Sunday, January 30, 2011

BUS STORY # 221 (One Driver’s Story)

Green Line At Tramway, originally uploaded by busboy4.

I’m the only rider boarding the Green Line up by Tramway this morning.

The driver is still young, but the bloom of her youth looks to be near the end of August. Maybe she has a family, maybe not. I have this image of someone who floundered a bit after high school before landing at ABQ RIDE. The usual dull progression.

Once again, as I’m about to find out, what do I know!

We’re getting ready to pull back onto Central when she starts talking about a rider who was telling her how much he hated riding the bus. He can’t wait to have his car back. We get to talking about riders and drivers and traffic, and I move up to the bench seat just across from her to make the conversation easier.

I ask her how long she’s been driving. Eight years. But not all eight with ABQ RIDE.

She started out driving a school bus in a small, semi-rural community. But having all that responsibility for all those kids made her uneasy. After we invaded Iraq, she got an opportunity to drive a bus transporting troops. She took it.

Eventually, she went to Baghdad.

Driving in Baghdad was interesting. She explains how she always had great protection, how most of our security had been outsourced to private contractors, and how all these guys were ex-SWAT or ex-Special Forces -- people who knew what they were doing. She says they’d get on in the mornings with their weapons at the ready and tell her how they sure hoped today was the day somebody was gonna try something. She let them know she did not share their hopes.

I wonder how her security would have protected her from an IED. But then I think she was surely only driving inside the Green Zone. Still, I can’t believe the thought didn’t live with her every time she drove.

After Iraq, she taught driving safety courses and started driving for ABQ RIDE.

She’s big on safe driving. She describes the “five second rule” which prescribes a safe, city driving following distance. “You should be able to count to five -- one-one thousand, two-one thousand, and so on, between you and the vehicle ahead of you.” She says you should come to a stop behind another vehicle so that you can see their rear tires. This gives you room to move around the vehicle if that becomes necessary. She also prefers the middle lane which, as a bus driver, she can’t really use most of the time.

She says she can drive the bus all day and not get frazzled by the traffic until she’s driving home in her car after her shift. If she could, she’d take the bus to and from work.

I’m thinking of the old conundrum, “Who does the washer woman’s wash?” I smile at the irony of a bus driver who prefers taking the bus but who has to drive her car to her bus driving job because there’s no bus service.

And then I smile at the symmetry of how this conversation began: a rider who preferred driving his car to taking the bus.

And then I smile at my casual assumption hers would be “the usual” dull story.

Turns out we share a strategy for keeping our cool during rush hour: leaving early and listening to classical music. I’m thinking of a classical music station in Dallas that has a special program during the morning and evening peak traffic times. It’s called “Road Rage Remedy” and features especially soothing classical music.

As we get closer to town and take on more riders, our conversation dwindles. I find myself wondering more about her. Is she happy to be safely settled into driving a bus in Albuquerque? Does she miss the glory days in Iraq? Would she rather be doing something else somewhere else?

I’m glad she’s here at ABQ RIDE. Although I don’t recall seeing her before, I’ll always recognize her from now on. And I’ll be conscious of feeling extra safe and secure knowing she's my driver.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

lovely story, lovely person, BBBH

6:55 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

4:16 PM  

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