Sunday, May 25, 2008

BUS STORY # 85, Part 1 (The DVD)

It’s an early morning workday. I’m waiting for the bus at my home stop when a car pulls up. There’s a couple in the car. They’re talking. I’m thinking they can’t possibly be lost, and I’m just starting to run through the possibilities of where they might be getting ready to ask me directions to when I realize the woman is in the driver’s seat. Sure enough, the passenger door opens and the man gets out. His wife is dropping him off at the bus stop.

He's wearing a black polo shirt and blue jeans, and he's carrying a clipboard. I catch the red ABQ RIDE logo on his shirt.

"You work for ABQ RIDE?"

He does. He's a data specialist. His regular job is gathering rider stats and feeding them to the Department of Transportation. But today, he's evaluating a new DVD that premiers this morning on the new 700 series buses.

That DVD screen suspended from the ceiling behind the driver is one of the first things we'd noticed about the interior of the new buses. The drivers weren't sure what the deal was, and the riders had moments of fun making suggestions. By now, we'd quit thinking about it.

"So," I say, "what's the DVD all about?"

Turns out he's not sure. He's heard several things, but nothing definite. Like it runs for 90 minutes. Like it might have advertising on it -- "more badly needed revenue" for the municipal transportation system.

He's also heard it might feature local candidates for office talking about the issues.

"You're kidding," I respond.

"Just what I've heard."

"You mean like public transportation, or water management -- stuff like that?"

He speculates it may be something along the line of voter education on the issues facing the city.

"Wrong approach," I tell him. He looks at me with slightly raised eyebrows.

"You need to be telling us who wears a flag pin and who doesn’t. And who their pastors are – maybe some juicy sound bites from some sermons.”

He's grinning now. He thinks the city will probably leave that to the news media.

When the bus arrives, he boards and sits in the front seat opposite the driver. The screen is dark. He asks the driver why the DVD isn't playing. The driver says it was already playing when he boarded the bus this morning.

"It ran the whole time I was on I-40," he continues. "It ran till I got to Tramway, then it quit."

"It's supposed to loop. You have a key?" he asks the driver.


The data guy pulls out his cell phone and punches in some numbers.

It’s beginning to dawn on me that it doesn’t really matter what’s on the DVD. Whatever it is, it’s going to be an intrusion. I’m thinking of those blaring screens at airport terminals and certain eating establishments. And I'm thinking of how many conversations I'm not going to overhear, how many conversations I'm not going to be a part of, how many bus stories are going to be lost. Even reading is going to be a challenge.

Maybe there won’t be any sound. Maybe it’ll just be a stream of silent advertisements like I’ve also seen at the airport above the escalators and in the baggage claim areas. That wouldn’t be so bad. But I’m not counting on anything. I'm waiting just like you to see what happens in Part 2.

Meanwhile, I’m happy for this particular first technological glitch of the day. Those usually work against us.


Thanks to BB in Marshfield, MA, for this week's This Month In feature.


Blogger John said...

Yeah, I'm not so sure about these DVD things either. Because you know what we REALLY need right now is yet another venue for loud, obnoxious advertisements...Silent commercials wouldn't be so bad, like you said, and anyway the buses are sometimes so noisy they'd be nearly impossible to hear from the back areas of the bus.

9:18 PM  

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