Sunday, January 26, 2014

BUS STORY # 377 (Annual Pass)

Savvy by busboy4
Savvy, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

I am retired. This means, among many other things, that I am no longer the beneficiary of my previous employer’s monthly bus pass. I must now pay my own way.

I am also well past the qualifying age for ABQ Ride’s “honored citizen” status (“62+ or mobility impaired” ). That means each bus ride costs me 35 cents. If I need to transfer, another 35 cents.

A typical bus trip costs me $1.40 a day. Paying my own way on the bus is probably the least expensive item on my cost-of-living budget. Well, next to the two-movies-a-month Netflix deal.

I have three other options.

One is to buy a monthly pass for $12.00.

A second is to buy a three month pass for $30.00 (six dollars a month cheaper than three monthly passes).

A third is to by an annual pass for $90.00 (30 dollars cheaper than four three month passes; 54 dollars cheaper than 12 monthly passes).

Aside from the fact that buying one pass once a year is both cheaper and easier than buying four, and a whole lot cheaper and easier than buying a dozen, there is the usage question: would I use the bus enough times for a pass to pay for itself?

I’ve been doing my homework. I can get to my bank, my photocopy shop, my primary care physician, and a twice-a-month presentation at UNM, for a 70 cents round trip. I can get to any of my grocery stores, my barbershop, my meat market, my coffee roaster, my medical specialists, and the restaurants where I meet friends for lunch every week for $1.40 per round trip. If I add stops for the post office and/or library to those trips, it’s another 35 cents. Occasionally, I make a series of stops along a route. Each reboarding costs 35 cents. But it’s rare I go over $1.40 a day.

If I continue averaging three bus trips a week at $1.40 per trip, that comes out to $18.20 a month cash fare. Versus an annual bus pass cost of $7.50 a month no matter how much or how little I ride. Plus: a bus pass would mean I won’t have to be sure I always have correct change -- a real hassle at times.

I’ve sprung for an annual Silver (“honored citizen”) pass.

I’ve begun keeping a record of how many trips I take each week, and how many transfers I make per trip. I plan to calculate the cost/savings on both a monthly and annual basis. I also plan to post these as a side link where I am currently posting the weekly This Week's Featured Bus Story, News from Albuquerque, and Holy Cow! links. I need to come up with a catchy name for this fourth link. Maybe something like “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.”

Now that I’m retired, I should have plenty of time for this little project.  I think I'll schedule it for right after my nap.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

BUS STORY # 376 (A Bus Story For Martin Luther King Day, 2014)

In Observance, 2014 by busboy4
In Observance, 2014, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

I board the 66 out in front of the ATC, on First at Central, along with a lot of other folks. By the time I’m aboard, all the seats below the back platform are full, except one. It’s an aisle seat.

There’s a pretty big guy in the window seat, with half his right leg taking up half the aisle seat. The people ahead of me pass it by and head up the platform where it’s already standing room only.

I’ve talked about this before. Albuquerque is largely a live and let-live town. Riders here will often stand rather than impose on someone sitting in an aisle seat next to an empty window seat, or on two riders sitting on a bench seat with an empty seat between them. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. It’s something I haven’t seen the few times I’ve ridden the bus in other places.

I am not a confrontational kind of guy, especially when I’m in a public space. I’m taking stock of the folks standing in the back when I feel something propel me into the partially occupied seat.

I’ve just taken myself by surprise.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m not sure if I’ve just committed an act of aggression or confrontation or just plain momentary insanity. I don’t feel angry. Or edgy. Or righteous. I’m surprised to find I feel good.

I have no idea what’s wrong with me.

The first coherent thought that finally comes to mind is “lark.” As in “for a lark,” which becomes “I wonder what would happen if.” If I sat down next to this guy whose body language is making it perfectly clear he owns these seats, mister, and he has clearly posted a “No Trespassing” sign.

