BUS STORY # 204 (The Consultant)
He boards at the Nob Hill stop and takes the seat facing me over the wheels. Gray slacks with a nice drape, black polo shirt, daypack. Polished black business shoes like you don’t see much of anymore. He’s a not-young guy, but “older guy” doesn’t do him justice. He looks to be in excellent shape, and he’s got the square-jawed, rugged good looks of somebody you might see on the cover of Outside
magazine. Turns out he bikes.
He’s an environmental consultant and he’s on his way to Santa Fe for a meeting.
We get to talking about the commute. He loves not having to drive to Santa Fe. Ten years ago, he worked for the state and commuted back and forth every workday. We both commiserate about driving I-25 during rush hour. He got to work feeling harried and all wound up. Getting home was even worse.
Now, he gets on the bus – his train ticket (discounted when bought online) gives him a free bus ride to and from the train station – and he does things like have this conversation. On the train, he works or networks thanks to the Rail Runner’s Wi-Fi. Or he just sits back and enjoys the ride.
You add up the fuel costs, wear and tear on your car, and parking costs, and the train is a real bargain, he tells me. Of course, he adds, it’s subsidized by you and me, but all the more reason to use it.
I agree. I add that, besides reducing commuter traffic on the interstate, it’s also become something of a thing to do, like the Sandia Peak Tramway or the Cumbres & Toltec narrow-gauge between Chama and Antonito.
My wife and I have taken the Rail Runner three times now, all day trips to Santa Fe. We took some out-of-town guests on one of those rides. The whole experience feels more like a vacation trip than a commute. Two of those times, we’ve sat next to whole families doing exactly the same thing. And the train up is always crowded, especially on the weekends. Board at the Journal Center on Saturday morning and you just might have to stand.
He also uses the train to visit his daughter in Belen. She lives about four miles from the station, and he takes his bike and rides from the depot. He hangs out with her for the day, then comes back home. One of the perks of being a consultant, he adds.
He joined a small consulting business started by two of his friends and former co-workers. He says it’s taken him a long time to learn the ropes, but now he has a network of go-to specialists who know their business and who also satisfy the requirements for landing federal and state bids.
You try to develop a team you can call on that includes a woman, a minority, and a veteran, he explains. So it’s important not only to have someone whose expertise and reliability you can count on, but who also fits the preference criteria for so many federal and state contracts.
He says this specialist expertise is invaluable when dealing with unanticipated discoveries -- say a cache of pot shards or a small population of local fauna. These are evaluated by a select team member whose findings help determine what variances, if any, need to be made to the project.
I like his enthusiasm for his work, and the pleasure he takes from having achieved a certain level of expertise and comfort in the process. He says it was hard won, and I’m old enough to appreciate what that means.
I also like how much he “gets it.” He’s exactly the ideal commuter the Rail Runner folks must have had in mind when they began planning. He knows the train is so much more than a novelty or a cheap alternative to driving. How many innovations which actually reduce the stress of every day life do any of us experience these days?
The photo at the top of this story is titled “Albuquerque, New Mexico” and is posted with the kind permission of Sean Jones. You can see this and all Sean Jones’s photos on Flickr at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotografia79/2160327727/in/pool-1334123@N24/