Sunday, January 27, 2013

BUS STORY # 325 (Portrait # 20: Tanisha)

This afternoon, in a parking lot, I spotted a personalized license plate that read, “TANISHA”*

Tanisha is the name of a co-rider I haven’t seen in quite a while now. I found myself wondering if this was her car, and if this was the explanation for why I hadn’t seen her in a while.

I’d thought about writing about her several times before now, but the story was slight, really.

And because we’d actually talked once, and I knew a little bit about her, I felt I’d be cheating to make her one of the portrait series.

But there was just the one conversation, and it really has been a while...

I first saw her when I was waiting for the bus home. She was crossing the street, pulling one of those black leather computer bags on wheels behind her.

What I saw first, though, were her clothes.

Truth is, I don’t remember exactly what she was wearing that day. What I do remember is thinking she’d managed to pull off an office-appropriate ensemble with a jazzy African look. Kind of like a guy in a gray flannel suit and a Jerry Garcia tie, except a lot more tie.

The other thing I remember were the big black sunglasses. I never saw her without them, so I really don’t know what her face looks like. But my guess is if I had, I’d describe it more in terms of character than beauty. She always looked to me like someone who was smiling to herself because she knew exactly what was going on, and how to navigate it.

She was black, late 20s-early 30s. Compact. Tight. Legs more like a middle linebacker’s than a ballerina’s.

She looked great.

It wasn’t until later that I realized it wasn’t just the clothes she’d artfully put together, but how she wore them, that put the wow in her dress.

She wasn’t a regular. I probably saw her once a week, if that, either coming or going to work.

I don’t even recall where we were when I struck up the conversation. Probably waiting at the same stop to go home, where I first saw her.

In any case, I learned her name, that she was doing consultant work, and that she had moved out here from Virginia.

It was small talk. She was pleasant, but didn’t volunteer anything. I managed to turn her name into something else before the conversation was over. “Tanisha,” she corrected, with a brief, all-business smile.

It was a short talk.

But after that, she’d give me a nod and a quick smile when we saw one another either on the bus or at the stops.

The first time I saw her on the way to work, we got off at the same place, along with a lot of other riders. Not all that surprising since we also got on at the same place across the street.

She was bang out the door and off down the sidewalk. Girl could walk. I’d follow her down the sidewalk until we went our separate ways at the corner. Further on, I’d catch sight of her again. We’d be walking more parallel to one another, though she was always out front.

I came to really enjoy watching her walk -- and not for the reasons you are probably thinking. Watching her walk made me hear James Brown singing “Say it out loud/I’m black and I’m proud.”

But even more: It was the walk of a strong, smart, savvy, independent woman who had made something of herself, and who knew all these things about herself.

It just made me feel good.

So now that this license plate has gotten me wondering if that was her car, I realize I can no more tell you what that car was, or even what it looked like, than I can tell you who’s gonna win the next Superbowl.

Which is a shame, because it now occurs to me that I could have told just by looking whether it was a Tanisha-worthy set of wheels or not.

Which makes me think it must belong to some other Tanisha or else I surely could not have missed it.

On the other hand, maybe just seeing “Tanisha” on the plate made everything else around it fade out to white. She could do that.


*Real name changed.


The photo at the top of this story is a detail from Look book: Vlisco “DelicateShades of African Prints” downloaded from the website Elegancy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

BUS STORY # 324 (Late)

The bus is late.

The woman waiting at the stop with me pulls out a cell phone and calls 311.  She asks if there is something wrong with our bus, and tells the agent her connections are in jeopardy.  She is polite.

When she is finished, she turns off her phone, puts it in her purse, then stands silently for a long moment. Then:

“They told me there’s nothing out of the ordinary that they know of, “ she says out loud, not looking at me.

I ask her what happens if she misses her connection.

She has to take another bus to the Northwest Transit Center, and take yet another bus in order to get home.  But she can’t afford to miss that other connection at the Transit Center, either, because it’s the last one for the day.

We talk a little more, and I learn she moved to Albuquerque two-and-a-half years ago from San Francisco, after she was laid off.  She tells me San Francisco is expensive enough to live in with a job.  It’s impossible without one.

I ask her why Albuquerque?

She got a job offer here.  She explains she’d sold her car after moving to San Francisco because there was nowhere to park, and because the public transportation there was 24/7.

