swollen, reddened lower leg. “Cellulitis,” she explained. My wife gave me the elbow and nodded in concurrence. The young woman advised her to keep off the leg as much as possible, and to wrap it in a warm, wet towel and elevate it when she got home. My wife was amazed anyone would offer such specific advice for such an obviously serious medical condition. “But I guess she can’t be sued,” she concluded.

An old, blind Indian with a cane worked his way down the aisle from the back of the bus. It looked to us like the cane was for decoration since he used his body as his primary sensory contact. He bumped into seats, passengers, poles, the back of the driver’s seat. “Not yet,” said the driver. The Indian tried to sit down on top of the woman with the bad leg. She apologized and with some difficulty moved over a seat. He got up a couple more times before he reached his stop. We held our breath as he lurched toward the stairs. The driver got up and grabbed his arm, and helped him down and out of the bus.

After the bus resumed its journey, the man sitting directly across the aisle from where the Indian had been sitting told the driver how he had helped him earlier in the day do his shopping at Smith’s, then to cross the street and board the bus. Chance encounter? Regular routine? We don’t know but wish we did.

Our driver waited at two stops for a couple of minutes explaining to us he was a little ahead of schedule. One of the passengers called out, “Shucks, I’m a little behind in my schedule.” That got a few chuckles. Our driver also waited a couple of times on passengers who were running trying to catch the bus. My wife remarked we had a compassionate bus driver, and I agreed. When we got off at our stop, we exited through the front door and I stopped and asked him his name. “Lorenzo,” he told me. The next morning, I called in a compliment.


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