I like the bus, I really do. I wish more people would take it, making issues of downtown parking in Albany (and undoubtedly elsewhere) less of a problem . I wish that urban sprawl would not make it so difficult to facilitate usable bus routes, because all of those single-passenger cars are helping to create a lot more air pollution.
And I’ve had some very good bus experiences. There’s a guy from my choir, Bruce, who I chat with about the world. There’s Shirley, the Red Cross cookie lady, who always asks about my family. Just last week, I ran into a woman with a daughter Lydia’s age — and another child who is 25! And there are other interesting folks.
Having said that, I had a couple bus experiences this year that weren’t so great. But these are exceptions, the EXCEPTIONS. I like the bus.
One day, I took the #10 Western Avenue bus so I could get to an event. We’d gone about three blocks when a woman in a wheelchair got on the bus. I think it’s great how the bus creates a ramp to let in those physically challenged. The bus driver pushes up a couple seats which expose the base from which the wheelchair can be secured. Well, the driver thought it was secured, but the woman in the wheelchair did NOT. The driver fussed with it for five minutes, but the rider was not satisfied. The bus driver was obviously getting very frustrated. Finally, the passenger said it was OK to go.
We go four more blocks when another woman getting on the bus fell. This would involve calling the dispatcher and making a report, so I got off that bus, walked a block, then caught the next bus. Fortunately, the event was later than I thought and all ended well.
Another day, I took the #63 bus. It’s a bus that starts downtown Albany, makes a couple turns in the city, and ends up fairly close to the #10 bus route for a while, eventually ending up in Schenectady. It started about 5 minutes late. It is the last bus on this route for the night.
A woman was chatting away about some TV show (I believe it was “Desperate Housewives”) in a quite loud voice with a level of detail that suggested that she thought they were real people. And apparently, she didn’t find it necessary to breathe, but was seemingly enamored of her own voice. Right before the bus makes the right turn from Lark Street onto Madison Avenue, she announces that she’s going to look left on Madison to see if a particular person was coming. We make the turn, and she yells to the bus driver, “STOP THE BUS! SHE’S COMING!” The bus driver, who was black (not so incidentally), was somewhat confused/startled, but complied, then the woman got out to get the would-be passenger (WBP). “Don’t leave without me! I’ve got my things in there!” she proclaimed. He yells to the woman as she, none-too-quickly, goes back to WBP, “Hurry up, lady! I’ve got a route to complete!”
Passenger gets back to the bus WITHOUT WBP; because WBP figured the bus had already passed (remember it had started late), WBP had called her boyfriend for a ride. Now, the passenger is arguing about this with the driver WHILE SHE IS STANDING OUTSIDE OF THE BUS. “Get in!” the other passengers, including me, scream. She does, but orates that she would want someone to do the same for her. She then opines that “you blacks live in the city, you can take another bus, but it was her [WBP’s]last opportunity.” She went on in this vein for a couple minutes. Now, it was true that I could have taken the #10 20 minutes later and gotten to nearly the same place. It was also true that WBP’s options were limited. But her (unnecessary) racial characterization was bizarre; there were as many white people as black people on the bus, and there were undoubtedly some black people on that bus for which that vehicle was their last option as well. As I got off the bus, I told her that I didn’t appreciate her “racist crap.” The incident put me in a bit of a sour mood until I got home and saw Lydia.
But I really like the bus. REALLY. It’s a good thing, the bus. Ride the bus. Mass transit rules.