Sunday, June 24, 2007

BUS STORY # 38 (We’re Together)

June 18, 2007
News Release - ABQ RIDE Security Sweep Yields Results
Officers Arrest 14 in First Two Weeks
ALBUQUERQUE-Mayor Martin Chávez and ABQ RIDE Director Greg Payne are pleased to announce that the transit security sweep has been a success in its early stages. In a two-week period, ABQ RIDE’s heightened security measures have resulted in 14 arrests and numerous citations . . . With bus ridership continuing to rise, Mayor Chávez and Director Payne recently announced an increase in security measures both on the buses and at bus stops throughout the city. APD and ABQ RIDE’s in-house security department were charged with cracking down on any illegal or dangerous behavior. Officers are currently riding buses and patrolling bus stops, sometimes working undercover.

I’m coming back from downtown to the office one afternoon on an almost empty Yale bus. Somewhere in the vicinity of Yale and Coal, we make a stop. A large Indian woman gets on, hands the driver a transfer, moves slowly to one of the side benches and drops to the seat. She is followed by another Indian, an older guy in jeans, denim shirt, baseball cap. He stands at the till searching his pockets. Then he calls to the woman who just sat down, “You got my pass?”

“I don’t have your pass.”

“I don’t have it. You have it?”

“I don’t have your pass.”

He starts rummaging through his pockets, then says, “Let me have your purse.”

“I don’t have your pass.”

“C'mon, folks,” the driver interjects. “I need a pass or a fare.”

The woman gets up and opens her purse. She’s wearing a long brown skirt and a partly untucked white blouse. She shows her open purse to the man. “See, I don’t have your pass.” Then she moves around the old man to the driver and says, “He had a pass. We both got passes. He lost his.”

“Sorry, but I need a pass or a fare or he’s gonna have to get off the bus.”

“You can’t make him get off the bus. He has a pass.”

The man continues to stand in the aisle. He’s not searching his pockets anymore. He looks befuddled.

“Ma’am, I’m gonna have to have a pass or a fare right now.”

“We’re not getting off the bus. We need to get to – “ I couldn’t make out the destination. She then turns and guides the man to the bench seat. They both sit down. The driver doesn’t say anything more. He starts driving again.

Sitting across from the couple is another, younger Indian woman. Besides being Indian, the only things the two women have in common are long black hair and blocky, black-frame glasses. The older woman’s hair is past her shoulders and looks like it’s at the windblown end of a perm. The younger woman’s hair is pinned up. She’s reading a book.

The older woman says something to the man. Then she says something to the woman across the aisle. I can’t make any of it out, and the woman across the aisle doesn’t acknowledge her. The older woman repeats whatever it was. The young woman looks up at her. “Are you talking to me?”

“I’m talking to you. You’re one of us. Who do you think you are?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You aren’t any better than us.”

“I didn’t say anything to you.”

“You think you’re better than us.”

“Look, I don’t even know you.”

The older woman says something I can’t fully make out, and I realize her speech is slurred. The light comes on. There’s been some afternoon drinking going on here. The younger woman starts to respond again, but the driver interrupts. “Ma’am, just ignore it. She’s not making any sense.” He says something else after that, but I can’t make it out. The younger woman disengages, looks back down at her book, but her body language tells me she’s agitated. The woman across the aisle is talking, but I can’t make out any of it. It seems she’s talking half to the woman across the aisle, half to the man beside her who may or may not be paying attention.

Although there was no bell, the bus pulls into the stop in front of the Transit Department. The doors open. I see three security folks moving quickly toward the bus from the front entrance of the building. Two are in brown uniforms, one in blue. One of the browns goes to the front of the bus, the one in blue to the rear. The third stands on the sidewalk midway between the doors. I realize the driver must have initiated the action, but I have no idea how or when. If he used a phone, I missed it.

The guy in blue enters the bus and says to the driver, “Which one?” He’s a tall, muscular guy with a crew cut and, I’m positive, also Native American. The woman stands up and says, “You can’t make us get off the bus. We paid our fare.” The man then stands up. The security guard takes the man by his shirt and half-lifts, half-walks him out the back door. I think of the wedding dance where a young girl stands on the shoes of her waltzing father. The woman stands in the aisle for a minute, then says, “OK, I’ll go. We’re together.” She gets off the bus through the rear door.

The bus driver stands up, steps into the aisle and faces the remaining three of us. He apologizes for the unpleasantness. Then he resumes the route. The young Indian woman exits two stops later. The driver apologizes to her once again. I think she’s still upset. I get off at my stop near the airport. I am, as they say, “processing.” My processors are grinding away.


Blogger ZS said...

This story reminds me of certain occasions when I went back to my village. I think it's the way that, if you've made something of yourself, people who belong to the same ethnic or geographical group as you tend to launch completely unprovoked attacks on you for it and accuse you of being "too clever" or thinking you're better than them.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Yes. And I can imagine how seeing one of your own who made good might remind you of all the ways you didn’t. I can imagine how that might feel like an ambush, at being surprised by this unanticipated reminder of your own failures and limitations. I can imagine how that might provoke an angry and irrational response.

I’m still enjoying my visits to Room 638, especially your own bus story, The Story of Sorrel. Thank you for that one.

5:54 AM  

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