Sunday, April 26, 2009

BUS STORY # 130 (Shorts 10)

We’re threading the orange barrels on San Mateo when a rider near the front exclaims, “It’s been months now, and I swear, there’s more and more of those things every day. I think they’re prolifigating overnight.”


We’ve just exited the Rapid Ride and are crossing Central with the light. It’s early afternoon and the traffic is heavy. There’s a student out ahead of me. He’s almost to the other side when I hear the screech of brakes, see him do this little jump-freeze, then see the front end of a pickup jerk to a stop inside the crosswalk. The student stands there for a few seconds and looks at the truck. I can’t tell if he’s giving the driver the mal ojo or if he just doesn’t trust the driver to stay stopped. The truck would have taken him out like a bowling pin. A bicyclist whizzes past me in the crosswalk. When he reaches the truck, his right hand shoots out an accusatory finger at the driver. “No respect!” he shouts out. His voice is loud and powerful. “No respect!” he repeats before reaching the sidewalk and moving down Yale. The student resumes his crossing before I catch up with him, but we both keep a wary eye on the tinted windshield of the pickup.


I’m sitting in the seat facing the rear door on the Rapid Ride when it pulls up to the San Mateo stop. The doors pop open. No one exits through this set of doors. Outside in front of me, a woman is looking east. She’s got long black hair, a long black T-shirt, and black workboots. She turns and looks directly at me. She looks bored and tired. Then she flashes me the peace sign. I grin and nod my head. She grins back. Her grin widens into a big smile and her eyes come alive. The doors close. Weird. But kinda wonderful.


Two weeks ago, I posted a story which featured an online bus slogan generator. I also invited readers to play with the message generator and send me their favorites with the promise that, if I received enough submissions that made me laugh, I’d feature them in a future posting. The future is now. I got a whopping four submissions, all from the same person who prefers to be credited as "anonymous." Here’s the one that made busboy laugh:


The photo at the top of this story is posted with the kind permission of justindc. You can see this and all justindc's photos on Flickr at:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

BUS STORY # 129 (The Future’s So Bright)

We’re a couple of blocks out of the Alvarado Transportation Center when the driver hits the brakes hard. I pitch sideways in my aisle-facing seat. My backpack, set on the empty seat beside me, breaks my fall.

The driver opens his window, leans out and yells, “You better watch what you’re doing. You almost got hit.” He slams the window shut and rants about bad drivers to himself and the mostly empty bus.

The rider in the seat to my immediate left is facing forward. He leans over toward me and tells me he almost ended up in my lap.

He’s a big guy, solid. I guess mid-twenties. He’ll later tell me he’s 26. Long black hair pulled back in a braid. Round, smiling face. It’s an easygoing smile, and often amused. He keeps it there non-stop.

He asks me if I’m going home from work. I am. He is, too.

He works in a bakery. He starts at six, gets off some 12 or 13 hours later. It depends on the job.

I ask him how he got started. In a friend’s restaurant down in Las Cruces. He tells me the name, but I don’t remember it. He had no cooking experience whatsoever. It was OJT. But he learned his stuff.

I tell him my wife and I were in Las Cruces maybe eight years ago and stumbled upon an incredible restaurant, Mix. Lovely, sophisticated décor with a menu, plating, and meals to match. He knows it, agrees. I tell him I’m glad to hear it’s still there. He says he’s surprised Cruces would support a restaurant like Mix for this long.

He moved to Albuquerque because the wages in Las Cruces were so bad. I ask him if he’s thought about cooking school. He says there’s a pastry school in Las Vegas. He could get a job at one of the high-end places – a baker can get a job anywhere, just like that – and they’d send him to school. The money’s good there, too. The only problem, he says, is he’d have to live there.

He got his distaste for the nightlife working as a bouncer here in Albuquerque for a couple of years. The money’s great, but the clientele . . .

He tells me about the night he quit. The story involved a local strip club, a manager who encouraged “overpours,” then counted on the bouncers to handle the consequences. On this particular night, a manager got laid out, one of the bouncers got coldcocked, and a cook smoking out back got cut up because a second manager wouldn’t let him back inside when they threw the berserk customer out.

I tell him pastry school sounds like the better option here. He says he’s thinking about it, but he’s also planning on going to school “for real” in a couple of years. He’s thinking of two pursuits.

One is computers. That’s the future, and even in a recession, there’s gonna be a need for those skills. He launches into a discussion about business and financing and computers. He sounds remarkably informed. Then he moves on to the recession. Again, I find him uncommonly informed.

We agree things are gonna get a lot worse, and that this will be a long one. But he says it doesn’t matter how bad it gets, you can always find a way to make money. You just have to know where to look. He tells me about an online business he and a roommate had once, selling “intellectual property” relating to online gaming.

