Sunday, January 11, 2009


BUS STORY # 115 (The Lift)


I’m on the way home and making the transfer from the Rapid Ride to the Lomas bus. I’ve developed a talent for catching any Rapid Ride that will deliver me to the Lomas stop in time to just miss the eastbound Lomas and leave me with a 20 minute wait.

Sometimes I watch the Lomas bus go by past the front windows of my Rapid Ride while we’re sitting in the turn lane. Sometimes I watch it go by after I’ve gotten off the Rapid Ride and am heading for the intersection on the other side of the street. Sometimes, though, I can see it is far enough down Lomas so that, if it stops at just one of the two stops before the intersection, and if the stop takes long enough, and if the lights let me cross to the other side while holding up the eastbound lane, I have a shot at catching it.

Today, I have a shot. I’m standing on the northwest corner of the intersection watching the No. 11 bus coming up Lomas toward the southwest corner. Bad news: it doesn’t stop at the far stop. Good news: it stops at the stop just before the intersection. If the light will just please turn red before the boarding process finishes . . .

I’m in luck! Even as I’m almost across the street, the bus hasn’t even pulled away from the stop and up to the intersection. When I reach the sidewalk and turn towards the bus, I see why. The wheel chair ramp is down. There is a woman in a wheelchair on the ramp, and nothing is happening. There are four other people standing around waiting.

The driver can’t get the lift to work. He steps out of his seat and down onto the lift. He looks at the gears and chains, pulls at the handles. He gets back into his seat and tries the switch. The chains move a bit, then stop. He turns the engine off, lets it wait a minute or so, turns it back on, flips the switch again. Nothing happens.

There’s a guy standing behind the wheelchair. He seems to be her companion. He apologizes to the driver.

“Hey, it isn’t your fault,” the driver replies.

The man and the woman talk closely for a couple of minutes. She leans forward in her chair and grasps the handles on the lift. Then she pulls herself upright using the lift handles as a support. She tries swinging through to the first step and loses her balance. The driver is out of his seat like a shot, and her companion reaches over the back of the wheelchair. But she catches herself before she falls. She tries again and swings herself up the steps, transferring her hands from the lift rails to the stairs rails and using her good leg. Once she’s aboard, she pivots into the first seat. Her companion folds up the chair, and carries it aboard.

The driver tells the rest of us to wait. He’s going to try working the lift again. It catches, lifts up to the floor of the bus. He lowers it again, and when it reaches the bottom, it folds up and retracts under the bus. The rest of us board.

In the back, someone is complaining loudly about how he doesn’t have time to be waiting on a bus that doesn’t work the way it should. He goes on and on. He’s young, he’s big, and he looks and sounds as mean as he is mean-spirited. Nobody says anything.

He also can’t sit still. He opens and closes his hands, reaches for the railing overhead, does side to side stretches. I’m wondering meth. I check out his face and arms, wait for a look at his teeth. Nothing. Who knows what it is. Maybe he’s late for work again and has been warned he’ll lose his job if he’s late again. Maybe he’s just a jerk.

The couple gets off at Eubank. The guy starts grumping as soon as he sees who’s getting off, but the lift works perfectly. He fidgets and flexes and holds his head in his hands, but he shuts up. I watch the man push the woman south on Eubank as we pass through the intersection.
__________

The photo at the top of this story is posted with the kind permission of Evan McCausland. It features a working wheelchair ramp that looks identical to the one featured in this posting. Evan’s bus is a Flxible Metro model 35096 from the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA). You can see the photo and a link to all Evan’s work on Flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/etmccaus/2567075212/

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