29 September 2005


Whew! another new bus today. I need to develop a little chart that rides along the blog to keep track of all these buses. Since it's grown to archival quantity, no easy task to see if we're riding a repeater.

Today was our regular driver, back in full form. I had my screens and that always elicits comments from him. I don't sit in the very front seat near him as they are quite high and my feet don't touch the floor - makes me feel like a wobbly Weeble in that seat, so I end up in the middle of the bus. At the beginning of the ride, when he talks and asks questions about my art stuff, it's just fine. But today, the bus kept filling and he kept talking and asking. In the past, he's stopped after we had a buffer of people between us, but today he just kept asking questions. I felt like I was giving a class on screen print and design, almost yelling across a crowded room kind of thing. I guess the bus is his daily world and for me it's just a moment of time in the whole day. He's very comfortable announcing and talking in front of strangers, but I'm not so comfortable. I can't not be polite, however, and end up answering his questions. I don't really mind and appreciate his interest, but I miss not being able to have my mental bus talk turned on. I have to concentrate on our conversation and can't be observing and thinking as well. Didn't realize how much it means until I really didn't have it today.

28 September 2005

and #4151, again

Wow, this blog has gone to archives! Have to open them to see if we have repeats on some bus numbers. This one, 4151, is a repeat, but from a fairly recent trip. No odor today! No party animal, this craft. No undercover de-odoring necessary.

A lot of interesting new people riding today. Same time, same route, you just never know what you're gonna get. Regular driver seemed a bit more chipper, but still didn't engage in much conversation. Perhaps he was putting on his best for the new riders.

Sat next to a young black man who had a bandana on his head, tied underneath his hair in the back. I think he had dreads, but what I took to be hair coming from the back looked like 2-3" wide pieces of beautiful brown felt. I'm 99% sure it was his hair, and it took massive amounts of control to keep from touching it. He didn't seem like someone I could talk to - would have loved to say, "Pardon me, but can I feel your hair?" I think he might have decked me. It was so neat, though, and so wide and so flat and so textury. Geez I would have loved to touch it. My tactile side was in high gear with that stuff. It's the same tactile thing that gets me in trouble in museums. Gotta learn to look and not touch. Never expected such a compelling tactile experience on the bus.

27 September 2005


A new bus today! Yay! Although .... it had the faint aroma of a poker-smoker event, just like yesterday's bus. Yucko, I think the seat upholstery picks up odors - wonder if I could smuggle a bottle of Febreeze onto the bus and do some subtle spraying on mornings that have an after-scent? Hard to picture subtle spraying right in the middle of the bus, but perhaps a few discreet trigger squeezes as I shield the container with my body. Sounds like counterespionage or something really exciting instead of de-odorizing the bus. Oh well, gives me something to think about as I ride.

Regular driver was back today. Asked if he had the day off yesterday and he said no, he had a doctor's appointment. Somehow, his response didn't feel like it answered my question, but probably not worthy of a lot of contemplation. He was very, very quiet and I heard a few muffled coughs from him. I wonder if he got something from the flu guy.

Very, very, very quiet today.

26 September 2005

and ....... #4136 - again

This vehicle does appear often on this route - gotta see if I can find out how they decide which bus goes where. Size of bus and number of passengers on the route certainly determine if you get either the small, standard bus or the big, whopping accordion doubles. Can just imagine what stories come off those craft - whew! So many passengers, so many tales.

Today the regular driver wasn't there - I think Monday must be a regular day off for him. Quite a few people on when I boarded and it smelled like the day after an all-night poker extravaganza, replete with cigars, cigarettes and brew - whew! Not sure where that came from - maybe the replacement driver - whatever, it was nasty. I've been on 4136 a lot recently and it doesn't regularly smell like that - must have had a difficult weekend.

