Sunday, January 25, 2015

BUS STORY # 429 (It's Never Really Simple)

Public art at the ABQ RIDE stop at Central and Zuni. Photo by Busboy.

My first impression was that she was a regular. After boarding, she took the bench seat next to the front door and looked us all over, and smiled. A big smile. A “hi there” smile.

She was even smiling at me. Or maybe it was just in my general direction. She had sunglasses on, so I couldn’t really see her eyes, and I was in her general line of vision.

If she was smiling at me, maybe she recognized me from other rides. But I didn’t recognize her at all.

She kept smiling that big happy smile in my direction, so that after a few stops, I was beginning to wonder. I wondered if maybe she was ... simple.

When I got to my stop, I was preoccupied with the question of whether “simple” was offensive or not, and if it was, what word might be used in its place. I’d pressed the pedestrian walk button and was waiting for the light to change when I heard a voice ask if I was catching the bus. I looked over to my right and there she was.

“The northbound Wyoming bus. Yes,” I answered.

“That’s my bus,” she replied.

“It should be here around two-fifteen,” I said.

The light changed, we walked across the intersection, turned north to the bus stop bench, and sat down.

“This is where I catch the bus,” she said.

I nodded.

Silence. Then, “I’m getting my computer back Thursday.”

Um... “Back from where?”

“From my brother.”

Had he borrowed it?

She answered no, he’d taken it with him to fix it.

What was wrong with it?

It didn’t work.

After a pause, she added her brother’s daughter had used it without her permission and put a lot of junk on it, and then it didn’t work.

So your brother is fixing your computer because his daughter messed it up.

No, not that brother. Her brother from California is fixing the computer. Her other brother has the daughter who messed it up.

So is the brother from California mailing the computer to her?

No, he’s bringing it to her.

All the way from California?

He spends a lot of time in Phoenix because of his work.

Ah, I say, “just a hop, skip and a jump from Albuquerque.” I was being cute. Phoenix is over 400 miles from here.

“Just a hop, skip, and a jump,” she answered.

Another pause. Then she said the daughter who messed up her computer was her brother’s who lived here. He shouldn’t have let her use her computer. She put a lot of junk on it.

What kind of junk?

You know, junk. Junk.

I asked how old the daughter was.


I figured her niece had unwittingly downloaded a virus or two (although my wife wonders if she simply spilled something sticky on the keyboard). I suggested she probably didn’t mess up the computer on purpose.

She told me her brother put junk on it, too.

All of this conversation took place in maybe the first five of the 20 minutes we waited for the bus. Over the next 15 minutes, in exactly this same kind of back-and-forth, I learned she had been living with her brother here in Albuquerque. It was not a happy time for her because they wouldn’t let her cook because they were afraid she’d set the house on fire. And they’d go into her room when she was at work even though she’d asked them not to. She wanted to get a job, but her brother told her she wasn’t able to get a job. He thought he knew all about her, but he didn’t. She got a job at a fast food restaurant in the area. And then they ruined her computer.

So she moved in with her mother who had had a stroke but was now self-sufficient. That was a week ago. She’s much happier now because no one is telling her she can’t do this and she can’t do that, and because her brother from California is bringing her computer back with a lock on it that only she and her mother will know the password for.

When the bus came, she got on and was getting ready to take the bench seat behind the driver. I wished her good luck and took a window seat in the middle. I saw her looking over at me, and then she came and sat down next to me. She told me her brother’s daughter probably didn’t mean to mess up her computer. She told me she didn’t eat the food where she worked because it was cheaper to bring her own, and wasn’t loaded with fat. She told me she was glad she was living with her mother. She could cook anything she wanted at her mother’s. She told me her brother from California was putting a lock on her computer, and only she and her mother would know the password to get in to the computer.

When we got to her stop, I told her I was glad she was living with her mother and was getting her computer back, and I wished her luck. She nodded, then headed for the door.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

BUS STORY # 428 (Strangers In A Strange Land)

An old Japanese couple boards the bus. After taking care of the fare, they stand in the aisle looking at an unfolded piece of paper. Then the man folds up the paper and they go to take a seat.

Something about them suggests they are visitors rather than residents. Still, they seem familiar with the bus.

I am surprised when the husband takes the seat beside me, leaving his wife to find a seat further back. I decide I will get up and offer my seat to the woman at the next stop.

