Sunday, September 30, 2007

BUS STORY # 52 (The State Fair: Ralph’s Bus Story # 1)

Ralph* is a numbers guy working for one of the local health plans. We both work in the same office building. He usually boards the Lomas bus somewhere between Manzano High School and Juan Tabo. He introduced me to an alternative to taking the Rapid Ride to Yale back in July. If we hit Wyoming before 6:50 a.m., we stay on the Lomas bus, get off in front of UNM Hospital, and walk across the UNM campus to Central and Yale where we only have to wait a few minutes for the Yale bus. When Ralph rides, I follow his lead. Otherwise, I take the Rapid Ride.

The walk across campus is like walking through a park. Much of the architecture is Pueblo Revival-style, the sidewalks meander among the buildings, the landscaping is lovely, and trees make the walk shady and cool. We even pass the legendary Duck Pond before entering the broad Chaco-like concourse that eventually lets us out into the abrupt rudeness of Central.

“I’ve only missed the Yale bus twice,” Ralph tells me. Sometimes, he explains, there are more stops than usual, or traffic snarls, or even the occasional flash flood. This morning, on the approach to Wyoming, Ralph studies his watch. “Hmmm. I think we ought to take the Rapid Ride this morning.” The RR is turning onto Wyoming from I-40 as the Lomas bus passes through the intersection. We exit the Lomas, hustle across the street, and get to the RR stop the same time as it does.

“We’ve missed you all week,” Ralph tells the driver. He’s referring to the fact that the Lomas bus has been running on time and he hasn’t needed to catch the RR.

“It’s the State Fair,” the driver answers.

“You mean the traffic?” I ask, skeptically. The traffic is a mess there, but not at this hour.

“No. I mean the city deciding to pull a bunch of buses off their regular schedules to service the fair and not telling anyone and just leaving them hanging out on the street wondering what happened to their bus. They didn’t post it on the website or nothin’ – just this little bitty notice in the back of the paper one day.”

The driver is obviously feeling hot about the matter. I tell Ralph this is the first I’ve heard this story.

“It’s true,” he replies, and he tells me his story.

Just last week, he was waiting for the outbound Lomas home. It didn’t come. He waited over 30 minutes for the next one. When it arrived, one of his fellow boarders asked the driver what had happened to the earlier bus. The driver replied it had broken down.

Ralph had heard rumors, and he decided he’d run a bluff. He told the driver he’d called ABQ RIDE on his cell, and they told him the bus had been pulled for State Fair duty. The driver looked surprised. He asked Ralph if they really told him that. When Ralph said, “Yup,” he replied they weren’t supposed to be telling riders that.

Later that morning, I checked the ABQ RIDE website. There was a fine, fully informative entry on the State Fair Park and Ride program, but not one word about where the buses and drivers were coming from or the impact it would have on regular bus service. What else can a mere mortal do when confronted with the multitudes and all he’s got is five loaves and two buses? Why, get them to the State Fair pronto where they can get their chile relleno corn dogs and deep-fried pickles! The appearance of a miracle, of course.


*Real name changed.


Blogger abqdave said...

My partner and I decided to take the bus to Uptown for late lunch and some shopping yesterday. The 2:24 didn't show up, and the Lomas line runs only every 35 minutes on Saturday, so I decided to call customer service to ask what happened.

As I was about to call, I thought about your State Fair missing bus story. I thought they would tell me the bus broke down...which indeed they did. Sure, you liar, I thought to myself, as they told me they were trying to get another bus to fill-in.

As we were waiting we struck up a conversation about the bus not coming with a man I have seen occasionally at the Turner and Lomas stop. He has always had a large-ish back pack with him, and I have seen him walk from the stop into Open Space, so i guessed he might live in a tent up there.

He said he has lived in Albuquerque for 27 years and related stories about the growth of the city and the strains that has caused, including on public transportation. He also said he works with the homeless, and how many agencies are run by far right religious organizations. He then went into a discussion about this year's political race.

Once the 3:02 bus came and we all got on, I thought about the whole situation. As annoying as waiting an extra 35 minutes was, it was a beautiful Saturday. We talked to a man I had been curious about, saw a rabbit munching on a neighbor's lawn, and said hi to a few people walking their dogs. I wouldn't have done any of this if we had just hopped in the car and driven down. All in all, I am glad the bus did not show up.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

I have more than one bus story I would never have had if the bus had shown up on time.

A word about missing buses: I saw three buses broken down last week. I’ve heard drivers talk about bus breakdowns which they attribute to the buses not being serviced as regularly as they should because of the increased ridership demand and a shortage of mechanics. I’ve heard a few other, second-hand stories as well, but for now, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt when they tell me a bus broke down.

Thanks again for a great post.

5:35 AM  

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