Sunday, October 05, 2014

BUS STORY # 413 (A Driver, Part 1)

Photo by Busboy

The 11 pulls up to its official end-of-the-line stop on Chelwood Park. Then the driver steps into the aisle and announces we’ll be here for 8 minutes

This is unusual, but occasionally, other drivers have let us riders know how long we’ll be parked before the bus resumes its route.

I flip open a magazine. He speaks up again, explaining we will have to exit the bus until it’s time to resume the trip.

That’s new. At least on this particular line.

I remember several years ago, many of the drivers of the 50 wouldn’t pick up folks near the airport turnaround, either. They’d have to go across the street and wait for the return route.

Once, on the 140, a driver made someone get off the bus and wait for the next bus up by the Eagle Rock Road stop. The rider was perplexed (as was I), but the driver explained that the rider had boarded during the northbound route before the loop that would have qualified him for a return trip. He should have crossed the street and waited for this bus to return.

I remember listening to the tone of the driver’s voice and thinking he was being kind of a jerk about the whole thing. It didn’t make sense that the rider should have to wait another 20 minutes for the next bus. But this story, and the others, suggest to me that there is probably an ABQ RIDE policy in place that is customarily not enforced.

I’ve never seen today’s driver before, but his face and voice do not suggest he’s being kind of a jerk. He’s smiling, and he explains he’s getting ready to step outside himself, and he can’t leave riders on the bus when he’s not aboard.

It’s a gentle, almost bemused, explanation. He has an accent; South American, I think.

“So go on outside and enjoy this wonderful sunshine,” he says.

His explanation makes sense. And so I get up and go outside. And he’s right about the sunshine. it is a glorious early autumn day, the kind where being in the sun is actually comforting.

A moment or so later, the driver steps outside and stands by the bus stop sign. He has a pipe in one hand and a plastic baggie of tobacco in the other. I watch him dip the pipe, fill the bowl, withdraw the pipe and tamp down the tobacco. It has the feel of habit, something he’s been doing a long time without having to think about it.

My father smoked a pipe the last years of his life. I took one of his pipes after he died, and smoked for a year or so. I understand I was in some way trying to stay connected to him, but either I am not a pipe smoker, or the times were not conducive to pipe smoking. Probably both. Certainly the times weren’t right; it takes slow time and careful work to smoke a pipe.

The driver looks like a pipe smoker, and when I take a longer look, I see someone who looks like he knows what he likes, and isn’t terribly concerned about what the times think about it.

It is about this time that I become aware that the driver has presence. He’s someone you would inevitably single out in a crowd because there is something more interesting, more attractive, more what-is-it-about-him, that exerts some gravitational pull.

I’m not thinking about a possible bus story yet. That comes later.

Continued next week.


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