Sunday, April 27, 2008

BUS STORY # 81 (Suffer The Children)

“Hey, you kids, you shouldn’t be crossing the intersection against the traffic like that. You need to be more careful.”

The driver’s voice pulls me out of my magazine. We’re at the corner of Lomas and Eubank, and four kids have just boarded the bus. They look to be within range of junior high.

They’re in high spirits. They’re on spring break, and they’re also enjoying the first, long-awaited, glorious days of spring. They’re in shorts and T-shirts and tank tops. The lead kid is the biggest, though not the tallest, of the four. He’s got a blue T-shirt with the sleeves cut off and “Monzano Wrestling” written across the front. The last kid is the smallest. He’s carrying a skateboard.

They move boisterously down the aisle. The kid in the lead pauses by my seat, looks me in the eye, and asks in a theatrical voice, “And how are you doing?” Then he pats me on the shoulder and moves on to the back of the bus. The second kid says “Hi,” working much harder to be comfortable with what he’s doing than the first kid, and he also pats me on the shoulder and moves on. The third kid doesn’t say anything. He pauses, looks toward the back of the bus, then touches my shoulder and moves on. The fourth kid just goes by and grazes my shoulder and keeps his eyes fixed straight ahead.

At first, I feel irritated by this impudence. That’s quickly overtaken by wry amusement. These are kids, and this is the dinky best they can do at being obnoxious. In this day and age, I ought to feel grateful.

I hear them carrying on in the back. Kids’ voices. And suddenly, I am transported back to grade school in 1958. I know all four of these kids by name, first and last. And now, half a century later, here they are once again, riding my homeward bound bus. Imagine that!

Pretty soon, the F-word pokes out of the vocal roughhousing, followed by a second and third variation on the original. You can just hear the newness of it in their mouths, the weighing of each variation, each placement, each emphasis. As ZZ Top might say, they’re working it like a new boy would.

There is also the bus. It’s a test environment complete with live adults who do not know either them or their parents. If any of the live adults are disturbed by this prepubescent workout, they’re acting remarkably blasé about it.

With one exception.

“I told you kids last time if you didn’t behave yourselves, I was gonna put you off my bus. I want you all off at the next stop.”

In the back, subdued voices, at least one expressing real regret. “See what you’ve done?”

The bus crosses the intersection and pulls over to the stop just past Eubank.

“C’mon, kids, off the bus.”

“Can we have another chance?”

I am overwhelmed by the innocence here. It really could be half a century ago.

“I warned you last time. C’mon, now, off the bus.”

The kid with the skateboard moves to the door, but he pauses when he realizes no one is behind him. He looks back, his face a mixture of frustration and pleading. He starts back to the back, then stops.

“All four of you,” from the driver.

“C’mon, let’s go.” Almost a whisper.

The skateboard kid turns back to the door and pushes it open. He looks back, and stops with the door pushed open. Another kid comes to the door, and they both step off the bus.

“You kids need to get off the bus right now,” calls out the driver.

The third kid heads to the door, turns around and calls back, “C’mon.” The kid in the blue sleeveless T-shirt moves reluctantly to the door. He looks sullen. Then with a bang of the doors, they’re both outside. All four of them are milling around outside on the sidewalk and looking lost.

The bus pulls away from the stop.

“Sorry about that, folks,” calls out the driver.

If any of the live adults are happy about the intervention, they’re acting remarkably blasé about it.


My wife suggested I explain to you, as I did to her, that I took the photo at the top of this story one morning on my ride into work. I’d never seen this particular bus poster before, and I was intrigued by the thought that someone believed it might make a difference. I took the photo with the premonition it would be perfect for some future bus story. The story occurred that afternoon on my way home.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

BUS STORY # 80 (Shorts 5)

At the inbound Louisiana Rapid Ride stop, a fellow boards and stops on the first step. He tells the bus driver he left his bike on the bus just ahead of us, and he wants to know if he can board without paying the fare to go after it. The bus driver tells him he should go across the street and wait for the bus to come around. “So I should take the bus across the street?” “No, no,” the driver corrects him, “just wait there for the bus with your bike on it to come around.” He mulls this over. “Ok,” he says, then climbs aboard. The driver just stares at him for a minute, then shakes his head, closes the front door, and drives on. When I get off at Yale, I see the biker perched on the edge of his seat, eyes fixed on the front windshield, keeping a sharp lookout for the bus ahead of us – the one with his bike still in its rack.


