Sunday, July 20, 2008

BUS STORY # 92 (Back Door Man)

The No. 140/141 is jammed this morning. I’m one of six riders at the stop north of San Mateo at Lomas. We join the group already standing in the aisle.

We’re riding bus 723 – one of the new 700 series buses. These new guys really move – no more taking half the distance between stops to get up to speed. A lot of riders think the performance of the new buses is why ABQ RIDE has been so much more on schedule than we’ve been used to. The argument makes sense. But the No. 11 route is a mix of 700s and 300s and they’ve all been pretty dead on, morning and afternoon. So has the No. 50 with its sometimes iffy 400s.

In any case, we’re moving right along to the next stop. There’s a boarding, an exit. The doors close, but the bus doesn’t move. The driver calls back, “Can somebody pull the back doors shut?’ I look back. The doors look closed, but the green light above them is on. A standing rider pulls on the handles. The light stays green. He rattles one of the handles. The light goes off. The bus pulls out.

Next stop, no problem.

The stop after that, problem. This time, pulling and rattling isn’t working. One of the riders standing at the front exits through the open front doors, walks back to the rear doors, and gives them a mighty slam. We shake our heads “no” to him – the green light is still on. He slams them again, then for good measure gives them a wallop with his fist. The green light goes out. He gets a hand when he re-enters the bus.

“I just fixed a hundred thousand dollar bus. Where’s my cut?” he calls out.

"Thanks, Mister Back Door Man!" someone calls from the back.

The stuck door problem seems to alternate with every other stop. Fortunately, rattling one of the door handles is now working.

When we get to Montgomery, a lot of riders exit, but there’s a pretty good influx, too. I’ve nabbed a seat now. A new rider, a woman, sits down next to me. “The bus is really late this morning,” she says. When the doors close, the back door light remains green. The area by the door is occupied by new riders who don’t yet know the routine. The driver calls back and asks if someone would rattle the door handle. It takes a few shakes before the new back door man gets the feel of it.

“Has it been doing this the whole way?” asks my seatmate.

“Seems like just every other stop,” I tell her.

“Well, that’s why it’s late.”

I look for the digital time stream at the front of the bus. I know I’m usually at work by 7:40 a.m. That’s just 10 minutes away, so, yes, we are running late. It takes me about 10 minutes to walk from the stop to my work area.

It’s hard to believe the doors have delayed us this much. I think maybe the construction between Candelaria and Comanche was part of it, too. Somewhere in the slowdown of the construction, a car had shot in front of the bus from a side street. We lurched and the driver gave her the horn.

Somebody in the front said “He shoulda just crashed that _____.”

“Then we’d be stuck here for a couple of hours,” said his seatmate.

We’re making fewer stops now, and the door seems to have settled down. Still, between Osuna and Academy, the bus running 20 minutes behind us passes us. I have to laugh: it’s one of the older 300s.

I get to work 30 minutes later than usual.


Thanks to Brenna in San Francisco and her blog, That Baby Is Cold, for this week’s Last Week In feature.


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