Sunday, August 11, 2013

BUS STORY # 353 (Special Edition: Paul’s Bus Story # 2)

New Mexico Rail Runner Express, downloaded from New Mexico Rail Runner Express's Photos on Facebook. by busboy4
New Mexico Rail Runner Express, downloaded from New Mexico Rail Runner Express's Photos on facebook.

Paul is a long time friend from here in Albuquerque. He and I rode the bus together back in Bus Story # 46. A few weeks later, he sent me a fine bus story he’d written after a trip to San Diego. Here is his latest story.

My car’s in the shop on a day when I’ve planned to take the Rail Runner train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. With my car needing service, I’ve got it worked out in my mind how I can drop my car off at my mechanic at 7:30 this morning, walk a block to catch the Central 66 line around 7:45, stop near my UNM office around 8, make some copies at a Kinko’s, grab a take-out biscuit breakfast, stop at my office to pick up a couple of things and hop back on the 66 to get down to the train downtown, which leaves the station at 9:35… I think. Might be 9:32.

All goes super smooth in my plan and I get everything done and find myself in my UNM office about ready to head back toward Central to pick up that leg to downtown. I re-check the options online. The ABQ RIDE planner says I can get the Westbound #66 at Yale and Central at 9:15 and get to the downtown station endpoint at 9:23. Right where the train boards. That’s 12 minutes of wiggle room, I figure. Pretty good. I can even hop onto the #66 up the street from my office at Girard and Central. That’s before the Yale stop so I’m guessing I need to be there at 9:13.

The planner also says there’s a Rapid Ride 777 Express that could get me at Central and Yale at 9:23. It would shoot me down to downtown without stops and get me there at 9:27. My friend the Busboy would tell me to get on the Rapid. “It’ll be faster.” But I think, “Yeah, but 4 minutes later than the 66. I’ll take the ol’ 66. It should be downtown before the Rapid would even pick me up. Then I won’t have to hoof it down to Yale, since the Rapid won’t stop at Girard near my office. So there, Busboy! I got this one figured out.

I look at the time on my office computer. 9:02. Hmmm. 10 minutes to get the 400 yards up to Girard stop on Central. I just had a 24-ounce Coke. Do I have time to hit the men’s room before I leave my building? I judge I have the time and do the deed, leaving the building at 9:04.

Striding up the hill to Girard, I notice how humid it is for this time of morning. Of course, I also think, my adrenaline is starting to surface. I know I’m on a clock and counting on some things that I’m not completely in control of. I make it to the bus stop on Girard as one of the express busses flies by. That can’t be the Rapid, I think. Must be another express. A stout young woman with piercings and tattoos who is standing at the curb, hollers to her male companion, “It didn’t stop!” Her companion, a skinny, tired-looking young man is resting his head on his backpack. He doesn’t seem alarmed. About 5 others are on the bench with him. Everyone is quietly unsurprised that the express didn’t stop. They’re waiting for the 66 and know the express doesn’t stop here.

The young man lifts his head from his backpack when he sees me. I can’t really hear him but I guess he’s asking if I know when the next bus is coming. With my computer bag on my shoulder, I must look like an experienced bus rider. I accept the role and say, “There’s another one coming soon.” As I walk toward him, he repeats himself and now I can actually hear him. He hadn’t asked about another bus after all.

“Do you have 35 cents for her to catch the bus?” he says.

“Oh - I think so,” I say, fishing change out of my pocket. I’ve already got my all day bus pass so I don’t figure I’ll need the change. I give her two quarters saying, “Isn’t the fare a buck?” “No, I’m a student,” she says. I thought students rode free, I think, but I figure she knows what she’s doing (even if she didn’t know the express didn’t stop here.)

I look at the schedule posted at the stop. It says the next 66 is supposed to be at Central and Yale, beyond this stop I’m at, by 9:13. I check my phone for the time. 9:15. Hmmm. It’s late. I start to wonder what I’d do if this one doesn’t show soon. I’ve been waiting at a stop before when a disabled bus didn’t show at all. If it doesn’t show soon, I could jog west to Yale and try for that express that’s supposed to get there by 9:23. Hmmm. When to bail?

Looking east again, I see rising from the watery haze of the street horizon the front profile of a bus. Must be the 66. Like a sentry, I take the responsibility of reporting to the rest of those waiting, “Here it comes, guys.”

I hop on first, forgetting any protocol about letting the young woman on first, or even waiting for others to exit. I imagine that the young woman may not actually be able to get on with just the 50 cents, and I don’t want to be behind her. Realizing I need to at least wait for riders to get off, I edge to the right to let 3 or 4 out, then amateurishly hold up my day pass to the driver. “Slide it,” he says, pointing to the card reader. I start to put it in backwards. “Other way,” he says. I should know this by now but I always forget. I still forget to slide my credit card at store counters, too.

