Sunday, March 27, 2016

BUS STORY # 490 (Shorts 45)

Photo by Busboy


Very tall, very thin, older black man gets on the bus and takes the bench seat behind the driver. Jeans, black UNM sweatshirt, Dallas Cowboys cap. The Latino guy in the first row seat leans forward. Brown knit cap, gray Nike jacket with a stained hoodie, faded jeans. The black guy suddenly recognizes him and laughs. They bump. They ask each other how they’re doing, then launch into their latest experiences with their street mission work with the homeless and newly-released prisoners. Their joyful enthusiasm is palpable.


Skinny white guy, gray beard, dressed all in black, on a cell phone when I take a seat on the bus stop bench. When he finishes, he walks over and asks me if I’ve ever had one of those days where nothing goes right. I tell him I have. Then he tells me it took him 55 years to figure out that the day after is always a great day. Every time. Without fail. So he’s just gonna gut out the rest of this day because there’s no telling what’s gonna happen good for him tomorrow. He may go out to the casino, win two hundred thousand dollars. Maybe meet a lady. He’s ready for whatever else is gonna fall on him the rest of the day because tomorrow’s gonna be great!


The woman with the big dark sunglasses is explaining she’s just had cataract surgery. She says they’ve put a lens in which lets her see far. Next month, they’re doing the other eye and putting in a lens which lets her see near. Then she won’t ever need glasses again. She doesn’t know why they don’t perform this surgery on children. They’d never need glasses. What about vision changes, I ask. She says they can adjust the lenses with computers. “They can adjust the heart with computers, right? Why not eyes?” She wonders if the eyeglass industry is blocking this progress.


We’re between bus stops on Juan Tabo when we pass a girl running in the same direction. She’s has a ponytail and is wearing a day-glow green backpack. The driver slows the bus, pulls over, and stops. When the girl passes by the front door, she slows. The driver calls out, “Are you running for the bus?” No, she’s just running. “Oh. OK.” We all continue on. A rider in the front tells the driver, “I thought she was trying to catch the bus, too.” So did I. I was going to thank the driver for stopping, but a ton of people were getting on at my stop, so I just waved and exited the back door. Thank you, driver.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

BUS STORY # 489 (She Lives In A World Of Her Own)

Downloaded from timesunion.

The big bright blue hard plastic case is impossible to miss. It’s being embraced by a young woman sitting on the aisle-facing bench seat behind the driver. I’m sitting across the aisle and two seats over from her.

It has to be a cello. She straddles the case and has her hands wrapped around the neck, just before it swells into the body of the case.

She’s not a pretty girl. Still, there is something about her, something quietly different, something self-contained, that compels me to keep looking. Perhaps I’m seeing a very young woman (I note the spray of acne across her right cheek) who already knows she was born to play the cello.

There is something of the geek about her. Her hair, for example, is neat and clean, but style-less. Black hair with curls that are not the homogenous creation of the beauty shop or rollers and a hair dryer. Hair that defines gender then gets out of the way.

She’s wearing a blue tunic with a kind of Greek embroidery pattern in white print. Over that is a tan and white striped sweater. Black pants. Sandals whose soles can’t be seen, with blue and green strings for straps. They look either homemade or jerry-rigged.

She sometimes smiles to herself. I can’t help wishing I knew what she was seeing that makes her smile so.

Sometimes she just closes her eyes. Once, I see her moving her lips. I think she might be praying. I see her head bowed slightly, her hands clasped around the cello case, and I wonder if she’s praying to God or the cello.

We pull up to a stop where a mom with a stroller and a small child are waiting. I get up and move back a couple of rows. Mom takes my seat across from the cellist. The kid looks four or five, and he’s got a new, brightly colored plastic toy. The cellist leans forward and asks him about his toy. He’s excited to tell her all about it. They talk, and she smiles with genuine pleasure. She is at home in this child’s world.

We get off at the same stop. She exits the front, I the back. I look back once and watch her move up the sidewalk with her big blue cello case. She moves like someone who knows who she is, and what she’s about. Like someone who knows she can make that cello sound the music of the spheres.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

BUS STORY # 488 (Manners: The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly)

Photo by Busboy

We’ve pulled up to a stop and I can see from my window seat there are four people waiting to board. Two of them are an elderly couple, one with a walker, and I can see the other two boarders make way for them.

The driver sees them, too, and he kneels the bus. That causes the couple sitting on the two-seat passenger side bench reserved for the elderly and handicapped to turn and look at the boarders.

They are a young couple. He’s in shorts and a T-shirt, close-cropped hair, black earrings. She looks like she could be in grade school, but everything else about her says she’s either late teens or 20s.

They look over the boarders, taking them all in, then turn back and stay seated. There is absolutely no sign that the possibility has even registered that they might vacate these seats for the elderly couple and move further back in the largely empty bus.

Across from them, sitting on the bench seats behind the driver, is a big guy in a bright blue sweatshirt that has “Jesus” printed in large white letters across the front and down both sleeves. He’s sitting in the middle of the three-seat bench, flanked on either side by a back pack and a duffel bag. He can see the boarders, too, and he doesn’t give any indication of moving, either.

