Sunday, May 30, 2010

BUS STORY # 186 (“Back Door!”)

Touch Here To Open Door, originally uploaded by busboy4.

I board the 11 on my way home. Moving up the aisle, I spot a familiar face and head for the platform at the rear of the bus.

Frank* is a committed regular, although more often than not we are taking different routes or are on different schedules.

On those occasions when we have ridden together, I’ve found Frank to be impressively well-informed about local politics in general, and public transportation (and ABQ RIDE) in particular.

We’re just getting started on our small talk when the bus makes a stop. Shortly afterwards, we hear “Back door!” from a rider trying to exit the rear door.

The driver tells him to push on the yellow strip. He pushes a couple of times before the door opens.

We continue to the next stop when I am again distracted by someone calling out “Back door.”

The driver calls back for him to push. He does. Nothing happens.

The driver tells him to run his hand down the yellow strip. He does. The door opens.

I look at the bus number. 980 – one of the newest buses.

I can’t believe a 900 bus is already having problems with the back door.

Frank tells me it’s not the bus.

He explains he’s had this driver several times now over the last couple of months, and he plays this game with the riders every time.

I’m flabbergasted.

I didn’t recognize the driver when I got on, but this is a later bus than the one I usually catch. I look frontward and see his face in the mirror. He's an older guy, doughy-faced, with round, bluish-tinted glasses.

At the next stop, we watch a mom and her young daughter at the back door. They push once, and after a slight pause, the door opens.

Frank considers that a pass.

From then on, we’re as attentive as bird watchers. The magic trick for opening the back door varies. Sometimes he tells the rider to push harder, sometimes to push elsewhere on the strip, sometimes to slide a hand up and down the yellow strip, sometimes to slide a hand between the yellow strips. And sometimes it’s various combinations of these maneuvers.

I pick up a pattern: he’s easier on the women than he is on the men. Frank tells me there’s one rider who gets off at Wyoming who won’t play the game. He just stands there and keeps shouting “Back door!” until the driver opens the door.

We wonder what in the world would drive a person to behave in this fashion. Some kind of serious anger and control issues, we speculate. And my mind’s ear is suddenly listening to a fragment of Pink Floyd’s "Another Brick in the Wall," about some abusive boarding school teachers:
But in the town it was well known
When they got home at night
Their fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them
Within inches of their lives
When we approach Frank’s stop, he says “We’ll see what happens.”

Frank has to push on the yellow strip a couple of times before the door opens.

I finish the ride to my stop wondering how I’m going to handle myself when I try and exit. Should I play the game? Follow the Wyoming rider’s example and not play? Walk all the way to the front door and avoid the whole thing?

I pull the cord, wait for the bus to stop, and, yielding to curiosity, go to the rear door. I push once against the yellow strip, right where it says “Touch here to open door.”

Nothing happens.

I stand there.

The driver tells me to run my hand down the middle between the two doors. My fingers find a groove and run downward.

The door opens, and I exit.

I’m walking down the sidewalk toward home, thinking about what this driver is doing, and suddenly, I burst out laughing. For whatever reason, I’ve ended up finding this whole business absurdly, laugh-out-loud funny rather than anger-making, and I am surprised.

I’m surprised because I would have predicted the anger, not the laughter. I may be a long way from compassion here, but I’m pleased to somehow have managed to distance myself from the other, angry end of the spectrum.

And while I really have no idea what is behind the bus driver’s displaced anger, I consider the possibility that part of the reason I haven’t reacted in anger is because I’m on my way home to a very different kind of wife.

*Real name changed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't there, but I sure laughed. Although, you think he would get tired of it after awhile unless it was anger. Great story though whatever lies behind it.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Top-of-the-Arch said...

Wow, thanks so much for this story. Even though this is a "bus story", I appreciate you sharing it because I will remember to laugh next time when I face the same kind of "driver" at my workplace. The "Back door!" I have to endure is the kind of controlling hidden behind unreasonable demands. The 'driver" would issue orders, different "instructions" each time, then follow up with comments such as "How do I get it thru your head!", "You need to think!" yelling while he leans against my desk, his red face inches from my face. Perhaps this "driver" at my workplace got the same "short-comings" comment from his wife so he took it out on me when he gets to work! Thanks again for sharing. TOTA - A bus rider in St. Louis

12:06 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

@ Anonymous BBBH: Thank you. You are wise to leave room for other explanations. I received an email from a friend this morning suggesting the driver was merely alleviating his boredom. Who of us really knows?

9:08 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

@ Top-of-the-Arch: Although both "drivers" may indeed have anger issues, yours is unambiguously abusive. And unless all your other co-workers are treated in the same way (as are all riders trying to exit the back door of our driver's bus), then here is a second way your situation is significantly different from ours. I wish you were dealing with our driver instead.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I would agree with your friend who suggested boredom. Boredom with a touch of sadism.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Savvy Psychic said...

I'm rather blown away that I found this blog, especially today, just after I posted a piece on my own blog about being a city bus driver. You may want to check out my Tenacity Notes blog.

Thanks for writing about being a bus passenger. I love taking the bus, almost as much as I loved driving the bus.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you, Savvy Psychic. I did check out your post and plan to make it my "This Week's Featured Link" with my next posting. The bus driver subject aside, I find a lot of wisdom in the post.

I also have a link to a Minneapolis-St. Paul bus driver's blog, Picking Up Strangers. I think you'd appreciate this woman's blog.

6:47 PM  
Anonymous ange said...

This made me laugh out loud!
Thank you I so needed that!

10:42 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thanks, ange. I'm glad I wasn't the only one that laughed out loud!

9:51 PM  

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