Sunday, May 27, 2012

BUS STORY # 290 (Shorts 25)

Today, In The Parking Lot by dan.castro
Today, In The Parking Lot, © All Rights Reserved, a photo by dan.castro on Flickr.

There’s a bit of a traffic jam at the Yale-Kathryn intersection this morning. Seems there’s an unattended lawn mower waiting to make a left turn onto Kathryn.


Kid gets on the bus just past Skateboard Park. He’s carrying his skateboard -- in three broken pieces.


He’s into it. 15 or thereabouts, phone in left hand, wire running from phone to left ear piece, and he’s drumming on his thigh and moving his head, mouthing the lyrics and no holding back, with facial expressions that surely express the lyrics. For a moment, his right hand quits slapping his thigh, grasps an invisible drum stick, and bangs away.


“[Ashrita Furman] has the record for the fastest mile with a milk bottle on one’s head: seven minutes and forty-seven seconds. In New York, in 1998, he walked 80.96 miles with a milk bottle on his head, which took twenty-three hours and thirty-five minutes. While he was training, children sometime threw stones at the bottle and shot at it with slingshots. A man hoping to startle Furman into dropping the bottle sneaked up behind him and barked like a dog. People stopped him and asked for directions. A bus driver swerved into a puddle to drench him.” -- Alec Wilkinson, from “Higher, Faster, Madder” in The New Yorker, December 19 & 26, 2011, p. 62.


A bunch of kids are exiting through the front door for Cesar Chavez. The driver calls out, “Have a good day. And no fighting, hear?” There is some kind of response that the driver hears but I don’t. He points to one of them and says, “I heard all about you trying to fight the whole school yesterday. Try and behave yourself, OK?”


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Today, In The Parking Lot,” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the kind permission of dan.castro. You can see all dan.castro’s photos on Flickr at:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

BUS STORY # 289 (Field Trip)

This morning, we pull up to the stop just past Wyoming, and a guy in a bush hat steps on board, shows the driver something, then announces, “Field Trip!” About 500 La Cueva High School students then board the bus.

OK, 500 is an exaggeration.

But there are an awful lot of them, and they fill all the empty seats and aisle and every spare nook and cranny in between. They’re on their way to UNM and an anatomy lab. I consider making a joke about the student body going to the anatomy lab, but think better of it.

Our driver does a wonderful job of looking out for the riders who need to exit between Wyoming and the stop by University Hospital. It’s impossible to hear the pull cord signal back here, so either she’s closer to the speaker, or else she’s got a visual signal of some sort up there. When she does stop, she keeps her eye out for the riders exiting. It’s taking them a while to worm their way to the doors.

By the time we reach San Mateo, where the junior high kids going to Wilson start boarding, there really is no more room on the bus. The driver stops for each clump of kids and assorted adults and explains we are full and apologizes.

She doesn’t have to do this. She could have changed the signage on the front of the bus and on the sidewalk side to read “Sorry. Bus Full,” and just sailed on past the stops. She’s a sweetheart.

One of the high schoolers standing beside me notes a lot of “those kids” at the stops have skateboards. “Dude, it’s all downhill from here.” He’s referring to the fact that every west-running street east of the Rio Grande runs downhill from the mountains toward the river. Theoretically, they could push off from any of the stops and just coast all the way to school.

Then he adds: “They buy these expensive skateboards, then just walk around with them.”

Even at my age, I know better. The little kids are into tricks. They’re the ones over at Skateboard Park when school is out. And at the bus stops, they practice standstill jumps and pivots and balancing while everyone else who’s older is texting or tweeting or otherwise working their electronic toys. It’s the big kids, like the ones I see around the university, who use them for transportation.

So how is it this old man knows so much about skaters?  All those field trips on ABQ RIDE, that’s how.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

BUS STORY # 288 (The Continuing Adventures Of The Man Whose Chevy Nova Is A Toyota Corolla)

Happy Car. Happy Life. by busboy4
Happy Car. Happy Life., a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

He joins me at the corner of Yale and Randolph where I am waiting for the 50.

“When’s the next bus?”

I tell him five minutes or so.

He tells me he’s just come from an administration office where the city sent him to take care of two tickets after he called the number on the tickets and asked where he needed to go, only after he got here and filled out all the paperwork, they told him he was in the wrong place and needed to go to Municipal Court.

He was already irritated by just getting the tickets. One of them says it’s an abandoned car, which it isn’t. It threw a rod a while back is all. He took it to Jim’s over on Lead, near Washington -- I tell him I know the place. They’re good, he says, but pricy. They told him they could fix it for twenty-five hundred.

