Sunday, November 30, 2014

BUS STORY # 421 (The Ticket)

Downloaded from ebay.

It wouldn’t have happened if the concert hadn’t been scheduled in Santa Fe on Sunday afternoon. Or if the Rail Runner didn’t have such a skimpy Sunday schedule. Or if ABQ RIDE didn’t cut off my neighborhood on its Sunday routes.

Of course, it also wouldn’t have happened if I had been paying attention to the speed limit instead of spreading my focus to the coming concert, the lively conversation my wife and I were having, and the magnificent vista that opens out before you when Tramway turns west and drops down toward I-25.

I saw flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I thought it was an ambulance, and slowed, then pulled over to let it pass. It slowed, too, and pulled up behind me. The “ambulance” was an SUV driven by a Sandia Pueblo police officer.

I consider myself a conscientious driver. I am attentive to speed limits, and especially attentive on this particular road. Many are the times I’ve seen cars pulled over here. Many are the times I’ve been tailgated, then angrily zoomed around, because I was holding to the limit. Many are the times I’d watch those drivers rocket downhill with impunity and wonder where the cops were.

Be careful what you wish for.

The officer told me I was going 54 in a 40 mile-per-hour zone. I was genuinely surprised. He also told me that my record was clean, and I had some options. One of them was to make a court appearance without admitting guilt. Apparently, some judges will let someone with no previous driving infractions off on the condition they attend a driving class.

I asked if that meant the ticket would be thrown out.

Yes, assuming the option was offered and I took the class.

I found myself conflicted. If the judge gave me a break, I would not have to pay the fine and I would not have to face the probability of increased car insurance premiums for who knows how long. On the other hand, there was no question I was guilty of speeding.

More, even though I had not been intentionally speeding, nor driving under the influence, I had been engaged in what is a current public safety concern: distracted driving. I’d been so distracted I’d forgotten where I was, and had not even seen the speed limit sign.

I elected to acknowledge I’d violated the law and to pay the fine. The fine was $90.00 -- exactly the cost of my annual bus pass which I had purchased partly to save myself all that money driving a car would cost me.

I feel at peace with my decision. But for the record, your honor, it wouldn’t have happened if public transportation had been an option.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

BUS STORY # 420 (The Other Side Of The Mountain)

Albuquerque and the Sandia Mts.  Downloaded from Retire in New Mexico.

It’s a pretty cool November morning when I take the front row seat on one of the new 600s. Sitting on the aisle-facing bench seat in front of me is a kid who looks like he’s in high school. He looks over at me and says he didn’t think it would be this cold this morning.

He’s wearing an orange T-shirt. I see a lot of kids wearing T-shirts in this kind of weather. I read somewhere it’s supposed to be a school kid’s I’m-a-tough-guy kind of thing. But a tough guy wouldn’t be telling me it’s cold this morning. He doesn’t look like he’s trying to look like a tough guy, either.

I tell him it’s been cool like this for a few mornings now.

He tells me he’s surprised. He’s from the other side of the mountain, and he didn’t think the city got this cold.

I ask him where on the other side of the mountain.


Moriarty is a town of some 2,000 folks forty miles east of Albuquerque. To get there, you take I-40 through Tijeras Pass -- “Scissors” Pass -- which cuts between the Sandia and Monzano Mountains.

“You really are from the other side of the mountain,” I tell him. I ask if he’s going to school here.

He’s out of school, and glad to be. He’s on his way to work at one of the sports stores in town. He says he told his his boss he ought to hire him given all the stuff he’s bought over the years. He laughs.

So he lives here now?

He does. Going on four months now. That makes me wonder how it is that this is the first morning he's noticed the cold.

I ask if he’s glad to be in the big city, or if he finds he’s missing home.

He misses home. Says this straight up. Says it may be country, but he just feels more comfortable there.

And that’s when I understand what’s going on. A city kid wouldn’t be likely to start up a conversation with an old guy on the bus, especially a conversation that showed some vulnerability, some loneliness.

I think about asking him if he has any plans beyond the sports store. But then I think better of it. Maybe he’s already having those thoughts himself. And, even if he isn’t, he doesn’t need any more second-guessing material from me this morning.

I give him a smile, he smiles back, and we lapse into silence. I get off before he does, and wish him luck. Surely he’ll be going home for Thanksgiving, but I didn’t think to ask at the time. Then I think better of asking that question, too. Anything other than a heartfelt yes would have been hard for both of us.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

BUS STORY # 419 (Shorts 38: Other People's Shorts 3)

Downloaded from Instagram:kam0372.


Emily Ackerman reports she was escorting her friends’ 3-year-old daughter on the NYC subway when the little girl sees a very large, very tattooed man -- and I mean very tattooed. Face tattoos. Teardrops and crosses. She points right at him and says loudly, “Look! Look! A pirate!” Embarrassed, I do the lame adult thing, haha no no shhh. She then says, “Right there! Look at him! A pirate is right there!” Large tattooed man says, “No sweetheart, I’m a construction worker.” She then gasps, “You mean pirates can be construction workers, too? Whoa!” Subway car cracks up. My week was made.

