Sunday, November 11, 2007

BUS STORY # 58 (Reindeer Man)

There’s only one guy at the bus stop when I arrive. He looks a lot like Tom Waits circa Closing Time, with a Pirates of the Caribbean sweatshirt, black pants, and black and white basketball shoes. He’s also wearing earphones and bopping with closed eyes to whatever he’s listening to. The earphones are sideways, so the strap that normally fits across the top of the head is resting instead on the back of his neck. That, I know, is because of the antlers.

That’s what I’m calling them, anyway, even though they poke out individually from all over his head. He’s pulled up and twisted strands of hair together, dyed them Christmas green, then jelled them so they stand up some six-to-eight inches, segmented like antlers. Or branches. Maybe he’s actually wrapped his hair around tree branches. There’s at least a dozen of them. I’m thinking he could be a character from A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream when his name comes to me: Reindeer Man.

He opens his eyes, sees me on the other side of the stop, asks me for the time. I tell him the time. He launches into an editorial about how we’ve grown into a city but still have a small town bus system. He’s supposed to open the shop at 7:00 a.m., and there’s no way the current bus schedules can get him there in time.

He works at a tattoo parlor. I figure the antlers work just fine there.

The buses also don’t run nearly late enough, he continues. They close up as early as the restaurants here. We’re not like real cities, he says. I’m thinking how the only way to use the bus after 8:00 p.m. is to use the Park and Ride and hope the Rapid Ride goes where you want to be.

What we really need, he continues, is a light rail system like the one they have in Portland. You ever been to Portland, he asks. I have, but I haven’t seen the light rail system there. Just read about it on a couple of sites reporting on public transportation here in town. I tell him we tried to do just that.

He looks surprised. When was that, he asks. Just a few months ago. I explain the mayor was pushing for light rail here, but there was a lot of push back both from the city council and from citizens who didn’t see the point in duplicating a current bus route with a light rail, or who weren’t all that keen on spending that kind of money on public transportation. It was controversial, and the mayor reluctantly backed down, at least for now.

This is such a hick town, he comments. Then he speculates with the mayor now running for the U.S. Senate, light rail for Albuquerque may not see the light of day for a long, long time. He’s got a point, I tell him.

Then he asks me if I’ve heard about the new buses. Seems six of the first seven arrived with transmissions that don’t work. One of them didn’t even have the passenger seats bolted down. They’re running the one that works so people can see what they look like and get the impression they’re being incrementally introduced into the system. No word on the fate of the remaining 51 which were supposed to be on the streets last month.

I express genuine amazement. He assures me it’s true, he’s knows somebody who works in the garage. He says the company is telling the city they’re gonna have to fly out a specialist at the city’s expense to fix the transmissions. He figures the news is being suppressed because of “Mayor Marty’s” bid for the Senate seat. “But it’ll all come out in the wash. Just a matter of time.”

He’s right about something getting out, fact or otherwise. I’m telling myself not only is this just a street rumor, it’s a rumor from a guy in green antlers. What could the odds possibly be?

A cursory web search netted three blogging entries which, taken together, report the first bus arrived with transmission problems. (One blogger heard the bus wasn’t able to go over 35 mph.) It was “sent to Allison Transmission” for repairs. (Allison Transmission is headquartered in Indianapolis, but has over 1500 certified distributors and dealers around the world. Three of those are in Albuquerque.) According to the November 1 Albuquerque Tribune, “The first bus is rotating among different routes, and another five buses are coming in by the end of the week, [ABQ RIDE director, Greg] Payne said. All 58 should be running by mid-January, he said.” No mention of transmission problems.



Blogger abqdave said...

Ah, if only to have hair to dye green and make into a horn...but I digress.

I asked a bus driver tonight about the faulty transmission rumors. He said he hadn't heard that, he had only seen one bus in so far, and that ABQRide had to do a lot of 'finishing' on them...attaching bike racks, putting in the fare box, etc.

I saw with dread the notice of services changes for December yesterday, but couldn't get close enough to see if any of my usual routes were on the hit list. I read it today...all seem minor changes, and none impact #11 Lomas, #317 Kirtland/CNM, or the Rapid Ride red line. Hooray!

6:43 PM  

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