Sunday, April 24, 2011

BUS STORY # 233 (One Rider’s “Carless In Albuquerque” Story)

Bus & Wreck, originally uploaded by busboy4.

He’s an old guy. I’ve seen him off and on for years now, but we’ve never really spoken until this morning.

After I take a seat, he tells me he’s used to seeing me on an earlier bus.

I explain work has me riding at different times these days.

He says that’s a good thing this morning, because I can appreciate what a beautiful day it is.

He’s right. It’s late April, and after a couple of weeks of oh-c’mon-now cool weather, it really is one gorgeous spring morning. We’re all in short sleeves and the bus doesn’t need air conditioning.

We get to talking about the bus, and he tells me how he came to be a rider.

A few years back, he was driving down the street minding his own business when the sun absolutely blinded him.

Anyone who’s ever lived out here knows how intense the sun is. There’s a lot of it, and because of our elevation, there’s not a lot of atmosphere in between it and us. And anyone who’s ever driven out here knows there’s a time of the morning and a time of the evening when the sun is low enough to be its most intense self. If you’re driving into it, and you’re a wise and responsible driver, you slow way down until you can arrange your sun visor and hands so you can make out what’s ahead of you. And if it’s behind you, you know better than to use your rearview or side view mirror, even if you’re wearing sunglasses.

Well, he tells me, it wasn’t like that. It was different. It was like a beam of light had lasered right into the center of his eye.

Next thing he knew, he was sitting in the front seat of his truck with an accordioned-up front end pushed into the back end of a city bus.

Good morning, driver.

He explains it wasn’t really a direct hit. The sun must have made him veer to his right, and he caught the left back end of the bus which was stopped in the lane next to his.

But he was going 35, so it was enough of a hit to crunch up his truck, deploy the airbag, and send him to the hospital overnight.

He says the cops didn’t give him a ticket. And he had good insurance, good enough to cover the $50,000 damage to the bus.

He didn’t replace the truck because after he got out of the hospital, he went to see his eye doctor. The eye doctor told him he had macular degeneration.

“They yanked my driver’s license, just like that,” he explains.

So now he takes the city bus.

He says it pretty much meets his needs, although sometimes he has to get rides places from one of his daughters.

I ask him where he lives.

Up past Tramway.

There’s no Sunday service past Tramway. What does he do on Sundays?

He chuckles. “I stay home.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

BUS STORY # 232 (Five Men And A Woman)

Men, Two And A Half..., originally uploaded by busboy4.

There are five of us guys and one woman riding up on the back platform. Four of the guys are late 20’s-early 30s. I’m the old guy. The woman looks in her 40s.

The young guys get to talking conspiracy theories. Each has a story to best the previous one. All share a basic premise: you cannot trust the government. Or the politicians. Or the news. Or anyone or anything else except maybe the internet.

The woman and I are listening, although she is pretending to read a book. I’m fascinated by the conversation, and don't realize she is listening while pretending to read until well into the story-telling and commentary.

I pick up when I see her mouth twitch after an especially interesting comment. When I start watching her, I see her mouth twitch or her jaw clench in perfect synch with some of the more provocative stories and commentaries. And then I realize she isn’t turning the pages of the book.

Charlie Sheen makes an appearance in the conversation. Turns out all four of these guys love “Two And A Half Men.”

One of them says Charlie is his personal hero.

Another says the network was stupid for firing him. Look at all the people they put out of work.

Another says what does it matter he partied with a hooker or did a little blow? What about Clinton?

Another says if he was getting two million bucks for thirty minutes work, he’d be doing drugs and getting laid, too.

All of them are down with that.

The woman’s face is working overtime to mask what her mouth and jaw betray. When the bus pulls over for a stop, she gets up and leaves the platform for one of the vacated seats up front, well out of earshot. The other guys are oblivious.

I am momentarily transported back to grade school -- the one place where it was never more clear how much smarter and more mature the girls were than us boys. And I am particularly remembering the look on the face of one of those girls as she took in a group of us behaving like any pack of temporarily unsupervised young boys in the back of the classroom. Think Margaret reacting to Dennis the Menace.