Conversation in the back of the bus centered mostly on the continuing miserable performance of the Arizona Cardinals - saddest act in the NFL. The guy sitting next to me (formerly known as the "flu guy" in a previous post) suddenly joined the conversation. He blamed all the Cardinal woes on owner Bill Bidwell and he used an astonishingly high decibel level to make this pronouncement. I don't believe anyone in the back would have disagreed, but he approached the topic aggressively and loudly and effectively shut down the conversation. Not sure if he felt he had to yell to be heard or just felt so strongly about the issue. It is just football, after all. I love football, but that was way too much adrenaline and blood pressure for an early Monday morning bus ride. Sadly, the conversation in back turned to concrete pipe and casting - kind of a snooze after the football discussion. Kind of wish the guy still had the flu....

24 September 2005


Today is Saturday, so nothing about taking the bus was normal. Needed to go work in the studio at asu, so bus was the ride of choice. The trip to was uneventful - interesting collection of people, but nothing of singular significance. The ride home was a different scenario.

I got on at the usual place. A short ride south and the bus stopped for a lone woman at the next stop. The door opened, she stepped up into the bus and immediately gets in the driver's face, yelling, "That son of a bitch just drove by and didn't stop for me - I'm sick and tired of your f**king behavior ..." and went off on a bit(?) of a tangent. The driver, wisely, didn't say a word, and once her steam had burst she stomped on into the bus and landed on a seat. She removed a cell phone from her purse and made a call. The bus was noisy so she couldn't hear and she screamed into the phone as if her yelling somehow made her able to hear better. It was apparently not a friendly call - seemed to have something to do with driving or a car or insurance or something. She ended the call abruptly and sat and cried loudly for a few seconds. A woman who had been sitting next to her kept creeping away toward the front of the bus - anxiously looking for her stop.

While all this is going on, there's a man sitting next to me, very front of the bus, who is loudly announcing the cross streets and transfer lines. This is usually a function of the driver or the computerized lady voice - don't know if this guy was a bus driver on holiday or a seriously regular passenger. The driver and he talked, so I'm going with the driver-on-holiday theory. The angry phone lady yells up at the driver, "Does this bus go to Guadalupe?" He politely said, "yes it does." She moves to the front seat across from me and I can see she's a bit unkempt. I was thinking, maybe, given her agitated stated, she'd just run away from a domestic situation. We turned on Guadalupe but she didn't pull the cord to stop the bus. The way she'd asked the driver, I was sure she'd be off as soon as we got on it. We passed the first stop and she pulled the cord. When the driver came to the stop, she starts to get off and turns around, asking the driver if the bus follows the same route back? He told her yes, and she could cross the street and catch the bus in front of the high school. She then said, what number is this bus anyway and he told her, 66. As she takes her final step off the bus, the driver say, "Thank you for riding Tempe in Motion and have a Valley Metro day!" He closed the door and took off. He and the other guy start laughing and I'm giggling, too, as I never heard a driver say that before. He then told me he just wanted to aggravate her a bit since she dove on the bus, ragging on him about something some other driver supposedly did. The other guy told me he was pretty sure she had been drinking, which would explain a lot of her behavior. Hardly ever a dull moment on the bus.

22 September 2005


Today I took the 6:30 bus instead of 6 am - for reasons not easy to describe. Anyway, the bus was 4151 and it, too, is an outstanding piece of buscraft. Same solid, dependable feel as 4132. A guy with a bike got on at my stop - never said a word. This driver was very nice - the crowd was very quiet. Hard to say who is "regular" on it, but it just felt like there wasn't as much community to these riders as there is on the 6am route. Not unfriendly, just not friendly.

Had a comment on Tuesday's post. The commentator noted that riding the bus as a child was particularly satisfying after a lot of walking or standing, especially during inclement conditions. It invoked the mental thought, "The bus is here. We're saved!" An interesting counterpoint to some who find the different characters on the bus to be terrifying and just wishing the ride would be over. The innocent eyes and thoughts of a child. No matter how long I ride, I find I get a little bitty adrenaline boost when the bus comes rolling to a stop - I know deep down there's mental language saying, "I did it right and it worked! I got myself to the right place at the right time and by gosh, the bus arrived - it worked!" Must not have much faith in systems.

20 September 2005


New craft today - #4132. New to my ride, not new to the fleet, however. It actually had quite a bit of that patina of wear, but ran like a champ. Surpasses 4136 as the bus of choice for now.