Well, the car isn’t worth twenty-five hundred, he explains. So he got it back in his designated parking space at his apartment where it sat until the management told him he couldn’t park it there anymore because it was a junker. Never mind he was paying for that space and it was his car. So he moved it out onto the street.

The bus comes right about here. During the break while we’re boarding, I’m thinking there is something familiar about him, but I can’t put my finger on it.

I sit on the bench seat on the driver’s side, and he sits on the bench seat across from me and continues his story.

He was sure he could either get the engine fixed for a few hundred dollars, or else find an engine from an old Chevy Nova -- or a Corolla -- they’re the same car, transverse engine --

Bam! Now I remember. I ran into him about a year ago at the bus stop on Lomas, across from University Hospital. (You can read the story here.) He told me all about his car troubles then, and it sounds like I’m picking up right where he left off.

He doesn’t look quite as dapper as he did last year. He’s unshaven. The straw hat has been replaced by a worn baseball cap. I think his hair’s shorter, too. The big sunglasses are gone, replaced by a pair of large-lens plastic glasses. He’s got a light blue denim work shirt on over a T-shirt, and a pair of pants without the drape of last year’s trousers.

I look for the missing front teeth, but I can’t see them. I figure I must have been sitting on the bench the first time and looking up at him. We’re level with one another now.

He’s been explaining how, if he could get the car fixed up, which he could do if the Feds would just give him his tax refund which he’s been trying to get since 2008, then he would have something to drive instead of having to do so much walking and waiting for the bus. Or else he could sell it.

He explains he’s been out of work, and he’s having difficulty getting financially stabilized. The last place he worked was at the Circle K which was all right until a Canadian company came in and bought up the franchise.

He also describes some regional area business deals which I can’t keep up with. One of those led to his transfer, against his wishes, to another store in town where, contrary to his understanding with his old regional manager, he was moved to the graveyard shift. When he protested, his new manager told him it was the graveyard or no job.

He worked until he developed an inguinal hernia which a fellow employee who used to be a nurse diagnosed and told him he needed to get fixed before it strangulated and killed him.

By this time, we’re at Central, but he’s not getting off, and I decide to ride on over to the campus, then walk to Lomas. As it turns out, he gets off at the same stop, and we are heading over to Lomas together.

He is describing the frustrating experience of trying to access health care in the public health environment -- lots of waiting, lots of misdirection -- until one day he walks in and they take him right in. By this time, he’s in real pain, and isn’t sure he can continue working since work involves lifting heavy pallets of soft drinks for the store room.

They work him up, schedule him for surgery. He goes to work that night, tells his manager. She says, well, he’s got a week of vacation he can use...

We are halfway to the duck pond when he tells me he’s heading to the right. He smiles, and there they are -- or aren’t: the missing top front teeth. I wish him good luck and walk on.

Somewhere past the duck pond, it suddenly strikes me he’s taking his own usual way to the same bus stop I’m heading for, the bus stop across from UNMH where we first met. I’m sure he’s wanting to catch the 5, and that I will see him again when I get there.

I get there just as the 5 does. But he’s not there. I scan the campus behind me, ready to ask the driver to wait up, there’s another rider coming. But he doesn’t show. The Blue Line comes and goes, and then the 11 arrives some 10 minutes later. There’s no telling where he went.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

BUS STORY # 287 (Bridging The Generation Gap)

I take the aisle-facing seat behind the driver. A junior high kid takes the seat across from me.

I notice him because he’s more dressed up than I’m used to seeing from junior high kids. Nothing particularly fancy: a sports shirt, tucked into some khakis, sneakers. Clean sneakers. Hair’s cut neatly, too.

A few stops later, a trim young woman boards the bus.

She’s dressed for success: black blazer, at-the-knees gray sheath skirt, black tights, low heels.

I can't help but notice how nicely filled those tights are, and without being really aware of it, I’m set to track them as they walk past me.

But I’m distracted by the kid sitting across from me who seems to have made the very same appraisal, and the very same plan.

I lose his face as she walks between us. But on the other side, I see him following those legs up the aisle.

She’s a few rows past us when I see his eyebrows rise appreciatively. And then he swings his face back toward the front windshield.

I’m grinning. The kid’s just taken me back to when everything was still new. My own eyebrows were up most of the time.

Now I become aware of my thoughts, and I laugh out loud. The kid and the other riders sitting across from me look up. I shake my head in a “never mind” kind of gesture.

The kid’s probably pegged me for one of those crazy old men who ride around on the bus talking and laughing to themselves.  But hey, kid, turns out we’re not so different, you and I. 

The photo at the top of this story is titled “Old and new,” © photo Ken Coton (Ashwater Press), and is published with permission. You can see Ken Coton’s photostream on Flickr at