Sunday, April 04, 2010

BUS STORY # 178 (Paying It Forward)

Green Line, originally uploaded by busboy4.

The first time I rode the bus, I was fortunate enough to meet a veteran who helped ease me into the routine. (You can read about it here.) Many rides later, I expressed my appreciation for his kindness. Abel replied that someone had done the same for him when he began riding.

I’m also indebted to other co-riders for suggesting different routes or schedules or connections, some of which found their way into my current routines.

It’s been years now, and I don’t need to trial-and-error my schedules so much. But we riders still talk about schedules like we talk about the weather. Both are predictable, but neither is a sure thing. And both have ways of unexpectedly imposing on your day.

One afternoon, I’m walking toward a Rapid Ride stop on Central when I see a guy start running for the Green Line taking on riders.

He doesn’t make it.

When I get there, he’s still watching the back end of the Green Line disappearing up Central. Then he turns to me and says, “Man, I just missed it!”

“Yeah, I saw. But there’ll be another one in 15 minutes.”

He tells me he just started riding the bus a few weeks ago. His company started offering free bus passes to the employees and he thought he’d try it.

That’s my story, I tell him.

He says he only rides home. He has to be at work at a quarter to seven, and the bus just doesn’t quite cut it. So he catches a ride in with one of his kids.

He tells me he’s just stumbled across the Rapid Ride. He’d been taking the 66 and it took forehhhver.

I ask him where he gets off. Eubank, he replies.

I tell him he’s right about the Green Line. I tell him that’s the newest of the Rapid Ride routes, less than a year old.

He says he still has a 15-minute walk after he gets off. I convert that to “one mile” in my head.

“Where do you live?”

Just off Lomas, east of Eubank.

I’m thinking about Abel when I suggest he catch the next Red Line with me – just four minutes out according to the electronic message sign. I tell him the Red Line will drop him at the corner of Louisiana and Lomas. I explain that we just walk back across Lomas and wait for the 11 which will drop him a block from his house. I tell him I’ll show him where to get off on both buses so he won’t miss his stop.

And that’s what we do.

I tell him the worst case scenario on this route is that the 11 will either roll on by right in front of us when we’re on the Red Line and stopped at the light, or else it will roll on by right in front of us when we’re off the Red Line on the other side of Lomas and waiting for the light. That would cost us another 20 minutes of waiting, I explain.

And that’s exactly what happens.

But that 20 minutes turns out to be a good thing. We introduce ourselves to each other, and Rudy* tells me his story.

He’s a native New Mexican, born in Carlsbad. He moved to Albuquerque when he was six. He and his wife have raised three kids who are all out on their own and doing well. Two of them live here, one in Colorado. The grandkids are all here.

Rudy works two jobs, one full time. He’s had the same full time employer for over 25 years, and he’s worked his way upward taking on several different jobs when the opportunity presented itself.

Rudy tells me he loves his job, and he loves his company for giving him so many opportunities to better himself.

Wow, I think to myself, what’s in the Kool-Aid? But then I get to thinking about my own experiences, and I’m abashed to realize I can honestly say the same about my own job and employer. I end up feeling humbled by Rudy’s more generous appreciation.

He and his wife vacation in Disneyland. Every year.

His co-workers ask him why they don’t try something new. He tells them it never fails to make them happy, so why change? He says they always come back feeling peaceful.

I tell him that’s what a vacation is supposed to do.

When the next 11 comes, it’s crowded, and we’re separated. But when we get to the stop east of Eubank, he doesn’t need my signal. He gives me a thumbs-up before exiting.

If it were his style, I think Abel would give me a thumbs-up, too. Well, Abel, this is what sometimes happens when you set an example.

*Real name changed.


Blogger refugee from reason said...

Ah, a fellow after my own heart: A fan of public transportation. I'm a displaced New Yorker who misses great public transport and believes, in a way, that we ought to ban private cars to focus on the public transportation component. However, this shouldn't be about me (my Mother, a psychiatist once told me that "Son, we're all egocentric, but there are times when you define that word.")

All of this to say, that you have a wonderfully interesting and engaging venue and I will follow your adventures and stories regularly.

All the best,

9:57 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you for your kind words, refugee from reason. It wasn’t until after my 50th birthday that I got to such places as New York and London and could even imagine, much less wish for, a life without a car. But I think in places like Albuquerque, we’d have to have such a system in place before even thinking about banning cars.

Actually, no one in his or her right mind would really think about trying to ban cars out here. This is “You-can-have-my-car-when-you-pry-my-cold-dead-fingers-off-the-steering-wheel” territory, mister.

I’m curious why you think cars should be replaced by public transportation before going on. I can certainly make some assumptions, but you know what they say happens when we assume . . .

Ah, one other thing I’d really like to know: to where have you been displaced from New York?

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey BusBoy, nice warm fuzzy story.
Refugee from Reason has some good points, but I agree with you, in the "land of manana" it would take an awful lot of work to have a well-functioning,reliable public transport system.
Loved the "defining egocentric" reminds me of someone.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thanks, Anonymous BBBH. I think we have a well-functioning, reliable workday public transportation system that meets a lot of folks' needs. However, we simply don't have the passenger population base to extensively cover the whole city, and with conveniently frequent routes. That is what New York and London, with their enormous populations, are able to have. I'm guessing that refugee from reason might be thinking that if one could no longer drive a car, the need > demand for a more extensive public transportation system would then drive the creation of one. But I am only guessing at his thoughts here.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

This is an amazing blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

12:53 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you, Sarah, for those kind words.

5:50 AM  

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