She’d looked to see if Albuquerque had a public transportation system, but she says now she didn’t look closely enough.  She finds the routes adequate, but the schedules not.  Too much time between buses, and they all stop running at night. She points out the bus we are waiting for (the 140) has its last run at 6:20 p.m.

She tells me she had several route options between where she lives and where she used to work, so she always had an alternate route to fall back on. But her office has just been relocated to this area of town, and this route is the only option she has. She does not want to have to leave work early in order to provide a cushion for an unreliable bus schedule.

Our bus arrives almost 10 minutes late. It has been dead on time until now.  We get to her connecting stop a few minutes before her bus is scheduled to arrive.  But there is no way for me to know if her bus was still on the way or had come early.

No way for her to know, either.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

BUS STORY # 323 (Fellow Traveler)

I Ride . . . by busboy4
I Ride . . ., a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

After my first day of taking the 140 San Mateo to the north end of the route, I wasn’t really sure I’d find myself among company at the bus stop to go home.

The second evening, I was joined by a woman who told me she she wasn’t a regular; she was out here for a couple of days helping a friend in her shop.

But she used to be a regular. She used to work out at the old Citibank building which is the last stop before the bus turns right at the end of San Mateo. And she took the 140 every day.

Turns out she still takes the bus -- to work, and as much as possible, to everywhere else.

I ask why, of course. And, as it turns out, her story is my story.

Driving is a hassle. Owning and maintaining a car is expensive. The environment. She doesn’t mention reading -- or collecting bus stories.

I ask her how she gets around for shopping. She does indeed have a routine, with routes that get her to where she wants to go.

Does she have a car?

Oh, yes, but her husband drives it most of the time. He can have it, as far as she’s concerned.

This is where our stories part ways. Both my wife and I have a car. And I use mine to do almost all my shopping on weekends. Years ago, I tried working out a schedule to run the same weekend errands by bus, but with the reduced weekend services, it simply ate up too much time. But when I retire...

She gets off somewhere between Montgomery and Menaul. We’ve talked most of the way, undistracted by the heavy going-home traffic.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

BUS STORY # 322 (San Mateo 140)

San Mateo 140/141 by busboy4
San Mateo 140/141, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

I’ve been working out near the end of the northbound 140 (not 141) San Mateo route for the past week, in “Santa Fe South” as I sometimes call this area of town.

Fact is, until this week, this area was actually less familiar to me than Santa Fe itself.

The area looks like new development in the high desert, only instead of houses, there are widely-spaced, big, one or two-story boxes of industrial spaces and cube farms, and some offices.

The view is something.

Directly east, the Sandias rise straight up out of the ground. To the west, the “five sisters” -- ancient volcanic cones -- are seen through a web of electric cables. North are mesas and the Jemez Mountains. And over all is that enormous dome of New Mexico sky.

This is where Balloon Fiesta Park is, and I think the view here of the morning launches must be spectacular. I think a lot of work must have trouble making deadline that particular week.

Then I think of the traffic.

Since ABQ RIDE stopped providing park and ride services, my wife and I have driven many an early morning to the Balloon Fiesta. I think about driving to work out here that week, and I think maybe it would be better to take vacation then.

Or else the bus.

But the 140 must surely have to deal with the same traffic. There aren’t any dedicated bus lanes -- unless the city creates them during that week. And I cannot imagine the city doing anything that might obstruct the automobile traffic in this area, during this event.

It is highly unlikely I will be coming this way to work come the next Balloon Fiesta. For now, the morning work traffic is heavy, but moves along. It doesn’t really lighten up until we cross Alameda (after the longest red light in the world).

The bus turns right where San Mateo ends. It makes a box down along I-25 past the University of Phoenix before finding it’s way back to Jefferson, then Osuna, which turns into San Mateo on the east side of the I-25 underpass.

It continues straight down south, down past the southern terminus of San Mateo at Gibson, and on into the grounds of the VA hospital.

It is a long route. The schedule says 90 minutes. It takes me an hour to get from the intersection of Lomas to the north end of the line.

Not surprisingly, the ridership empties out along Jefferson. There are few of us left when we are heading for the north end of San Mateo.

We are a silent lot, both coming and going. Only once this week have I heard conversation -- a passionate discussion of why the four undefeated college teams left in the NCAA Division I this week should or should not be ranked they way they are.

I’ve gotten a lot of reading done.

It’s at the bus stop waiting to go home that I have had conversations here and garnered a couple of small stories.