He’s into gaming. He’s got a “two hundred dollar shell” of a PC into which he’s put “a couple thousands’ worth” of enhancements. A desktop hot rod. He then describes an online game he’s been playing with a couple dozen other players. It sounds like a cross between Dungeons and Dragons and a Terry Pratchett novel. He delights in all the shortcuts and vulnerabilities, alliances and deal-cuttings, he’s exploited in the game.

From games he jumps to the nascent movie industry here in New Mexico. He ticks off a list of studios opening operations in the area this year and next. He thinks he’d enjoy getting into the movie business, and he thinks now is the time to move, before the industry gets settled and rigid here. He’s confident all he would have to do is show up. If there’s an opening anywhere, he’d take it – and there’s always an opening, even if you have to show it to whoever is hiring. From there, he’d find his niche. He’s thinking he could do set designs, but he’d really love to write. I’m not surprised.

But while he knows that would be a lot of fun, he’s seriously thinking about law school if not computers. He says the res would take care of his tuition. And there’ll always be a future for lawyers.

A lawyer. Yes, of course. He’s got the street smarts and the perfect temperament. And what better career for gaming the system? I make a small joke: “So instead of rolling out dough, you’ll be rolling in dough.” He laughs. But I think he’d already thought of it. Pretty much in exactly that way.

He gets off a few stops before mine.

I’m thinking I’ve heard plenty of daydreams passing for plans in my time, but he's got me thinking he might be different. A lawyer. Yes.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

BUS STORY # 128 (Show Us A Sign)

Resident New Mexican bus riders would have no trouble identifying the message on the bus side panel in the photo above as uniquely New Mexican. Nor would they have any trouble recognizing the sentiment – No green chile?! What do we do now? – even if they weren’t sure what it was supposed to be advertising.

They would also know this bus doesn’t look like any New Mexican transit bus they’ve ever seen around here – certainly not an ABQ RIDE, but also not a Las Cruces RoadRUNNER, not a Santa Fe Trails, not a Los Alamos Atomic City Transit. And they would be right.

It’s a London bus. In London. Just don’t ask me the manufacturer or model.

So what is this very localized New Mexican content doing on the side of a London bus?

The story began in October, when London news outlets broke a story about an unusual new bus advertising campaign. Here’s one of the buses with the controversial side panel:

You probably won’t be surprised to learn the ads were commissioned by an organized group of British atheists. I posted a link to the BBC story last November in This Week’s Feature. You can read it here.

This February, the Guardian reported a coalition of Christians was turning the other panel. Here’s the Guardian’s photo of the Christian response:

You can read the accompanying story here.

About the same time the Guardian published its story, I posted a link to a story in Boston about the T’s objection to Legal Seafood’s proposed ad campaign, and I was looking for the photos of the London campaign. I thought controversial bus advertisements might have bus story potential.

While googling for photos, I came across this one:

Even as I was laughing at this bit of cheeky wisdom, a part of me said, “Wait a minute, now. Are you sure this is real?” After all, even one bus side panel has to be beyond the means of the ordinary prankster. So I took another look at the page where the photo was being displayed, and I found this link:

And if you’ve clicked on this link and read what is there, you now know how that green chile message ended up on the side of a London bus.

Go play with the message generator. If you come up with something you really like, send it to If enough of you can make busboy laugh, I’ll post them in a bus story in a couple of weeks. Enjoy!

The second photo in this story is posted with the kind permission of Hanger 72. You can see this and all Hanger 72's photos on Flickr at:

Sunday, April 05, 2009

BUS STORY # 127 (Elliott’s Bus Story # 2)

My friend and coworker, Elliott,* is telling me about his ride into work yesterday morning.

“You know Ted,* the blind guy who rides the second bus every morning?”

“Sure, I know Ted,” I reply.

“You know, he always catches the bus at the same corner every morning. Well, this morning, the bus is stopped on the other side of the street for the light. So when the light changes, the driver goes on through the intersection, then just goes sailing right on by him. I mean, there’s Ted standing there waiting and whoosh! the bus is gone, man.”

“You’re kidding!” I am genuinely shocked. “So why didn’t you say something?”

He laughs. “We all did, all at the same time.”

Elliott goes on to describe how the bus pulled over immediately, and how the supervisor riding with the driver jumped off the bus and ran back to where Ted was standing and escorted him to the bus.

“When they got on the bus, everybody cheered.”

I’m feeling good now. And I am wondering . . .

“Hey, Elliott, was the driver a young guy? There’s a new driver on the route.”

I’m thinking that would explain why the driver didn’t recognize Ted and why he missed the stop and why there was a supervisor on board this morning.

Elliott smiles and says, “Well, now, young man, most of the drivers look like young guys to me.” I laugh appreciatively. Elliott is a year younger than me.

For the rest of the day, Elliott’s story makes me smile every time I think about it. A good bus story can make your day. My day, anyway.

*Real name changed.