By this time, it’s too late. And perhaps this is when I’m thinking it must be aggression or confrontation or push back, because I’ve taken every inch of available aisle seat I can, to the degree that my left thigh is smack up against his right thigh, hip to knee.

If he had been a she, I might have gotten myself slapped by now.

He doesn’t move his leg. He doesn’t move his head, either. He’s looking out the window. It’s like I haven’t happened.

Maybe it’s a race thing. He’s black. I’m white.

Maybe some part of me didn’t want to feel intimidated.

Maybe some part of him is making up for times past.

He’s too young to have experienced what Rosa Parks’ generation experienced. But maybe he has parents or grandparents or aunts and uncles who’ve told him how it used to be.

He isn’t near young enough for me to write off his lack of awareness to youthful self-absorption.

Maybe he’s wondering if I’m gay and making a pass? Or maybe he’s gay and wondering if I’m making a pass. But if he’s gay, he surely knows I’m not. Gay or straight, he might be doing the same thing I’m doing: trying to figure out what’s going on with this co-rider of his.

But what I come round to most of all is he’s just really irritated that someone -- anyone -- took the aisle seat. He’s a big guy, and one seat isn’t enough room. That ought to be clear to anyone, but here I come along and plop right down. No consideration at all.

We go for several stops, neither of us yielding a millimeter along the line of scrimmage.

And then his leg moves. It pulls over to his side. He straightens up a little, then turns to me and asks, “Where you goin’ this fine mornin’?”

I look at his face for a moment before answering. He’s smiling, and if there is any sarcasm or irony or anger or anything other than a sincere and warm greeting, I don’t see it. And it is a fine morning, the first true autumn day of the year. I am confused again, but not too confused to take the cue. I tell him I’m on my way to meet a friend for lunch.

He tells me that’s a good thing, and he asks me where.

I tell him.

He asks me if that’s in the University area.

Close to it. I explain I get off at the stop just after Girard.

He’s riding to the end of the line.

To Tramway?

Yes.

Where’s he coming from?

The dentist. And his face is all numb. He tells me he’s glad it isn’t cold this morning because he doesn’t think he’d know if his nose was running.

I tell him I’m glad, too, for my sake.

He laughs. I laugh.

We talk.

He tells me today it’s the dentist, day after tomorrow it’s the other end. He’s going to the hospital for one of those scope jobs. He says his brothers and sisters have been telling him it’s not that bad. He thinks all that stuff he has to drink to clear himself out is gonna be the worst part.

I tell him I think he’s right, and I hope he doesn’t have anyplace out of the house he has to be tomorrow. He laughs. I laugh.

He’s gonna have a steak dinner tonight, though.

And so forth. We laugh.

He pulls the cord for me when we cross Girard, and then he tells me again it’s a good thing to be having lunch with my friend. I wish him good luck with his test, then head for the back door.

I don’t tell my friend at lunch about my experience on the bus. I don’t tell him because I haven’t processed it yet. Even now, it’s still a bit of a mystery to me. The only thing I know for sure is that I read all the signs wrong, and that I had a headful of crazy ideas. Fortunately, I know that hardly ever happens with me.

I laugh.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

BUS STORY # 375 (Portrait # 25: The Old Cowboy)

Cowboy by blinkd.ca
Cowboy, a photo by blinkd.ca on Flickr.

We’ve stopped in the middle of a block, and I am mesmerized from the moment the new rider works his way slowly up the stairs of the old 300.

Cowboy.

Old cowboy, or maybe prematurely aged. Long and lean.

Long gray hair like the movie studios would have Sam Elliott wear for an 1880s cowboy movie, coming down from under a cowboy hat Sam Elliott wouldn’t be caught dead in. A curiosity in cheap brown felt, a brown that can only have been made in China. Front and back pulled down hard like those peacock-feathered, turquoise-rimmed, straw caricatures tourists pick up in Austin or Santa Fe.