Well as lively as the ride was yesterday, today was silent. The driver asked me if asu offered any culinary classes and when I said I didn't think anything like that was available (???) that was about the extent of our conversation. It was quite a full group today, but no talking - none, nada, zip. I think it was the quietest ride ever. Perhaps too much adrenaline yesterday and there was nothing left for today. Almost like we were playing "statue."

One small interesting note - at Tempe High School (which is a pullout, not just on-street, traffic-blocking loading), the driver announced that he was early, we needed to wait, and if anyone wanted to smoke a cigarette, there was time. He didn't have a ciggie, so assume he's a non-smoker, but no one got off and took advantage of his offer. I found that encouraging - there are definitely smokers on the bus (the bushy haired lady wasn't there today), but no one seemed interested in lighting up. With gasoline at $198 a gallon and gawd knows what cigarettes cost, people might be slowing down on the vices. Ha!

Very, very quiet today. Maybe, just maybe, everyone was sleeping with their eyes open, or maybe we really were playing statue and I just didn't get the memo.

19 September 2005

#4136 repeats

Good old 4136 - the bus of discriminating riders. It actually has been the best of the lot, including the ride home buses, which I have not yet begun to describe.

Bus was alive with idle chat and deep conversation today. At 6 AM, sun barely on the horizon, and it was just short of electric. The back of the bus was seriously discussing the airline industry - I believe at least one of the regulars works for America West.

The driver was very talkative today - wonder if he sets the tone? I'm the 4th stop from the beginning of the route, so there's enough time to get things going, but the full complement hasn't boarded yet. I was carrying a canvas for a new painting assignment and the driver was quite interested in it. He's the regular guy, former LA printing pirate, and we have discussed screen printing at length. He mentioned ceramics and I thought he was going to say he'd always wanted to try it. He then asked if I'd thought about all the money I could make by creating and selling ceramic figures and I realized that creating money is his main creative interest in the arts. Why would I have thought a cloak-and-dagger, knock-off screen printer from LA would do artwork for anything but money? Silly me. Told him I liked fiber better than ceramics and since he couldn't think of an immediate money-making scheme for fiber, he asked me how my weekend had been. I said we'd had an outstanding weekend, football resultswise and we had a brief discussion about asu and the cardinals and the bengals. It was a pleasant beginning to the day.

A man soon got on that the driver apparently knew and I was left to finish the ride in studied silence. The man, the driver and another man got into a very involved discussion about parades in Tempe, the resulting bus detours and traffic management - I didn't know Tempe was awash in parades and wouldn't have thought it could be such an in-depth conversational topic, much less an adrenaline pumper, but by the time I got off, the three were having quite an animated discussion - the driver was almost forgetting to drive or stop. Who knew Monday morning on the bus could be so full of energy?

16 September 2005

4136 ... again

Ah, today was a repeat day. Good old 4136 - ran smoothly and only a few minor squeaks. I'm not sure the driver trusts its brakes, though. He approached every stop with a lot of pumping action - like driving on ice - lots of little and not-so-little jolts for the riders. I know they have a time schedule, but can't figure out the driving pattern. Sometimes they do the bat-out-of-hell thing between stops and other times I know I could walk faster. Bus driver thinking: "Whoa, I'm late, better speed it up ....... yow, I'm early, better slow it down." Except sometimes it's speed, speed, slow or it can be slow, speed, slow or slow, slow, speed, or you get the idea.

Speaking of speed, last night's ride was interesting. A woman on a scooter boarded the bus at Tempe High School. The scooter boarding required the driver to get out of his seat, make the seated passengers move so he could put the wheelchair seat area up, put down the little ramp, wait for the scooter to drive onto the ramp and elevate to bus level, then wait while she got the scooter in place. It was a lot like parallel parking a car, except she did it in about 3000 little back and forth movements - nearly took out one passenger's baby toe. Anyway, once the scooter was in place, the driver buckled it in (notice the passengers aren't securely strapped, but the scooter is...), he returned to his seat and we were on the road again.

