Sunday, September 26, 2010

BUS STORY # 203 (Dean’s Story)

MTS Bus, originally uploaded by So Cal Metro.

(Back in September of ’07, my good friend Paul wrote one of my favorite bus stories about a bus driver in San Diego with Albuquerque ties, and how family and the economic times worked together to determine where he lived and worked. [You can read it here.] Three years later, here’s a story about a bus rider in Albuquerque with San Diego ties, and the same compelling constellation of family, work, and economic times. There’s even a service connection.)

Like most businesses with many employees doing different jobs at different locations in the area, we’re computer-dependent. We have a centralized Help Desk where we can call in our problems -- forgotten passwords, lost files, misbehaving computers, and so forth.

Most of the guys working the Help Desk are young, smart, and move on to something more lucrative and challenging as soon as the opportunity presents itself. In the current economic climate, other young, smart guys who’ve lost more lucrative and challenging jobs also wind up on Help Desks.

This is Dean’s* story.

I met Dean on the bus one morning on the way to work. When I found out he worked at our Help Desk, I asked him about a virus that had recently hit our system. His explanation included a history of this virus and its many evolutions, what its intention was and how it worked, and how this version was able to gain entry into our system despite our anti-virus program.

I told him he seemed uncommonly well-informed. He grinned, shyly, and explained he’d worked in encryption for the U.S. Navy and the FBI.

Where was this?

San Diego.

So he moved from San Diego and an incredibly interesting and challenging and well-paid job to Albuquerque and a job at a Help Desk? I figured it could only have been a girl.

“Family,” he explained.

His parents and his brothers and sisters all live here. They had been after him to come join them, and he finally agreed.

So was he raised here?

Turns out he was raised all over, but all over didn’t include here. His dad was career Navy.

His parents decided to retire to Albuquerque. I assumed it was because of the service connection -- a pretty common story out here, actually. But this wasn’t the case with his parents. They’d been on vacation, stopped here, looked around, and liked what they saw. That’s also a pretty common story out here.

By the time they moved to Albuquerque, Dean was already out of college and in the Navy. After being stationed in San Diego, he started settling in there -- house, share in a local business, good friends, cool city, great job . . . but his family kept after him to join them.

After landing a spot with one of the telecommunication giants with a local presence, he sold his house, his share of the business, and moved to Albuquerque.

He was smart with his money. He invested it so he wouldn’t be tempted to spend it. That was about three years ago.

Shortly after moving, the economy tanked and he lost half the value of his investments. Then, along with a few hundred others, he lost his job.

His supervisor gave him a heads-up and pointed him in our direction. Two weeks after his layoff, he was working at our Help Desk.

Given his background, I asked him, why couldn’t he get a job with our IT security?

Contract exclusion -- we outsourced our Help Desk and our contract prohibits us from raiding our partner’s employees. And besides, since the economy tanked, we’ve had a hiring freeze.

Then why couldn’t he get a job with Kirtland or Sandia Labs?

He laughed. He told me he’d applied to both from San Diego. They told him he was overqualified. Kirtland sends the kind of work he does to Dallas. The Labs didn’t have any job openings.

What about Los Alamos?

He smiled and told me they rejected his application. No, he doesn’t know why. He could probably ask his old boss to find out for him. But that would take a lot of time and effort, and probably wouldn’t change anything.

Has he ever thought of moving back to San Diego?

His old boss has called him a couple of times to tell him he can have his old job back any time. He said the devaluation of his investments meant he couldn’t buy a house right away. I’m thinking that when Dean buys a house, he pays cash.

But haven’t home prices gone down?

Not in San Diego, he told me. He then popped out all sorts of numbers and ratios comparing San Diego to here and to the nation at large. That told me he wasn’t just daydreaming about moving back.

He did have some concerns about moving back to California, though. He asked me if I’d heard about Governor Schwarzenegger’s I.O.U.s. I had. I told him I’d also read a long article on how the once-excellent university system there is disintegrating.

So, I ventured, are you thinking of moving back anyway?

He’s pretty much made up his mind he is.

Has he told his family?

No. No he hasn’t.

When is he planning on going back?

As soon as he saves enough money to buy a car.

He didn’t have a car from his San Diego days?

Oh, yes, a beauty. He drove it out here from San Diego.

So what happened to it?

“It’s part of a parking lot.” He explained: early one morning, one of those monster trucks with the jacked-up suspension and big tires was being chased by the police. The chase ended in his parking lot where the truck literally squashed his car and two others. He got an insurance settlement, but needs to save up the difference between the payout and the cost of a new car.

So that’s why he’s taking the bus.

No, not really. He was taking the bus here even when he had his car, just like he did in San Diego. Only, he says, the bus service here is nowhere near as good as in San Diego.

He went on to describe a system that covers the whole city from center to perimeter with a network of routes that runs buses 10-15 minutes apart from 5:00 A.M to after midnight. (I googled the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System later on and a spot check of the schedules confirmed his description.)

So how well is the system used?

He laughed and told me it is not uncommon to have to wait for a second or even third bus because the one you planned to catch is full. He says buses have color-coded signals to let you know whether you’ll be able to get on. Orange means “full,” blue means “moderate," and green means “empty.”

“Empty?” I asked.

Dean thought that meant ten or less riders.

I told him I’ve ridden a few “empties” here in Albuquerque. He laughed, and pointed out San Diego has a substantially larger ridership than Albuquerque.

True enough.

Right now, Dean thinks he’ll be returning to San Diego around Christmas. I can appreciate his needing the challenge his old job afforded him. Throw in the salary and the city and the only thing missing is . . . his family.

*Real name changed.

The photo at the top of this story is titled “MTS Bus” and is posted with the kind permission of So Cal Metro. You can see this and all So Cal Metro’s photos on Flickr at:

An additional thanks to Paul for this week's featured link: Last Week In: Santa Fe.


Blogger Top-of-the-Arch said...

Greetings from St. Louis. Thanks for sharing another nice story. If I may ask, will you plan to attend the Balloons Festival? There might be a balloon in the shape of a bus - haa haa
Have a good month of October.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you, TOTA. Funny thing: my wife and I were sitting on the back porch sipping coffee, watching the hundreds of balloons going up in this first day of the Fiesta, and talking about going tomorrow morning, when I opened my email and found your post. I've not seen a bus balloon yet, but you're absolutely right: there oughta be one!

9:10 AM  

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