He doesn’t have Elliott’s star-maker of a mustache, but a short gray beard and mustache, nicely trimmed. High, defined cheekbones make me think there’s some Oklahoma in him. Above the cheekbones are a pair of green-lensed, pilot-style sunglasses.

Dark brown leather car coat, blue jeans. The jeans are pressed, Texas style. Not new, but not faded, either. And not tight, but they don’t have to be: he’s got those narrow cowboy hips and legs. Brown boots, well worn, with walking heels.

And a wood cane.

I’m so absorbed I miss how he handles the fare. But when he’s done, he turns, slowly and stiffly, and makes sure he has his cane positioned to support him on his way to the bench seat where the elderly and handicapped sit.

Comes the thought: old rodeo cowboy. And then:
They’ll never stay home
And they’re always alone*
It was a short ride. He got off at the first intersection with a stoplight. Slowly and stiffly. He needed the cane.

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*From the lyrics to “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” written by Ed Bruce, who performs a wonderful version here.

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The photo at the top of this story is titled “Cowboy,” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the permission of blinkd.ca. You can see all blinkd.ca’s photos on Flickr here.

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Thanks to JM in Brooklyn for this week’s featured bus story: This Week In: Grand Central Station, NYC.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

BUS STORY # 374 (Every Picture Tells A Story)

On the buses by La cervelle en été
On the buses, © All Rights Reserved, a photo by La cervelle en été on Flickr.

There are times I wish I could just pull out my camera and take a picture of certain co-riders.

But I don’t.

I don’t because I’ve seen and heard about too many folks who get upset when some stranger takes their picture.

I had such an experience myself way back in 2006, when I was taking the photo for Bus Story # 14. I was standing across the street taking a picture of the Rapid Ride stop in front of the Talin grocery store, and a guy waiting there called out he didn’t want his picture taken.

He was the only person there -- I’d waited on purpose until after the bus had come and picked everyone up so there wouldn’t be anyone in the picture.

I called out to him that I didn’t want him in my picture, either, but I wanted a picture of the bus stop, and would he please move.

To my surprise, he did. I framed the shot, then motioned him to move further away. And he did.

I remember thinking maybe the guy was wanted somewhere, or wasn’t supposed to be in Albuquerque, and was afraid his photo appearing God knows where would give him away. And I remember laughing to myself because I knew he was too far away for my point-and-shoot to come anywhere close to capturing his face. But given today’s technology...

I’ve thought about sneaking photos with my phone, but the sneaking part leaves me feeling uncomfortable. I once saw someone angrily accused of doing that. I don’t know whether he was really sneaking a photo or he just had the bad luck to run into a paranoid.

I know from pouring over what must by now be thousands of Flickr photos that a lot of amateur photographers simply ask their subjects if they would mind being photographed. But I worry such a request would be taken as an insult, as a foregone conclusion that whatever it was I’d found noteworthy about their appearance could not possibly be complimentary.

And so I keep my camera and my phone to myself.

Lately, I’ve been reading about Google Glass, a computer you wear like glasses and can use to take pictures or videos of what you’re looking at. Even at this early stage, outside developers are already working on apps that will make the picture-taking a stealth behavior.

However, there have also been some very unpleasant encounters between Google Glass wearers and people who recognized what they were wearing. One fast food customer in France had his glasses ripped off his face by an irate counter clerk.

I don’t think I’d try wearing those on the bus anytime soon.

The consolation for not having the photographic image is the exercise of describing what I’ve seen, and why what I’ve seen is noteworthy to me. That has also been one of the real pleasures of the portrait series.

Still, there are times I’d love to have the photographic image. Next week’s portrait of an old cowboy is one of those times.

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The photo at the top of this story is titled “On the buses,” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the permission of La cervelle en été. You can see all La cervelle en été’s photos on Flickr here.

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Thanks to BB in Boston for this week's featured bus story: One January in: Boston.