Sunday, March 27, 2011

BUS STORY # 229 ("Excuse Me")

delivery truck, originally uploaded by ed penguin.

The 66 is fairly full, with most folks toward the back of the bus. I take the window seat in the front row.

At the next stop, several more folks board. One of them, an older guy -- he could be my age -- takes the seat next to me.

“Excuse me,” he says after sitting down.

He settles in, and I realize he’s not starting a conversation; he’s apologizing for taking the empty seat beside me!

“No problem,” I reply quickly.

I’ve noted in a previous post that ABQ RIDE commuters are a pretty considerate bunch on the whole. More often than not, riders will stand rather than squeeze into an empty bench seat between two riders, or past a rider sitting in the aisle seat next to an empty window seat.

But this is an empty aisle seat, and my co-rider’s “excuse me” borders on being exquisitely thoughtful.

I wonder if its his age.

Then I wonder if this is a ridership characteristic unique to Albuquerque, or to small towns, or to the West, or if I would find the same thing riding daily in places like San Francisco or New York City or Seattle or Minneapolis.

It’s late Saturday night here on the 66, so it’s no surprise when one of the boarders at another stop is three sheets to the wind. When he passes by our row, he lurches into my seat mate, steadies himself, then continues stolidly on toward the back of the bus.

A few minutes go by, then my seat mate speaks.

“I don’t get it. Drinking, I mean. All you do is numb yourself up and go sticking your elbow in other peoples’ eyes just like he did to me, no ‘sorry,’ no nothing.”

This is a preamble to a non-stop This I Believe about alcohol and drinkers. It’s long on discipline and responsibility, short on disease and addiction. There’s enough heat to make me wonder if there’s a personal history of damage done that’s fueling the fire.

He marks his finish with an emphatic head shake.

There’s a brief moment of silence before he speaks again.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to talk your ear off.”

We don’t exchange another word until we reach his stop. He gets up and wishes me a good “rest of your life.” Then he steps into the rest of Saturday night, stone cold sober.

The photo at the top of this story is titled "delivery truck" and is posted with the kind permission of ed penguin. You can see this and all ed penguin’s photos at:


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