This sign is posted at the end of both bench seats:

Photo by Busboy

There is no indication either the couple or the man in blue has seen the sign. Or perhaps both have seen the sign next to the seats across the aisle and are thinking it applies to the other side, not theirs. Or both have read the sign but believe the other should be the one to move -- the man because there’s only one of him; the couple because the man has two bags.

I don’t believe their inaction has anything to do with the sign. I believe they are oblivious of the sign. Because they are not oblivious of the old couple, I believe they are stunningly thoughtless -- literally, without thought.

They remain thoughtless while the old man shuffles behind his walker, tentatively negotiating passage between the couple on his left and the big blue-shirted guy on his right.

He’s gotta be in his late 70s, or maybe even his 80s. It’s warm out, but he’s wearing off-white trousers, a tan sports jacket, and a canvas hat that resembles a pith helmet.

He pushes the walker against the first forward-facing row, and very slowly tries to turn to position himself so he can sit down. The couple watches all this impassively, as does the man across from them.

Meanwhile, the old woman is still at the till. The driver motions for the remaining two riders to come aboard. They show him their IDs, but they can’t get past the old man and his walker.

The old man finally gets turned around, and the two younger riders squeeze on by. But once they’ve passed, he doesn’t sit.

I see the old woman finish at the till and move toward the old man. She’s surely in her late 70s, dressed up in a long skirt and a purple jacket. She’s wearing a purple hat that not even Google will be able to find later, but that looks like it might be right at home on the set of some PBS British period-piece. The effect is as if a broad brim had been pulled severely down on both sides of her head, so that her face is framed by an almost heart-shaped purple flower.

She stands in front of the old man, and does not see a seat.

It is at this point the man in the Jesus shirt suddenly snaps to what is happening. He hurriedly grabs both his bags, moves them to the empty first forward-facing row to his left, then vacates the bench.

The driver starts to pull out, then realizes the old man is still standing in the aisle with his walker. He brakes and waits. That’s when it hits me: the old man is waiting until his wife is seated. Of course! That’s the way it was done back in the day.

The woman takes a seat. The old man could maneuver the walker once again so he can sit beside her, and I think he considers it. But he’s already in a position to sit, and I’m sure he knows how slow he is. And so he sits down, slowly, where he is -- another kind of consideration for others from back in the day when consideration for others played a greater role in people’s consciousness.

The driver pulls out. Now that the show is over, the young couple turns toward the windshield for something else to entertain them.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

BUS STORY # 487 (“Demons Don’t Fight Demons”)

Downloaded from Cosas

Both of us get off the Red Line and head around the corner to the bench to wait for the eastbound 11. My co-rider points to the westbound coming towards us and says that means we have ten minutes before our bus comes.

I sit. He stands. He regards the Burger King sign across the street and tells me how Burger King will give him his ribs “FOB” which they won’t do at McDonald’s.

I look puzzled.

Fresh off the broiler, he explains.

He tells me how his family is in the restaurant business.

And the car business.

And the detailing business.

That last is where he’s coming from now.

“Where Microsoft started,” he says. Then, “one-oh-nine California.”

I have no idea if any of what he’s telling me is true. I know Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft somewhere here in the city, but I have no idea where. Maybe he’s making all this up, but maybe he’s not. You really never know.

Three other people join us from the northbound 157.

He’s talking about Chinese food, how it’s good whether it’s hot or cold. Then he talks about the “smoked chicken” you can get at Golden Pride.

The bus comes, sure enough, right on that ten minutes.

We all head for the door. It’s one of the 300s, and when the doors open, a kid from the 157 heads for the stairs. Next thing, we hear the driver shouting, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you hear?”

The kid says, “No, ma’am, I didn’t hear anything.”

“I guess not,” she fires back.

By now, we can see the wheelchair lift ascending from below, and so we all know there’s a rider in a chair getting ready to get off. But I didn’t hear the usual beep beep beep either.

He tells the driver she doesn’t have to be so rude about it.

She tells him she can refuse to let him board for giving her lip.

My co-rider moves quickly over to the kid.

“Let it ride. Let it ride. It ain’t worth it.”

The kid looks like he doesn’t really want to let it ride, but just for an instant. My co-rider is an older black guy and I think the kid, who’s white, gets that this guy may have more street smarts than he does. Good for him.

I tell the kid I didn’t hear the signal, either.

Then my co-rider tells him this is a sign he’s in God’s favor. Those are the folks the Demon goes after. “Demons don’t fight demons,” he explains.

The kid has no idea what to make of this last, but he is clearly distracted from what happened with the driver.

After the lift is back in place, my co-rider goes in front of the kid, telling him he’ll run interference for him, everything is gonna be fine.

I follow him, prepared to intervene if she gives the kid any more trouble. She doesn’t, and we all ride home in peace.

That night, I google detailing shops in Albuquerque. Not a one comes up on California. I google “Microsoft in Albuquerque.” I come up with 199 California St, NE.

Maybe I misheard.


A few weeks later, I hop the westbound 66 to California. Here’s what I find at the end of the 100 block:

Photo by Busboy

Photo by Busboy