Sunday, June 22, 2008


BUS STORY # 88 (Rash Judgment)


I’m waiting at Lomas west of Wyoming for the inbound No. 11. I watch a young guy ambling down the sidewalk toward me. He’s got his sweatshirt hood up, a rucksack slung over his left shoulder, and carries a cup in his right hand. He stops on the east side of the bench. I’m on the west side. He faces east, toward the mountains where the sun has not yet risen. We’re watching the traffic streaming toward us, and no bus in sight. When he turns and looks west, I see a young, unshaven face looking out through the cowl.

The cup is Styrofoam, and when he finishes with it, he walks toward the lot behind us and plants the cup upside down on top of a pole. He returns to his end of the bench and lights a cigarette.

From all of this, without being especially conscious of it, I’ve formed an impression: young person as thoughtless about where he puts his trash as he is about his health and his grooming. Was I really any different at his age? Well, grooming, maybe.

I’m tempering this with the thought that what passes for age-appropriate grooming 40 years ago may have changed when I realize he’s speaking to me. I can’t hear over the traffic. I move toward him, cupping my hand to my ear.

“Sorry?”

“I said, do you know if that bus is gonna stop here?”

I look west where the Rapid Ride is waiting on Wyoming for the light to turn red.

“No, that’s the Rapid Ride. It’ll stop just around the corner, then it’ll go on to Uptown.”

“Thanks,” he says, and smiles. He’s got a good smile.

“You new to the bus?” I ask.

"Yeah, kinda. I’m not used to waiting this long for a bus.”

“Where’re you from?”

“San Francisco.”

“Ah, that explains it,” I say, remembering my rides on the BART last summer. I tell him all about it, then ask what brought him to Albuquerque.

“My dad. He’s got Polycystic Kidney Disease, and I came out here to help him out.”

It turns out he left a job and school a couple of months ago to do this. He’s working nights and taking care of his father by day. He’s on his way home from work, I realize, and I’m chagrinned at my initial “thoughtless youth” impressions.

His manner is open and pleasant, and he has the eyes, voice, and vocal cadence of a coworker of mine. There’s no sense of an age gap, a generational divide, between us. We’re just two guys at the bus stop. I ask if this is his first time in Albuquerque.

“No. I spent six months out here just after high school. I bought a car then. I drove it back to San Francisco, but I ended up selling it. I didn’t need it to get around, and it cost me 400 dollars a month just to park it somewhere.”

He tells me he’s looking into school out here, maybe just a class a semester, to keep him in the routine. He’s not yet sure if he’s going to be able to manage all three commitments.

When the bus does come, we don’t sit together, but we end up getting off at the same stop. We laugh about the coincidence, and part with a handshake – he reaches out his hand and says, “I’m Mike.”

Was I really any different when I was his age? Well, yes. Yes I was. I could have used a lot more of my young co-rider’s character.

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