Sunday, August 19, 2007

BUS STORY # 46 (Whole Lotta Kickin’ Goin’ On)

Rosanne Cash was playing for free. More accurately, the city was treating us to a free concert. This was part of an ongoing summer celebration called Albuquerque Summerfest, a city-sponsored giant block party down on Civic Plaza. The price was right, and my friend Paul and I made plans to go.

I arrived at his place and he had some parking advice. Hmmm. Parking downtown on a summer weekend event night. I had an idea of my own.

“We could just drive up to the Park and Ride and take the bus in.”

I sensed a little reluctance. It’s not because Paul doesn’t care about his carbon footprint. He’s been walking and biking for some time now. He’s the kind of guy who believes if you think something is a problem, you should do something about it. He thinks global warming is a problem.

“How late does the bus run?”

“Let’s google it.”

Turned out for summer weekends, the Rapid Ride’s last trip out of downtown is 2:36 a.m. We’d be hours asleep in our beds by then.

“Well, I still think I’d rather take the car . . .”

His eye caught the streaming video of one of the many Live Earth concerts being staged this particular Saturday: 07/07/07. Al Gore was beating the drums with the Smashing Pumpkins. “On second thought, considering the day, maybe we should take the bus.”

“Hey, maybe we’ll get a bus story,” I added.

He suggested maybe that was my real motive all along.

“You sound like my wife,” I kidded back.

The bus came about two minutes after we arrived. Ten minutes later, still sitting in the bus at the Park and Ride, we had a bus story.

Outside our window, on the platform, we saw two guys in each other’s faces. They were pretty much the same size. One guy had short, sort of spiky orange-blond hair, an off-white Notre Dame T-shirt, and baggy black pants with more zippers than a backpack. The other guy had longish black hair, a blue short-sleeve sports shirt hanging untucked over dark pants.

We could hear voices but not words. There was a lot of gesturing. It looked serious. One of the passengers asked the driver if he charged extra for the entertainment.

The blond guy came over to the front door of the bus and told the driver to call the cops. Then he whirled around and told the other guy he was gonna get it if he didn’t shut up. A woman on the platform approached the blond guy with her cell phone out. She eventually returned from wherever she came, and the two guys were face to face again.

It looked a little less like it would end in a fight this time, but it was still intense. Then the blond guy came back to the front door. “You tell the cops what happened when they get here. You saw what happened.”

“I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on back there. I’m not getting in the middle of this,” the bus driver replied. The blond guy turned and called out, “The cops are on their way, and you’re gonna be in trouble.”

A squad car pulled in. The blond guy was there to greet it. The other guy backed on down the platform. The cop got out and stood face to face with the blond guy. The blond guy used a lot of gestures, including a kicking gesture. He used that a couple of times.

The cop went over to the other guy. They both returned to the squad car where - whoa! - the cop cuffed the guy.

Paul and I tried to put the story together. A cop wouldn’t cuff one guy on the hearsay testimony of another. He hadn’t checked his computer, so it’s not like he found out the other guy was wanted for something. Maybe the other guy was drunk. We also figured from the earlier exchange between the blond guy and the driver that the fight must have started on the bus and spilled out onto the platform when the bus pulled into the Park and Ride.

A second squad car arrived. A second cop, a woman with a blonde ponytail, got out. The blond guy began telling his story again. He repeated all his gestures, including the kicking one.

“Well, we know one thing for sure,” Paul said. “There was a lot of kicking going on.”

The bus pulled out shortly afterwards. We got downtown without incident and in plenty of time, but the concert got rained out. The storm came in quickly from the north with lots of lightning and a burst of wind. We were standing under the portico at the Alvarado Transportation Center when the rain came down.

We found out later we would have caught an abbreviated show if we’d taken refuge in the underground garage and waited a half-hour or so, but by that time, we were heading home on the Rapid Ride, watching people soaked to the skin boarding the bus. Maybe it was that there was enough rain to soak you to the skin. Or maybe it was that so many were sharing this rare Albuquerque experience. Maybe it was just Saturday night. Whatever it was, it felt kind of like a party there on the Rapid Ride.


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