I sit in an empty forward facing seat near the front. I watch the time crawl on the light display above the driver. 9:20 as we pull away from my stop. 15 minutes until my train leaves downtown. Well it was supposed to make that distance in 10 minutes, according to the schedule. That would still give me 5 minutes to spare. Still, I should have left earlier all around. Oh well, it’s all in this bus’s wheels now.

I move to the window to make room for others.

And the others start to come.

At every stop. We seem to be crawling toward our destination.

A middle aged Native-American fella boards, fist bumps another Native fella sitting in front of me, and takes the seat next to me. They say nothing and don’t regard each other again after the fist bump.

After a moment or two, my seat mate pulls a little weathered pocket-sized book out of his back pocket. He flips through it. I can see it’s the Book of Psalms. But he’s not reading it. He’s looking for a particular note that he’s stuffed in it. He pulls out a worn index card that’s folded over twice. He opens it up to reveal an 888 phone number written in pencil just over the long middle fold. He rubs his thumb across the number. From reading Busboy’s stories, I start imagining a story about the number. Like perhaps it’s a number he needs to keep. Might be a new job riding on him getting the nerve up to call it. His careful thumb rub over it suggests it’s important enough to keep anyway. He studies the card and starts to tear it on the crease right below the number. He peels off the lower quarter of the card. He needs something to write on. He writes another phone number on the little quarter piece and places it randomly into the Book of Psalms.

The call bell keeps ringing. “Stop requested.” “Stop requested.” 9:22, 9:23, 9:24 on the clock. I notice I’m getting impatient with everyone who’s pulling the cord and everyone who is waiting to get on at each stop. At Central and University, a major intersection, about 12 people stream on, each taking a few seconds to drop their fare. Do the math. I’m losing another minute at this stop. 9:25. 10 minutes ‘til the train pulls away downtown.

The last man in this long line is fishing through his many pockets without any luck. The driver, whom I can’t see, is holding the bus while he looks. 9:26. I can’t quite hear as the sun-browned man with unkempt hair makes his plea to be allowed on the bus. Again, I can’t quite hear but the man looks toward some of the passengers standing near the front asking for change. “35 cents?” he asks. No one is responding. I start to fish back into my pocket. I’ll pay his fare if it means we get going. I imagine myself getting up and saying something boorish like “I’m trying to catch the Rail Runner. I’ll pay his way.” I realize I only have 30 cents left in my pocket after giving the young woman two quarters.

The hopeful rider is getting agitated with the driver and keeps talking, upset, as he backs off the bus. I won’t be saving him or acting boorish today. Well, I might still act boorish before this episode is over. It’s 9:27.

“Stop requested.” “Stop Requested.”

One man waiting to get off is standing behind the line at the driver. I glance at his left hand and he’s tapping his thumb against the other fingers on his hand in rapid sequence. I’m imagining that my nervousness about the time, that I’m trying so hard to contain, is leaping through the air and manifesting in this man’s nervous gesture.

“Stop Requested.”

The nervous twitch guy gets off at Broadway and Central. We stay at that stop for what seems like forever for a red light. Another minute. 9:29.

My seat mate is now reading his Book of Psalms. I think maybe I should read over his shoulder. Maybe I’ll find some comforting words that will engender patience and acceptance in me. I try but the print is super small. I can’t make anything out. I’ll have to find my patience in my own stored reserve. I hate using it up on menial stuff like this.

We’re finally nearing downtown and about to dip under the very railroad track that, I hope, will still carry me on to Santa Fe. I actually can see the Rail Runner waiting and people boarding a couple hundred yards to the south.

“Stop Requested. Central and First Street. Transfer to the Transportation Center.”

I think this bus terminates at the train station eventually but I have a vague memory that it goes around a few more downtown blocks before it lands there. I better get off the bus now. It actually turns North up First Street to get to the next stop which convinces me to get off right now because now it’s pointing away from my train and clearly about to move in that direction.

I get off the bus with an obligatory “Thank You.” The bus driver had done his job. Being a little behind time isn’t necessarily his fault.

I jog back across Central. At least I got the pedestrian light in my favor. The train’s only 100 yards away. I’m going to make it. I think. I look at my phone. 9:31. I can’t remember if it leaves at 9:35 or 9:32.

The doors of the train stay open. I hop on. I find a seat in the first car with a little table. I open up my laptop. 9:33. In a moment or two comes the announcement. “Doors are closing.”

I start writing this story for Busboy.

Now it’s done. Apply your own morals/lessons. As for me, (1) leave a little earlier next time – don’t place all your hopes on the one bus that can get you there just in time. (2) Carry enough change for two benevolence fares. (3) Maybe listen to Busboy’s advice about the Express bus more carefully.


The photo at the top of this story was downloaded from New Mexico Rail Runner Express's Photos on facebook.


Anonymous Brenda said...

I'm glad this wasn't a full length novel. My heart was in my throat the whole time! Well done.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A gripping account, filled with unexpected twists, turns and emotion. A pop-corn chomping winner!

9:42 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Ha, that stressed me out! Glad he made it

9:26 PM  

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