Maybe our classmate was right. But that was then and this is now. Our female co-rider is old enough to appreciate just how far we guys have come since grade school.

I know I do.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

BUS STORY # 231 (Not A Scam)

Pssst! Wanna Buy A Ticket?, originally uploaded by busboy4.

We pass someone running our direction through the intersection and waving madly. He wants the bus to wait for him at the stop on the other side, of course. And the driver does.

He’s a fairly young guy, and he looks like he’s put in a long, hard day at a dirty job. He leans against a pole and pulls out his wallet. From the wallet, he pulls a cluster of bills.

He sticks the wallet in his jacket pocket and begins sorting through the bills.

“Man! All I got -- ”

He breaks off, peels a bill from the top, and goes to the rider closest to him.

“You got change for a five?”

The rider shakes his head no.

He tries a second rider with the same results.

Then he calls out to the rest of us.

“Anybody got change for a five?”

No one answers.

He goes back to the driver.

“All I got are fives and twenties. When we get to Central, if you could just let me dip into McDonald’s -- ”

The driver tells him not to worry about it.

He sits down on the bench seat across from the driver.

While we’re making the Lead-University-Central-Yale loop, he pulls out a cell, makes a call.

He tells whoever is on the other line that he’ll be late, he’s catching the Lomas bus and there’s an hour wait after the seven p.m.

He also says he’s got some money, and the way he says it sounds like it is especially good news to listener and caller.

He says he’ll be ready for a bedtime snack by the time he gets there.

We turn back down Yale and stop across from the McDonald’s. All of us get off here.

I’m waiting for the light to change before crossing the street when I notice the guy with the fives and twenties jitterbugging through the traffic, heading for McDonald’s.

Hmmm. Well, even if he really intends to get change, he won’t get back out before the bus is gone.

The bus is still there when I start crossing the intersection. I’m almost to the other side when I see the guy come flying out the door and head back across the street, ducking traffic, heading for the bus.

I stop on the sidewalk. I want to see if this is really gonna happen.

The bus starts to pull away.

Our rider starts yelling and running and waving his arms. He’s heading for the driver’s side window when the bus brakes. The driver’s seen him. Our guy cuts back toward the rear of the bus and around the back end where I lose sight of him.

But the bus is waiting, and I can hear the front door open.

This is the best I’ve felt all day.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

BUS STORY # 230 (Shorts 19)

Stockholm Marathon 2008, originally uploaded by Hannes R.

Seth* tells me how Lilly* looked out the window yesterday morning and asked aloud, “Why is it only skinny people are out there running?”


It’s 13 degrees out this morning. So my seat mate and I are amused when we spot a sagger at the farebox. He’s showing navy blue flannel. “Long johns,” we say to each other, and laugh.


I watch six people board at San Mateo. The first rider swipes his bus pass through the reader. Nothing. He tries again. Nothing. The driver takes the card from him, examines it, then runs it through the slot himself. It works. This happens three more times.


Young guy boards, flashes his wallet, moves on. Driver calls him back. Rider keeps walking to the back of the bus. Driver calls him back again, tells him he needs to see that pass. Rider says he already showed it to him. Driver says sorry, bro, he needs to see that pass. Rider doesn’t move. Driver and bus don’t move. Rider gets up, stomps up to the driver, flashes his wallet, and starts back. Driver says he needs to see it. Rider stops, pauses, returns to front, opens wallet, holds it out. Driver looks at it, says OK. Rider returns to back of bus. Driver and bus move forward.


Four weeks ago, I posted a story about how a driver handled an impossibly tight turn in a road construction area. (You can read it here.) Later that week, one of my co-riders pointed out a fence at the corner of Avenida Cesar Chavez and Buena Vista where the 50 is having to make a very tight turn to accommodate a road construction detour. He told me a friend of his was on the bus that didn’t quite finesse the turn. See photo below.

Don't Fence Me Out, originally uploaded by busboy4.


*Real name changed.

The photo at the top of this story is titled "Stockholm Marathon 2008" and is posted with the kind permission of Hannes R. You can see this and all Hannah R’s photos at: