28 January 2010

61 something or other

last night's ride home on the 72 displayed the best and worst in human behavior. I sat at the end of a 4-person seat, soon joined by a young woman, followed by a man whose ample gluteal area consumed 2 seats. A few stops later, an older woman got on the bus and, with no place to sit, she grabbed an overhead strap and stood in front of our seat. I could see her holding her purse and her hand shook, somewhat like a Parkinson's tremor. No sooner did I notice her affliction than the young woman next to me stood up and told the older woman to take her seat. A kind, generous act - I feel comforted when I see this behavior in younger people - like unearthing buried treasure - civility found!

The worst behavior occurred a bit later when a young man boarded and used a reduced-fare card without an ID. The driver asked for the ID and the young man responded in a menacing tone that he "don't got to show you no ID, you just drive the bus". The driver pursued the issue, saying bus policy required proper ID with reduced-fare cards and the young man walked away from the driver, saying, "school told me I don't got to show you nothin' so you just drive the bus". The driver told him to read the back of the fare card (ha!) and the next time he rode the bus, be prepared to show ID. The young man said, "you just drive the bus, you ain't in charge of no policy, you just drive the bus." Each statement from this man/child contained threat and menace and the bus became extremely quiet during the confrontation. The youth sat down, in the front near the driver, and kept repeating, "you just drive the bus." The bus continued and the driver didn't say any more. Suddenly, the young man got out his cell phone and I could hear him say, "customer service" - I knew he had called the bus company and planned to complain. He remained on hold for awhile and just as he began to speak to someone, his stop arrived and he got off the bus.

During the whole ride, the driver checked ID for every reduced-fare rider. He didn't single this kid out -- he just did his job. Clearly, this kid wanted to put on his best urban tough street gangster style and he really only looked ridiculous. Like a mudslide, this kid's behavior buried the civility that earlier graced the ride.

22 January 2010

Riding the combo

Yesterday, my umbrella exploded and died -- most likely dry rot. The significance of this to a bus blog, you ask? The lack of umbrella and the constant rain required me to evaluate my transportation options. Taking the 81/light rail combo enabled me to cover less distance to the bus stop while passing by my neighborhood Walgreen's where I could stop in and secure a new umbrella - ha! Walgreen's, as I feared, was completely sold out. Oh well, nice idea.

I enjoyed the 81/light rail for a change. I don't get as much exercise, but the dash for the train from the bus adds an exhilaration that almost makes up for the lack of distance walked. A disabled woman on a scooter boarded the 81 and from her conversation with another woman, I gleaned that she worked downtown, transferring, too, to the light rail. A rain slicker covered her pretty well and I admire her perseverance getting around in this miserable weather. Need someone to invent a convertible top for electric wheelchairs - be good for rain or, in Arizona, excessive sunshine.

21 January 2010

she's back

Yes, it is mfebber, returned to the bus blog. Over the last 6 months I had to move my mother to a retirement community and then to a dementia care facility. The dementia thing is an ongoing communication gap - figuring out reality from delusion, hallucination and beyond. It created havoc in all aspects of mother's life as well as mine and left me not wanting to do much of anything - including post to a bus blog. Things have settled down somewhat and my interest in life and things non-dementia are returning. Hope to start posting regularly again.

No on-board bus news today since an early dentist appointment put me behind the transportation power curve and I drove to dentist then work. However, the demise of the 66 bus route constitutes the biggest bus blog news of the year. Blame it on hard economic times and low ridership on the 66. The 66 route always ran on streets also serviced by other routes, a redundancy that never quite made sense. With the recent change, the 72 remains the only bus traveling on Rural, the 92 the only bus on Guadalupe and the 65 the only bus on Mill. Losing the 66 reduced my really convenient bus options somewhat; however, I find the one-mile walk to the 72 stop at Rural and Guadalupe to be a stress-relieving, waist-trimming benefit. Come the high heat days of summer, I might resort to the 81/light rail combo, but for now the walk to the 72 works for me.

Rain is our new best friend in the Valley of the [I-can't-see-the...]Sun - supposed to have 24-36 hours straight rain! Quite a phenom for the area - over a year's worth of precipitation might fall in one week. Makes for a damp wait at the bus stop, but offers high hope for beautiful desert flowering come spring time.

Welcome back, mfebber!

26 June 2009

the bilingual bus

Last couple of days brings a new addition to the bus announcement system - a male voice providing information in Spanish. The lady voice that announces the next stop and route transfers still vocalizes. The new, bilingual announcements seem to include more topical items. For example, on July 1, rates increase on the buses and light rail and that seems to be the current announcement focus. Interestingly, the English and Spanish versions don't come back-to-back. I heard the Spanish version at least 3 times before ever hearing it in English. One time, I heard the words "Valley Metro" in the middle of the Spanish announcement and never heard those words in, what I presumed to be, the English counterpart. Since my Spanish vocabulary is almost non-existent, the conspiracy theorist in me wants to know why I didn't hear valley metro in both languages? What did I miss?

Informational signs posted on the buses have always been in both languages and it never made sense that the lady voice info came only in English. Oh well, something for me to ponder and, maybe, I can sharpen my ear and learn a bit more Spanish. Riding the bus really does offer a variety of educational opportunities.

10 June 2009

get off the bus!!!

Ever since I started regularly taking the 8:30am 66N, the driver has waged a war against loud mp3 players. In this iPod world, many riders get on the bus, player in hand and earbuds/phones/plugs planted in their ears. Occasionally, the ear appliance doesn't effectively block the sound and others can hear a little (or not so little in some cases) bit of music emanating from the device. Signs on the buses and light rail indicate Valley Metro's policy does not permit leakage loud enough to disturb others - fair enough, as long as we can agree about what level equals "disturb".

With a very few exceptions, I never hear the players about which the driver complains. Sitting in back, perhaps the usual bus noises override the leaking music. However, the driver seems to have the aural capacity of Superwoman - she hears everything - and today the **** hit the fan. A young woman and young man boarded at Southern, both with headphones in situ, players in hand. Once seated, the driver turned around and said she didn't know which, but one of their players was too loud and to turn it down. She drove on and around Alameda, once again told them to lower the volume. The girl said she didn't think it was her player, but she would turn it down some more. The young man never acknowledged the driver (maybe he couldn't hear her???). I never heard anything coming from either one, but, whatever.

At Broadway, the driver again turned and told them she could hear the music and to turn it down. At this point the girl removed the earphones and put the player away. Again, the young man didn't acknowledge the driver in any way. The bus moved on and stopped at the light at Mill and Apache - 60 yards from the next stop (mine!). The driver turned around and yelled at the young man to turn down the music, she could still hear it. He leaned forward and told her he didn't have to do anything, he had headphones on and wasn't bothering anyone. He proceeded to tell the driver that she had no right to speak to him or anyone that way, she was a public servant, paid to just drive the bus and he could do anything he wanted. While offering his comments, the light changed and she drove to the stop. She yelled at the young man to get off the bus and he said he would, it was his stop, and he was going to call and report her. She just kept yelling (more like screaming) for him to get off the bus. A girl in front got off, but the young man blocked my exit. He lunged forward as he yelled at the driver and I finally timed it to catch him mid-lunge, jump past him and out the open door. As I walked down the sidewalk I could still hear them screaming at each other.

The driver's campaign against loud music continually mystifies me, especially since I rarely hear the offending music. Her behavior about it almost always borders on the unnecessarily unpleasant and rude. The young man showed the narcissism of his generation - I appreciate he didn't like the driver's approach, but his arrogance in assuming a right to do anything he wants -- sounds like his future plans could include a job on Wall Street.

A very unpleasant start to the day for both of them.

01 June 2009


Two trips on the 66 today - going and coming to ASU. This morning, only four other riders joined me; the airport Super Shttle gets more passengers. First summer session classes started today (I think) and I expected more riders. Perhaps my timing doesn't mesh with summer students.

Riding home, I shared the top back of the bus with two large couples who occupied over half of the upper back area. They intertwined with one another, spreading legs, arms and butts all over the back and side bench seats. Their postures implied area ownership, but I braved their potential wrath and sat opposite, smiled and whipped out my knitting. They never moved, never said a word to me or each other, just sprawled widely and got off the bus around Alameda. What a controlled display of body/mouth non-movement. Wondered about a drug-induced haze, but they popped up and got off promptyly at their stop -- not easily accomplished while under the influence.

The Arizona summer arrived with the usual blast of outside heat and inside freeze. A direct mathematical situation occurs - the hotter the outside, the colder the air conditioning. It makes life difficult dressing for outside travel and sitting inside. I decided I need a lightweight, summer shawl; something to toss over my shoulders or legs when indoors, but easily carried while outdoors. Today's image is a picture of my shawl-in-progress, taken on the bus. I actually wanted to get a picture of the sprawlers but couldn't get the knitting and their oversized torsos in the same picture. Oh well.

27 May 2009


Very quiet morning ride on the 8:36am 66N. Another rider and I claimed first passenger rights at McClintock and Guadalupe and only four others got on or off before I left the bus at ASU.

At Southern, a man boarded with a motorized, oversized Razr-like scooter. Reading, I didn't notice him until he sat near me and the aroma of cigarette smoke rose from around him and filled the back area of the bus - whew! He and another rider exchanged conversation and, from what I heard, the man with the scooter suffers from emphysema and needs the scooter to help him get about. He reeked of cigarette smoke yet spoke of being "on disability" because of breathing problems.

He got off at Broadway and I watched as he unbent his scooter and motored off down the street. It seemed a good thing that he didn't need a wheelchair and oxygen; however, I don't understand an emphysema diagnosis, disability and continued smoking.

19 May 2009


A recent comment serves as a well-needed reminder that my blogging stalled. I take the 8:30am 66N in the mornings, and although "regular" riders fill the bus, it lacks the panache of those early days when Mark and Bill and Dave and I owned the back and chatted non-stop all the way to ASU. I need to re-focus and look elsewhere for inspiration. When I first started riding - pre bus gang - anything and everything about the bus fascinated me. Noises, drivers, maneuvers, passengers, etc., etc., etc. Perhaps a return to the early observational innocence might pull me out of the bus blogging doldrums.

Another problem also exists. Today's image reflects the newest love of my life - my iPhone. I use a neat little app called "Stanza" to read books on the bus. Work and disease render my vision less than perfect, making traditional book reading an absolute chore. With Stanza, the book is online, travels with me and I can reduce or enlarge the text to match the current state of my vision. It automatically bookmarks my spot and re-opens to that page when I re-start. The downside - I get so lost in my reading, I forget to observe bus events. I can't tell you how many times I nearly miss getting off the bus. The other night I made it only because someone else got off at the same stop and I looked up when the doors opened. Recognizing my stop, I hollered at the driver to "wait a minute, please" as I gathered myself together to get off the bus.

My pleasure at reading on the bus can't be measured, but it certainly causes problems for writing about the bus.

01 April 2009

4114, I think

Fun ride home yesterday on the 66S. We boarded with a young man wearing a chef's coat and Jim asked where he worked. The man told us he served as sous chef for the caterers at the Phoenix Civic Center. I asked if he applied to appear on “Top Chef” and he said no, but he came from New York and worked at 'kraft, Tom Colicchio's flagship restaurant. For the curious, Colicchio serves as head judge on “Top Chef”, a reality competition show on Bravo where 15 chefs compete for a large cash prize and all the publicity a fledgling celebrity could ever desire.

This young man and I chatted until he got off the bus. He graduates in May from ASU with a BA in nutrition, school paid for by his employer, Marriott. His next step includes the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He seemed quite passionate about his chosen career and, if enthusiasm counts, will enjoy success. How nice to spend time talking with someone so positive - how nice to enjoy a chat on the usually quiet bus.

Bus trivia note – At the Tempe Transportation Center, routes 62 and 66 share a shelter. While waiting for the 66 yesterday, the 62 pulled in, the driver got out, went around to the front of the bus, did something and the door closed. He sprinted for the restroom and Jim, an even more curious person than me, went to the front of the bus to see how the driver closed the door. He reported back about a little door which opened to reveal a button inside. I asked Jim to open it again and took today's photo. When the driver returned, he again went to the front of the bus and opened the bus door using the hidden bus door button. I think I have seen drivers close/open the doors manually - must work like DVD drives - the preferred method uses the button, but pushing gets the job done, too.

26 March 2009

unusual ride

Night before last we enjoyed an unusual ride home. My co-worker, Jim, and I arrived at the Tempe Transportation Center, 66S shelter, about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled bus arrival. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. We watched as 2nd, 3rd and even 4th versions of other buses came and went, but no 66S. Noticing a transportation supervisor, we approached him to ask the status of our bus. At 15 minutes late and counting, we wondered if we missed the 4:44 or if traffic had things backed up. As we walked over, the supervisor asked if anyone was waiting for the 66. We acknowledged that we wanted it and he apologized, pointing behind us to Stadium Drive and a bus - the 66S (star #1 on map). Apparently, the driver got confused and didn't enter the transportation center drive, so we didn't know or see the bus sitting there. We boarded and things went from odd to unusual. The usual route (purple on the map) takes the 66 out of the trans center, east on Stadium, then south on College, then west on University, then south on Mill. Stops occur on University and Mill that usually generate quite a few riders.

Since the bus faced the wrong direction on Stadium, we didn't expect her to whip a u-turn; however, it seemed she could go up and through the trans center to get herself back on track. Instead, she went west on Stadium/5th St, then left on Mill (red route on the map). By ignoring University, she abandoned riders at 2 stops. While traveling south on Mill, she did stop at 6th St and, amazingly, a woman got on the bus. The woman came to the back, sat down, and Jim asked if she wanted the 66. We all knew she didn't since the 66 never stops there. She said, “no, isn't this the 65? I want the 65.” Jim told her it was the 66, then yelled up at the bus driver that we had a wrong passenger. The driver made another unscheduled stop at 7th St, discharged the disgruntled woman, then proceeded south on Mill, driving past the bus stop in front of the CVS pharmacy at the corner of Mill and University, where the 66 usually picks up numerous passengers.

The driver yelled at us for telling her about the incorrect passenger and each time she approached a stop (legal or otherwise) she hit the horn. In 3 years of bus riding, I never experienced a driver blowing the horn when approaching a stop. Once she blew past the CVS stop, things settled down a bit and I think she only had one more stop near-miss. While not quite as fun as the time the substitute driver and I took the residential detour, this ride presented a variety of experiences for a 26 minute ride.