Posted on Facebook by Emily Ackerman, via my daughter.


A while ago I was on the 205, just riding home from work, like I do.
The bus driver was making a reasonable attempt to be friendly, bidding each passenger a good day as they got off the bus.
Until one woman got off the bus.  The bus driver said, "Have a good day!" as she got off, and she didn't say anything; she just stared straight ahead, ignoring him completely.
After she got off and the doors were closed, the bus driver muttered, ". . . or not."  Several of us had a good chuckle.
Fairness requires the observation that she might have actually been having a really bad day.

Have A Good Day... posted March 20, 2014, by BUSNINJA, on BUSNINJA.


Over and over, she tells him that she did exactly what he asked and she’s pissed that he doesn’t appreciate her. But he said he can’t rely on her, so she’s telling him, over the phone, for all of us to hear, exactly what transpired. She asks him, repeatedly, to confirm that she did indeed do what was expected of her. Their words hit and expend their force, like two fifth graders hurling water balloons at each other. It escalates and the entire bus can feel their relationship tearing at the seams. Humans have the capacity for great art, tremendous acts of courage, and love that triumphs over evil. But sometimes the tantrums suffuse all reason and we lose the ability to be our best. Or even just plain decent. Small scale on the 120 to downtown or large scale across the globe, it plays out and breaks my heart.

Vanishing Reason, posted July 22, 2014, by Richard Isherman, on Bus Stories: Observations on Life In Transit.


The second grader stepped onto the bus with all the confidence and resolve of a modern day Meriwether Lewis.  He was dressed in cargo shorts with the standard one hundred and fifty pockets filled with the items needed for a grueling trek across the vast wilderness.  His t-shirt extended well below his waist line and he wore a black dress belt around his waist.  Not in the loops of his pants, just around his waist on top of the t-shirt.  On the belt there was a small nylon pouch.  He stepped beside me and with the sound of Velcro being parted he produced a compass from the small pouch.  He held it out for me to see and informed me, "I will be keeping us on track today."  He looked at the compass with a concentration that is only known by those who realize that the lives and safety of innocent people are in their hands.  He pointed down the road and said, "That direction is," there was a momentary pause as he found his bearings, "that direction is, that away."  So we went, that away.  He looked at me shrugged his shoulders and said, "Hey, I looked at the directions and they looked hard so I'm not exactly sure how this thing works yet."  Lucky for us the school was due, that away, from where we were.

Go West Young Man, posted April 15, 2014, by Tom Brandon, on Mr. Brandon’s School Bus


This morning on the 22 Fillmore:
Mr. Fantastic's outfit - dark purple skinny jeans and a black and white leopard print shirt. Neon yellow wristlet, flattop haircut, Clark Kent glasses.
Hot damn.
No one else could have pulled it off.

Bus Report #789, posted January 31, 2014, by Rachel in Fog City Notes.


The photo at the top of this story is downloaded from Instagram:kam0372.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

BUS STORY # 418 (“You Tell A Good Story, Too”)

Photo by Busboy

I’m heading for where the 157 stops south of Lomas, and I can see there are two people already waiting on the bench. I can also see they look like they might be homeless.

As I get closer to the bench, one of them stands up and moves in front of the near end of the bench. I’m expecting a request for money, but I only hear one word of what he says: “bathroom.”

I cup my ear and say, “Sorry?” I’m close enough to see the street patina that confirms my first impression.

I have a hard time understanding what he is saying, but I make out something to the effect that there is no bathroom here.

I ask if he’s looking for a bathroom. I’m thinking there’s a Shell station on the far side of the intersection I could point out. And then I see the other person still on the bench, a woman, has her jeans pulled halfway down her thighs. She is covered by her coat.

He is standing between us to give her privacy.

I look back up at him. He has a dark, weathered face, unkempt long hair straggling out from a baseball cap. He is looking right at me, and I look right back.

He asks me something with “marines” in it. His speech is not slurred, but it is thick and stolid, with a heavy Native accent. He speaks again, enunciating very carefully. Am I in the Marines.

I say no.

He says he thought maybe I was.

I ask if he was.


How long ago?

’85 to ’89.

Where was he stationed?

Camp Pendleton.

And then where?

Fort Benning.

The whole time?

“I been all around the world. I saw the sun rise in Japan. It doesn’t mean anything.”

The woman is calling out something, but I can’t understand her, and he is ignoring her.

At this point, I am thinking about the approximately ten minutes it will be before my bus comes. I ask more questions and sort out as best I can the answers.

It is difficult. Part of that is his speech. I do not think he is inebriated. But I wonder if I am hearing the cumulative damage of alcohol or drugs, or if he has mental issues, or is maybe simply street-stunned. Or all of the above.

Part of it is his story. His sentences may be hard to understand, but they’re coherent. His story is not. At one time, I hear he is Navajo. At another time, Apache.

He tells me the government quit paying him his veteran benefits. Later, he tells me he had the VA send all his benefits to his three children on the res.

