Sunday, July 13, 2008

BUS STORY # 91 (Twins)

I’m walking up to the bus stop when I see the No. 50 go by, heading for the airport. Both of us are right on time. It’ll be back around in 10 minutes. I’ll be across Yale and waiting.

When five after five comes, he’s not here yet. A cab pulls up for the red light. The passenger window comes down, and the driver leans over and shouts, “The bus broke down at the airport.”

It’s happened that way before, but I can’t help wonder if the driver is looking for a fare. I just wave a thank you. He pulls away when the light is green. I’ll give the bus another five minutes, then I’ll start walking north, towards Central.

At 5:08, the bus comes round the bend and is booking it down Yale. He lurches to an abrupt stop where I’m waiting. I show the driver my pass, then ask, “Did you have any problems up at the airport?”

“Yeah,” he replies. “This transmission is gonna go out any minute, but they’re gonna make me wait till it does before they do anything about it.”

The cabbie wasn’t trying to hustle me after all.

The next stop is down by the Village Inn. The bus lurches to a stop, and we jolt forward and brace ourselves for balance. A woman stands in the front door and asks the driver if this bus can get her to Rio Bravo.

“You need to catch the Rail Runner bus up at the airport,” he tells her.

“Wait a minute,” calls out a passenger. “She can take this bus downtown and catch the Isleta bus.”

The driver asks the passenger if he’s sure. He is. The driver tells the woman to board and transfer downtown.

“This bus goes downtown?” she asks.

When the driver says it does, she goes back to the bench. I’m expecting bags, but she boards instead with two little girls. They’re twins, maybe three years old, and cute as they can be. They board smiling and looking around and walk down the aisle holding hands. Looks like the bus is one great, new adventure for them. They’re ready to claim the empty bench seats in front, but the woman herds them to the back and up on the platform. She gets them seated, and tells them she’ll be right back. She goes back up to the driver to pay the fare. The twins get up and kneel on the seats and look out the window. Then they look over to the front of the bus where the woman is, then back out the window. They do this several times, always in synch with one another.

The woman returns to the back, stumbles on the stairs up to the platform, and lands heavily on the seat next to one of the twins. She gets herself settled, then pulls a stubbed out cigarette from her purse and keeps it between the fingers of her right hand.

She looks old before her time, whatever that time might be. I can’t really tell. She’s got on jeans and a baggy sweatshirt, but I can see she’s thin. Her hair is long and stringy and is dyed a bad blonde orange. I think she must be the grandmother, not the mother.

After a while, she puts her head in her hands and leans forward. She slumps further and further forward, until her head is below her knees and she looks like she’s gonna pitch forward onto the floor. I look at the rider who advised the driver about the Isleta bus. He’s been watching her, too, and we catch each other’s eyes. He gets up and walks to the back.

“Are you all right?”

No response.

“Are you sick or something?”

She comes shooting back up into a sitting position. Her face looks startled.

“I’m fine,” she finally says. There is another pause. “I’ve been in the hospital for two straight weeks and I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep. I’m just tired.”

“Well, you take care of yourself, mihita. And take care of your girls.”

There is another pause. Then she answers, “I’m taking them to their aunt now. Our car broke down.”

The rider returns to his seat. Maybe a full minute passes before she calls out, “I’m not high.”

From the time I saw her tilting further and further floorward, I’ve been thinking maybe heroin. From the way the rider said “And take care of your girls,” I know he’s thinking something similar. After her affirmation, I find myself looking at the twins. They aren’t smiling anymore, but they don’t look apprehensive, either. It’s like they’ve been distracted from the amusement of the bus ride by an impelling curiosity about this mysterious exchange between the woman and the stranger. I think about my own twin granddaughters, three years old in January. When I get off at Central, I feel like some kind of deserter.


Anonymous New Flyer DE40LFR said...

Those 400-series buses are total crap. They are always breaking down and perfom very poorly.

I know that ABQ RIDE will be ordering 30-40 more new buses plus 10 new Rapid Ride buses to the fleet. I am hoping that the 30-40 regular buses (presumably 40-footers), regardless of manufacturer, are used to replace the 400-series, rather than the older 300-series.

As for who will be the manufacturer of the new buses, I am sure that New Flyer, Gillig, NABI, and Nova Bus will duke it out to provide the lowest bids and win the contract. However, Gillig doesn't make articulated buses, so they are out of the question for the Rapid Ride contract.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

I have yet to find a fan of the 400s, that's for sure.

9:14 PM  

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