But when we stop, two rows in front of us completely empty out. The old man gets up and moves to the aisle seat of the first empty row.

Again to my surprise, his wife does not join him. I turn in my own seat and look back. She is sitting in the very last row, and looking like she has no intention of moving.

At the next stop, more seats empty out. This time, she comes down. But not to her husband’s side; to the seat directly behind him. She does not say anything to him, and he does not indicate that he knows she has moved.

I am looking at the scarf she is wearing over her hair. It is tied like a do-rag except it is a pink, gauzy thing, and it’s too short to cover the back of her head. And then I notice her pants: wide-legged stovepipes that stop above the ankle.

I look at her husband and notice his sweater vest: a large waffle weave in a color that comes closest to being what I call brown.

I think they must have brought their clothes with them from Japan.

Downtown, at the end of the route in the ATC, I watch them exit through the front door, the man first and his wife behind him. I catch sight of them again when I exit through the rear door. They are standing together, heads almost touching, looking down at the unfolded piece of paper in his hands.

Together again.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

BUS STORY # 427 (Busboy’s Annual Pass: Was It Worth It?)

In a word: yes. It was worth it.

I’ll get to the spreadsheet above in just a minute, but let me refer back to this time last year, when, after weighing the pros and cons, I decided to buy an annual bus pass. (You can read that story here.)

The big pro was I could save a lot of money. The big con was I had to use the bus enough times to save money.  The big question was would I really use the bus enough times to make buying a pass worth it.

After deciding to try the annual pass, I also decided to keep a record of my rides to calculate the actual number of boardings and the net gain or loss on my $90.00 up-front purchase price. I posted the results in spreadsheet form monthly, on one of the side links. (You can see December’s there now.)

The spreadsheet above is the cumulative 2014 record of trips, expenses, and savings. It shows my gamble was definitely worth it: I saved $113.00 (bottom of last column on the right, Gain/Loss). I used the bus enough times: 580 boardings (bottom of the second column from the left: # of Times Used).

I also kept track of the routes I used (second column from the left). That was just for my own curiosity.

Using only my own starting and finishing route, the 11, I came out ahead $16.05. From left to right, the 303 times I used the 11 at $0.35 a ride equals $106.05. Minus the $90.00 I paid for the pass equals $16.05. That’s how the spreadsheet works.

No surprise to me the Red Line, one of the three Rapid Ride lines, was my second most-used route.

My greatest disappointment: I’d hoped to ride more lines than I did. On the other hand, I had four first-timers: routes 1, 2, 10, and 157. One of these days, I’ll need or want to get to where one of the other routes goes. It’s good to know that, most of the time, I can get there from here.

I will definitely be buying another annual pass. But I won’t be keeping track of my rides anymore. I’ve proven that, for me, it’s a savvy investment.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

BUS STORY # 426 (Messed Up)

Photo by Busboy

The driver recognizes the guy who’s just boarded.

“Hey, aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“Yeah, but I gotta go to court this morning. I got a DWI.”

The driver groans. The rider asks him to let him know when the Second Street stop is.

“You want before or after I turn the corner?”

“After. It’s closer.”

The rider takes a seat in the first row behind the bench seat on the passenger side.

There is a pause, then the driver calls back, “So what were you doin’ drivin’ DWI, bro?” There’s a softening in his voice, a tone that says he isn’t just shooting the breeze but he isn’t wanting to push any buttons.

The story is complicated in the rider’s telling, but it comes down to his leaving a restaurant thinking he was sober enough to drive. He explains when he pulled onto the street, the cops were right there. It was as if they were waiting for him, he says.

He goes on to say he made things worse by demanding a blood test. He said not only did they refuse, but “they slapped me with an aggravated.”

I am confused. My understanding is an aggravated DWI comes with a driver’s refusal to take a test. Perhaps I misheard...

The rider goes on to say he should have just “bit the bullet” because now he can’t drive and he has to work and the whole thing has just messed up his life.

I was listening to that last as the bus pulled into my stop. If the driver had a response, I was already out the back door and missed it.

But I couldn’t help thinking about how this DWI had “messed up” his life. He could have injured or killed somebody, including himself. I wonder if he has any sense at all of just how much more “messed up” his life could have been.