Sunday, September 28, 2014

BUS STORY # 412 (Good Will Ambassador)

Photo by Busboy


I watch a couple my age board the bus. This is a couple of hours past the commuter run times, and so they stand out by the way they’re dressed and the way they conduct themselves.

He’s wearing a tasteful blue and gray and green tattersall shirt and gray Docker-style slacks. And a white bucket hat. Brown, well-tended oxfords.

She’s wearing a white peasant-style blouse that’s actually a bit more tailored, and a white, floral print, mid-calf skirt. Her gray hair is cut short and modestly styled. Discreet pearl drop earrings. Sensible white sneakers.

They look new to the bus, and they have that white, middle class, what-a-pleasant-new-adventure look on their faces that often masks whatever anxieties they might be harboring on the inside.

Tourists.

I’ve nailed them just as surely as I was nailed a few months after I started riding the bus.

They take their seats up front, on the bench seats just in front of my forward-facing seat, and confirm my observation when the woman pulls out the route map and schedule for this bus, and the multi-colored route map for all of ABQ RIDE.

Not just tourists; newbies, just off the car.

They lean in together, talking and looking and pointing at the map.

I lean forward and ask, “Are you making a connection?”

The woman tells me yes they are, the 766 at Louisiana.

She has an accent. British, I think, but with a peculiar regional dialect of some kind.

I explain the bus annunciator they can anticipate: “Next stop, Lomas and Louisiana. Near side, far side. Transfer. Routes 157, 766.” Then I ask where they’re going.

Old Town.

OK, then they need to get off on the far side of Louisiana, walk past the bus stop by the gas station -- that’s for another bus -- and to the green bus shelter to the stop for the 766.

They explain they are visiting their son, but he’s working today, and so they’re exploring on their own.

They really are tourists.

I ask where they’re from.

Dundee.

I know this is in Scotland, but I have to ask where. Now I know: on the east coast, between Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

“Edinburgh!” I say, and I tell them I used to read a finely-written bus blog, lamentably abandoned, by a rider from Edinburgh. The woman nods politely and repeats they’re from Dundee. The way she says this makes me think that maybe the 60-plus miles between the two might be farther than those 60-plus miles between us and Santa Fe

She then tells me our bus fares are quite reasonable. They had spent some time in Chicago, and the fares were higher, but still, very reasonable when one considered the cost of hiring a car.

She goes on to explain that bus service is free for seniors in the UK. She says this is a very good thing because otherwise, a lot of seniors would never be able to get out of the house and travel or go shopping.

I would have added to the conversation if we weren’t approaching Louisiana. I’ve read there have been suggestions for ending the free fare for seniors as part of a budget-cutting strategy for dealing with their version of the Great Recession.

Instead, I caution them to wait when we stop on the near side, and point out the Rapid Ride stop on the far side and a little past the gas station.

They both graciously express their thanks, and I answer, “Welcome to Albuquerque. Enjoy your day.”

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