Sunday, May 27, 2007

BUS STORY # 34 (Abel)

I began riding the bus a year ago this month. I met Abel* my first morning down at my stop. ABQ RIDE could not have arranged a better welcome. Abel told me how he’d been riding the bus for seven years, how convenient and dependable it was, and what wonderful people he’d met as fellow riders over the years. He introduced me to the driver, made sure I knew where to get off and when to pull the cord. I was impressed and grateful, and I wrote about this experience in my very first bus story.

Some time later, I got the opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated the way he’d put me at ease that morning. He told me how one of the regulars had done the same for him his first morning. “I didn’t know anything,” he told me. “I didn’t know how the fare was handled, if I was supposed to sit in some designated place, how to signal when to get off – nothing.” He said a woman had taken him under her wing and shown him the ropes. “I’ve never forgotten her,” he said.

I ended up having to take an earlier bus to accommodate my work schedule, and so I only saw Abel infrequently. Whenever I was going somewhere other than my office, I could leave later, and Abel was always down there waiting. This past December, when ABQ RIDE changed the Lomas schedule, I’d sometimes catch him on the afternoon bus up the hill whenever the connections were on schedule. We talked mostly about the impact of the schedule change on ourselves and our co-riders these last few months. When I told him I’d decided to write a letter about the schedule, he asked if I’d send him a copy of the letter. I sent him the draft. He made a couple of good suggestions.

Once we crossed Juan Tabo, he’d pull out his cell phone and let his family know it was time to come pick him up at the bus stop. He told me he used to be able to walk up to home, but recently found the climb just too steep. He always offered me a ride, and I always thanked him and declined.

I knew Abel was an accountant and worked for the County Assessor’s Office. He hadn’t always been an accountant. Once, he told me about his early days working for a bank downtown. He was a loan officer, and his supervisor called him in one day to tell him they were worried about many of the loans he was making. It seems that Abel’s clientele consisted of a large number of recently single mothers. These were deemed risky loans. But Abel believed he had a pretty good sense about people. He was sympathetic to their plight, and he persisted in making loans to this particular demographic. As he anticipated, he was again called into the office. This time, he was prepared. He had a list of all his clients and their payment records, and he had another list of bank clients consisting of males with good credit ratings. Guess who had the better payment record? He told me they left him alone after that. “I guess I was kind of a rebel back in those days,” he concluded, chuckling.

Abel didn’t look like a rebel. He was neat as a pin – pretty much what you’d expect an accountant to look like. Always a tie, of course, and always slacks (as opposed to pants). He was partial to black and white. Perfectly dressed for subversion, it now occurs to me.

Abel retired last month. He invited me to a retirement breakfast party at Weck’s just north of the Lomas-Juan Tabo intersection, and he asked me to pass the invitation to Maddie,* another regular rider and one of my fellow employees. I ended up picking her up at her regular stop, and taking us both to work after the breakfast. We expected to be surrounded by county employees. Surprise: Abel’s party consisted of bus riders and drivers he’d made friends with over the past eight years. It was amazing.

Abel was also there with Rita,* his wife of 41 years, and his son and daughter and their families. Many coffee toasts ensued. I saluted him for being ABQ RIDE’s best ever PR guy. One of the old riders was already retired, and Abel asked him for advice. “It’s easy, Abel. You make a list of all the household chores, divide them up by the number of days in the week, and start your days with that daily list. Be sure to cook a dinner or two as well. Once you’ve done all that, you’ll find your wife will let you do anything you want with all the rest of your time.” Abel asked him if this routine made him miss work. We all laughed. “Not at all,” he answered, “and you won’t, either, Abel.” It’ll be us who will do the missing.


*Real name changed.


Blogger John said...

This is a fantastic blog! I just discovered it a few hours ago (I typed in "abq ride" on a Google blog search) and I've read all your posts. It's so enjoyable.

I'm a student at UNM and live near the campus. I don't own a car, not really to combat global warming but because I can't imagine having to deal with buying a car, paying insurance, covering the gas, and maintaining it when I doubt I would get much use out of it (so in an ironic way, I don't own a car because of convenience). So I just walk and occasionally when I want to go somewhere besides UNM I take one of the two routes on Central.

Anyway, I really enjoy your blog and will be checking back for more bus stories. :)

10:44 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

John: what a nice comment. Thank you. I like your take on the “inconvenience” of owning a car. I’d be happy to do without one myself. Our public transportation system isn’t quite there yet, but I appreciate the city’s efforts in that direction.

9:24 PM  

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