Sunday, February 03, 2008

BUS STORY # 70 (Perfect Timing)

When I open the front door to leave for work, my wife asks me what the weather’s like. “It’s cold,” I call inside from the porch, “but not bitter.” As I head down the driveway to the sidewalk, I realize why I was wrong: the porch blocks the wind.

By the time I reach the bus stop, I'm done in by the weather. I really, really want the bus to be on time this morning. Our current drivers have been remarkably punctual so far. Statistically speaking, I feel optimistic. From the Murphy’s Law perspective, I’m worried this will be the morning I’m left out in the cold. I look up the street and see the familiar illuminated route destination sign over headlights bouncing over a speed bump. I feel warmer already.

I transfer at Wyoming and Lomas. When I get to the Rapid Ride stop, the sign says eight minutes until the next bus. It’s 6:47 a.m. I estimate I’ll be waiting at least 10 minutes down at Yale and Central which has to be one of the coldest spots in Albuquerque before sunrise.

There are four of us at the Wyoming stop this morning. Three of us move behind one of the concrete supports in an attempt to block the wind. The fourth stays upwind to smoke. The irony is he’s being thoughtful enough to smoke away from the group while the wind carries the smoke and smell right to us. But the cutting wind is too much for even a smoker. He stubs out the cigarette and joins the rest of us huddled behind the support.

The sign says the bus will be here in two minutes when a woman rolls up to the stop in an electric wheelchair. She is an old woman, all bundled up so all you can see are her glasses and oxygen tubing under her nose. I’m not thinking of how the cold makes even more miserable the already arduous process of being an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman using the bus at this early hour of the morning. I’m thinking instead of the extra four or five minutes her boarding and securing will require. On any other morning, this would be like hitting a traffic light on red where you normally sail through on green. On this morning, however, I’m thinking that’s an extra four or five minutes I won’t be standing around down at Yale. I’m feeling warmer already.

The Rapid Ride is full this morning. Large numbers of boarders stream in at Louisiana and again at San Mateo, all of them looking relieved to be out of the cold. But at San Mateo, the bus doesn’t pull out when everyone is aboard. The exit doors open. Then close. Then open. Then close. Then open. The driver walks to the back of the bus. I can’t see because there are people standing in the aisle, but I’m pretty sure from past experiences one of the exit doors is stuck, and he’s trying to close it manually.

He returns to the driver’s seat. The doors close. Then open. He walks to the back, returns to the front. The doors close. Then open.

“You want me to push ‘em?” someone yells from the back.

“I already tried that,” the driver shouts back. He steps out the front door and moves to the back. I’m looking at the clock and thinking if I miss the Yale bus, it’ll be another 30 minutes before the next one. I’m feeling colder again. A Rapid Ride pulls past us from behind. “That’s a bad sign,” says my seatmate.

The driver reappears through the front door and takes his seat. The doors close. The bus begins to move. There’s a ripple of relieved approval, but no cheers, no applause. It’s too early and too cold.

I look up at the digital clock in the front of the bus. We have five minutes to make the Yale connection. My seatmate is looking at the clock with me.

“I think I’m gonna miss my connection this morning,” he says.

“I’m worried about mine, too,” I reply. “Where’s your connection?”

“Yale and Central,” he replies.

“Mine, too.” He’s not a regular, not on the 7:20 a.m. Yale, anyway.

The bus slows, then blows right by the Nob Hill stop. No one is waiting there, and no one on the bus pulled the cord.

“That’ll help,” I say. We have three minutes.

As we roll past Yale and into the UNM stop, we can see people at the Yale stop. We have a shot! The bus keeps rolling right on past the stop. A chorus of “heys!” comes from everywhere. The bus stops hard. “Sorry,” the driver calls out. We spill out of the bus and, this time, I don’t go to the intersection and wait for the light. I cut across Central and against the wind and dodge the cars just like everyone else. We get to the sidewalk and see the Yale bus pull up for the red light. Unbelievable! We’re really gonna make it! I look back at the Rapid Ride just before the corner store cuts it off from view. It isn’t moving, and I know the door is stuck again. Less than a minute later, I’m standing on the southbound Yale, packed with warm bodies.

Here’s the story: if it hadn’t been for the old woman in the wheelchair and the stuck door, I would have waited out in the raw, wet cold at least twice as long as I ended up actually waiting. It was the perfect morning for things to go wrong.


Blogger John said...

Murphy's Law in your favor? :P

6:50 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Just lucky this particular morning, John.

9:04 PM  
Blogger jody said...

My friend Christa has a pair of warm up pants she wears over her work slacks for mornings just like this...then she is toasty warm...don't want you to be cold.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Jody, thanks for the tip and your concern. Seems the two most vulnerable places are my face and my feet -- my face when the cold wind cuts, and my feet when the temps drop into the teens. But I like the idea of the warm-up pants. Any suggestions for the feet?

8:48 PM  

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