On the back of the T-shirt of a heavily tattooed older guy in oversized Hard Knocks shorts waiting for the Yale bus:

“Why is it that when I shine
You continue to hate me?
If you would pay attention to my
Actions, then you would see
That everything I do reflects
Who I am
Apparently, your blind to the fact
And refuse to acknowledge me
For who I am
When you see me the first thing
That should come to your mind is – PLAYER
Because you gotta call it like you see fit.”


I’m on the Yale bus and headed for the airport. It’s the first run of the day and folks are quiet. The “Stop Requested” bell goes off. As the bus starts to pull over, a passenger calls out, “Sorry, bus driver, it’s the next stop.” He gets off at the next stop. A few minutes later, another “Stop Requested” bell goes off. Once again, as the bus starts to pull over, another passenger calls out, “It’s the next stop, driver. Sorry.” One of the several blind folks who are regular riders on this route pipes up: “And these are the people who can see where they’re going!” She brings down the house, and no one is laughing harder than the man who pulled the cord too early. A short while later, the “Stop Requested” bell goes off again. After the laughter subsides, the driver calls back “Are you sure this time?” The responses vary: “Ignore it!” “It’s the next one!” And so forth. She stops, of course, and if the rider disembarking is a stop early, he’s not letting on.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

BUS STORY # 79 (This Week In:)

This is the seventh and, currently, last link featured on the Bus Stories blog. Unlike the previous six links, this link has no permanent site address. It changes weekly, and where it links depends on where the story is. It usually posts as “This Week In,” but on any given week it could post as “This Week (Last Year) In” or “Last Month In” or “A Long Time Ago In: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” – you get the idea. This week it happens to be “This Week (A Year Ago) In: Wolverhampton, England.”

I’m indebted to a good friend up in the Boston area for providing the inspiration for this link. When I began riding the bus a couple of years ago, Bob began sending me clippings of bus-related stories from the Boston Globe or Herald or the New York Times (or the late, great Weekly World News). A particularly fine article in the NYT about the restoration of the St. Charles streetcar line in New Orleans prompted me to find a way to post this and other stories.

I’ve found stories ranging from no-fare, solar-powered buses in Australia to speed-dating Valentines buses in Arizona, from glow-in-the-dark bus wraps in Atlanta to a bus driver in Germany who ordered a rider off his bus because her sexy top was distracting him from his driving. There’s a wonderful world of bus stories out there, and I take pleasure in sharing them with others as well as enjoying them myself.

Since adding this link in January, I’ve been developing my search skills. But I certainly welcome suggestions. Please feel free.

Next week: back to some Albuquerque bus stories!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

BUS STORY # 78 (The Subway Chronicles)

My daughter introduced me to The Subway Chronicles. She did this by sending me a story about a father introducing his daughter to the subway. It’s a wonderful essay about the subway, about New York City, about an attentive and sometimes worried father, and a daughter for whom all the real world – even the world of the subway – is a place of wonder.

I’ve linked to Featured Essays because this is where the heart of this site really is. The essays are written by different people and appear monthly. (There are gaps. At first, I assumed submissions for a given month didn’t make the grade, and so nothing was published. Later, I discovered the marketing of the book, The Subway Chronicles, and found essays in the table of contents not found on the Featured Essays page. I’m guessing the site got raided so we’d buy the book. I’m disappointed I can’t view Francine Prose’s essay on line.)

The essays are wide ranging, linked by the common thread of the subway experience and the intertwined experience of living in NYC. Still, and perhaps not all that surprising, the human experience explored in these essays is anything but remote from the rest of us, regardless of where we live or how we get around.

Here are a couple of sentences from Hideous Things My Child Witnessed, by Michael Ahn. And, yes, this is the story my daughter sent me.

“The day we saw the Pus Man and his brother was the day I briefly considered using other modes of transportation around New York City . . . The truth is that Emily and I share an enjoyment of extremes and as a four year-old, she is shameless about what interests her.”

Hidious Things My Child Witnessed

Next week: This Week In.


The marvelous photo at the top of this story is posted with the kind permission of carmnyc. This particular photo is from his collection, The City In Motion. You can see this collection, as well as all of carmnyc’s work on Flickr, at: