Sunday, August 23, 2015

BUS STORY # 459 (A Small Miracle)

Wait! Photo by Busboy.

I’m visiting a friend across town. He doesn’t get out much for a number of health reasons, one of them an old football injury to the hip which has left him slow and hobbled. I go over on occasion and we go to the Nature Center or the small park by the Paseo del Bosque trailhead and slowly stroll between sits for a couple of hours. He gets exercise, we get companionship, and our wives get some respite.

This time, we’re not going to the Nature Center. He’s a week past getting over the flu, and his wife doesn’t think he’s ready to tackle that walk. But she does think a walk to a nearby park would be good. We’re doing that.

It’s a lovely day, really, the sun ducking in and out of soft white clouds; no wind; not too warm or too chilly. We walk across the grass for a bit. He pokes at litter with his cane and I pick it up. We deposit it at the various trash receptacles along the fence line of the park.

Later, we sit on a bench beside a playground and watch the elementary school kids at recess across the street. Recess is more organized than in our day. The kids run a lap around the field, then break into organized groups, some involving soccer balls, some bats and what we think are whiffle balls.

We follow a patrol car to the end of the street where it turns around, then parks. We watch a woman power walking, another walking a dog.

“We’re gonna get wet,” he says. He points with his cane to the sky in the northwest. Sure enough, the clouds over that way are a large dark gray mass. We watch for a bit; they are moving our way.

I am not particularly worried. When it comes to rain, Albuquerque is often a tease. We average between roughly seven to 10 inches a year, depending on where in the city you’re measuring. We’re two months away from monsoon season, and even monsoon season’s rainclouds are often much ado about nothing more than a couple minutes’ worth of sprinkles, if that.

I don’t get worried until it starts to rain.

It starts as occasional drops. Then the wind comes up for a few minutes, then the drops start falling more frequently. We take refuge under a platform with a tube slide. I stand on the side where the rain slants in and worry not just about his getting wet, but about how his wife will feel about his getting wet, especially when he’s freshly recovered from the flu.

The rain slacks off in a few minutes.

“You think we ought to head for home now?” he asks.

It’s a risk. We might have seen the worst of it, or we might have seen the sparse advance. But I can tell he’s ready to make a go of it. We start home.

We’re just out from under our shelter when I see a city bus pull up where we entered the park. I am dumbfounded. I have no idea what bus this is, no idea any bus came down this particular street. I think it would be wonderful to catch that bus, but it will be long gone by the time it will take us to get there.

The raindrops remain occasional; the bus remains where it is. We keep walking.

Eventually, I can make out the signage on the side of the bus: the lights alternately spell out “Rio Grande” and “12th Street.” I’ve ridden this route exactly one time, back in 2006. We are several blocks off Rio Grande, so I’m guessing this is part of a loop turnaround for this bus. And that is when it occurs to me the driver might be sitting there waiting for the scheduled start time to come around.

I don’t say anything. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to get my friend’s hopes up. Or maybe I don’t want to jinx whatever outside chance we have of getting to the bus before it needs to leave.

We walk slowly. The rain sprinkles. The bus stays still.

As we get closer still, I can see the driver eating his lunch. I resist the urge to speed up; I’d leave my friend behind, and then make the bus wait. Neither of these options is good. If we make it, we make it. If we don’t, así es la vida.

It seems like a miracle, but we actually reach the bus stop before he pulls away. The driver has been watching us, and he opens the door. I recognize him; I wrote a bus story about him back in 2012, when he was driving the 50. (You can read that story here.)  I tell him he may have saved us from getting soaked.

He laughs and says it wasn’t supposed to rain today.

I ask him if he stops anywhere near the elementary school which is a very short walk from my friend’s home. He says he pulls right up in front of it. I tell him we’ll take it.

He kneels the bus for my friend. I help him up, then to the bench seat, then come back to pay the fare. I put in a dollar for my friend, then pull out my bus pass.

“You don’t need that,” he says. “You’ve already paid for the both of you.”

I am momentarily puzzled.

“It’s 35 cents,” he explains.

Of course! I’m tempted to kid with him: how’d you know we were seniors? But I don’t.

I take a seat beside my friend. The driver finishes his lunch. While we are waiting, the rain starts coming down harder. It’s a pretty good rain, but, characteristically, it peters out after a couple of minutes. Being on the bus instead of out in the street seems like an extension of the miracle of the bus being there in the first place.

Our stop is the next stop. The driver kneels the bus again. When we get out, it isn’t raining anymore. We both thank the driver and wait for him to drive off. I notice the bus stop sign for the first time.

When we get back to his house, we don’t mention the rain or the bus. We’ve already had our miracle; no sense pushing our luck.


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