He tells me he is waiting for his brother to come pick him up. When I ask, “Here?” he tells me nobody knows where he is, everybody thinks he’s back on the res.

At this point, the woman becomes agitated and wants to know why I’m asking all these questions. Am I with the government?

I explain I just want to hear his story.

His story then becomes he is a forgotten veteran. He went over to Afghanistan and killed a lot of people, and now that he’s back home and not killing, he’s of no use to them anymore. He’s already told me he was in from ’85 to ’89; we didn’t go into Afghanistan until 2001. That we know of, anyway.

The woman chimes in they’ve even cut off their food stamps.

He tells me he used to love America -- he thumps his heart with the palm of his right hand -- but he feels differently now. No one cares about veterans, he tells me.

The anger is quiet but unmistakable. It’s in his voice and his eyes.

After a long pause, he asks me if I have any spare change.

I admire the timing.

I do not and tell him so. I’m thinking if he tells me they are hungry, I will offer to take them back across the street to the Burger King and use my credit card to buy them something to eat. But he does not.

Instead, he holds my eyes for a second, then says quietly, “You tell a good story, too.”

A bus pulls up.

“Your bus is here.”

It’s the Red Line.

“Not my bus,” I tell him. I wish it were.

But he has already turned around and headed back to the bench where the woman is seated. She’s moved from the end of the bench to the middle, and I see what I would have taken for a spilled soft drink pooled under and out front of the place where she’d been sitting with her jeans half-down.

The Red Line pulls out, and the 157 pulls in right behind it. I feel like telling the driver he got here just in the nick of time. But I keep it to myself. It isn’t until we’ve gotten to Coronado Mall that I hear Johnny Cash singing “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”

Sunday, November 02, 2014

BUS STORY # 417 (Now Playing In The Duke City)

Downloaded from Theline by busboy4
Downloaded from Theline.

“What’re you reading?”

I’m surprised. My seat mate is a kid with a skateboard between his knees and what I take to be a graphic novel in his lap. We’ve been riding in silence since I got on at Carlisle. We’re somewhere past San Mateo now. He’s obviously taken note of the magazine rolled up tightly in both my hands.

I tell him I’m reading about Brazilian soccer. I tell him I did not really know what a rabid fan is until I started reading the article. People quit their jobs, sell their furniture, whatever it takes, to follow their teams to wherever they are playing a championship game.

He seems impressed, in the non-judgmental way we express our wonder when presented with human behaviors that are beyond rational understanding. I nod toward his book and ask him what he’s reading.

“Oh, it’s called Buddy Does Seattle.”

He explains it’s about this guy, Buddy and his friends who live in Seattle and are just getting by with whatever jobs they can get. He goes on to explain he spent eight days in Seattle, and the book captures a lot of his experience of the place.

He tells me he thinks it was a comic strip in one of the newspapers there, and now they’ve all been collected into this book.*

The Stranger?” I ask him.

He isn’t sure.

Because of the conversation, and because he’s an Asian kid, or much more likely, Asian-American, I ask him if he’s from Seattle. No, he’s from here. He went up to Seattle to get his Army discharge papers. He was in for four years.

I ask him what he’s doing now.

Skating. What he’d really like to do is get a sponsorship. He explains that would enable him to make film clips and movies of himself trick skating. A sponsorship would also mean stuff like free trucks and wheels and bearings and boards.


He points to the attachment where the wheels are. Then he shows me how the front truck rocks back and forth, and he describes some of the tricks you can do with that rocking truck.

How long has he been skating?

Just since he got out of the Army. He started when he was up in Seattle, waiting for his papers.

I ask if Buddy is a skater.

No. He tells me a little more about Buddy, then opens the book and shows me the continuous comic strip story line. He explains where he’s at in the book now: Buddy’s girl friend has taken a job in Paris, and Buddy thinks she’s left him, but she really hasn’t. Meanwhile, his first girlfriend shows up and she’s a mess, and he’s trying to help her get her head straight...

So how did he get interested in skating?

He just saw people skating in Seattle, and he wanted to try it. He tells me about the different boards -- shortboards, longboards, skaters -- and the differences a wide or narrow board can make.

He’s been skating a year now, and he says the important thing is to not be afraid to try anything. If you balk at any of the hard tricks, you aren’t sponsorship material.

He pulls his skateboard up to show me that, just past the rear wheels, the board has been broken off. Then he explains he mistimed his crossing on Central; a car took it off. His tone is completely casual; no big deal. I’d say he’s fearless enough for a sponsorship. Now all he has to do is be good enough and stay in one piece.

He tells me I should see a movie, "Lords of Dogtown," which he describes as a retelling of the early days of skateboarding in Florida where trick skating really got started.**

We get to his stop. I tell him I enjoyed talking with him, and wish him luck.


*Yes, I went home and googled. You can read the complete story of Buddy Does Seattle from the publisher, Fantagraphics, here.


**Yes, again. However, this synopsis of the film by Rotten Tomatoes puts the origin of trick skateboarding in Venice, California. Click on “More” in the link to read about the preceding documentary, "Dogtown and Z-Boys."


The photo at the top of this story is downloaded from Theline.