Sunday, November 01, 2009

Last spring, I saw a bus story on my way to the dentist. I wrote it out that night and put it in the queue. But it kept getting bumped by newer stories I thought were more interesting or more timely. Next thing I know, I get a notice from my dentist it's time once again for a checkup, and it reminds me this poor bus story has been stranded in the queue for six months now. The time has come.


BUS STORY # 157 (Phantom 307)


I’m driving north on San Mateo.

I’m driving because it’s a workday and I have a dentist appointment at 3:30 p.m.

Let me explain: If I drive, I can leave work at 2:50 p.m and get there just before 3:30 p.m. I lose only 40 minutes of work time.

If I take the bus, well, let’s just say I’d miss a lot more than 40 minutes. And y’know, Dad loves his work.

It’s not that I didn’t want to take the bus. When I first thought about it, I came up with a route involving three transfers. Then I remembered the new ABQ RIDE online trip planner.

The planner gave me two options, each with only one transfer. The best one gave me a 52-minute trip – very competitive with the 40-minute drive by car, and which I would have taken except for one small problem. There are three minutes between the scheduled arrival of my first bus and the departure of my connecting bus.

Three minutes is not what your experienced bus rider would call a sure thing. Some would not even waste a perfectly good prayer on it.

Taking an earlier bus for insurance would add another 42 minutes to the 52-minute trip. Gambling on making the connection and missing would tack on another 20 minutes and make me late.

The second option offered by the trip planner began at 84 minutes. Game over.

So, as I was saying, I’m driving north on San Mateo.

Just past Central, I spot the back end of a 300. A few blocks further on, I’m close enough to see the number 307 on its back end. I pass it when it makes a stop just north of Lomas.

I’m driving the speed limit when, somewhere between Constitution and Indian School, 307 goes roaring past me. I’m thinking about how much ground the driver has recovered since I passed him, and how fast he must be driving, and how amazingly lucky he is no one wants to board or exit his bus.

Those thoughts go into suspension when I see a person standing at the bus stop after the bus has gone flying past. He’s clearly stunned. He’s staring after the bus, and I see his hands go to his hips before he disappears from my view.

I’m thinking: He was wearing dark pants, a blue shirt, and a tie. I’m processing why a driver would want to pass up a would-be rider who looks like this. I’d bet there are some 66 drivers who would have traded a whole busload of their pickups for this guy.

Meanwhile, the bus is still flat moving out. I lose him at the light at Menaul.

There is no telling what the story is. Most of the explanations I come up with are lame. The best of these is that he’s behind schedule and he’s just learned there’s a super checking the schedule up the line and he’s on probation . . .

To my great surprise, I catch up with him again just south of Montgomery. I can see riders waiting at the stop on the north side of the intersection. I slow down so I can see if he’s gonna pull over or go on by. He pulls over. He’s gonna pick them up. Go figure!

I turn east on Montgomery and cannot get the curious behavior of 307 out of my mind. At least, not until I’m in the dentist chair with a mouthful of sharp instruments to distract me.
__________

The photo at the top of this story is titled Market Street Bus and is posted with the kind permission of Chris Matta. You can see this and all Chris Matta's photos on Flickr at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmatta/259882994/

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