The middle of the bus was now full of standing people who were formerly sitting where the scooter was now securely buckled. The lady on the scooter yelled to the driver, "I want off at Jack-in-the-Box". The driver said, "10-4" but the lady either didn't hear or didn't recognize 10-4 as an acknowledgement. Again she screamed, "I want off at the Jack-in-the-Box" and this time the driver said, "OK". It is now apparently a hearing situation because, for the third time, the lady hollered, "I want off at the Jack-in-the-Box!" At this point, everyone on the bus yelled, "He said OK!"

Now for the speed part - the Jack-in-the-Box where she wanted off is the bus stop located one mile south of the bus stop where she got on. It is a regular stop and all she needed to do was push the button - still not sure what all the yelling was about. Anyway, we stopped and the whole procedure was repeated in reverse, including the 3000 tiny maneuvers to get out of the scooter parking space. The ramp was lowered and the woman and scooter zoomed away, up the JIB driveway. It was almost a cloud of dust and a hearty hi-ho Silver kind of thing. While the driver was putting the bus back together, one of the passengers commented that those scooters can go 11-15 mph - I don't doubt it having watched her blaze off into the sunset. What was apparent to all of us was that in the time spent getting on and off the bus, she could have driven her scooter the one mile from the bus stop to the JIB and been inside enjoying a burger and fries before the bus made it there. I wondered about battery power, but those 3000 maneuvers had to take some juice, so it seemed to be a wash, powerwise.

Oh well, everyone was kind and non-complaining and patient (except maybe a little irritation during the yelling part) and it made for another bus story.

15 September 2005


And today we had #4130. It was a quiet running craft, but something was up with the engine. Seemed like it wanted to stall, so he kept the brake on while accelerating at stops, and then when he let off the brake, we'd zoom forward with a g-force effect. Lots of rocking and rolling among the passengers - the driver has the wheel to hold onto, but we're left to our own devices. I've started clenching alternate gluteal muscles to help stabilize through abrupt starts and stops. Who knows? Might end up with buns of steel from all this bus riding.

No exciting passenger incidents this morning. There is a semi-regular woman who gets on and she's a smoker - the smell precedes her. Today she sat next to me and it was particularly intense. She has lots of long, very bushy blond hair - looks like it isn't very well maintained - and I wonder how much of the smoke smell is caught up in the hair. Being warm weather time, it can't be too trapped in heavy clothing, so it must be the hair. Wonder if the smoke smell oozes out of the skin? The body collects tars and nicotine - wonder if some of that smoke smell actually comes out of the pores? Sure am wondering a lot today.

14 September 2005


Today's bus was #4136 - much quieter and smoother than yesterday - didn't look any newer, just seemed more mechanically sound. When I got on, the driver commented that I was wearing a little jacket today. Very observant fellow. He's the one who saw my screen frames and said, "I see someone's doing silk screening." The frames were just the plain wood, no mesh, no tape, and yet as I got on the bus he observed just enough to recognize what they were. He used to do it when he lived in LA - a screen printing pirate of sorts. Said they would set up and print concert t-shirts and make a bundle. It was knock-off stuff and not exactly legitimate - well not legitimate at all, really. He said how creative they had to be to get it to work in a house or motel room. Said they could take it down quick - almost sounded like a meth lab, but without the horrific consequences. Would be interesting to trace his route from pirate printer in LA to bus driver in Phoenix - bet there are some interesting details in that map.

A guy got on who has been an off-and-on rider - heard him tell the driver he'd been fighting the flu bug for a couple of weeks and just couldn't shake it. Made me think about all the illness potential that a bus could harbor. Everyone grabs the silver poles to steady themselves as the bus rocks and rolls during starts and stops. Potential there for a virtual bacterial playground. Just another good reason to wash the hands before eating. Sneezing and coughing stuff is inevitable in a crowd - just hope people have the good sense to cover up those occasional body explosions.

The flu guy was saying his father goes to Mexico and buys him bottles of penicillin. Said when he feels bad, he pops a few penicillin and makes it through the day. Not knowing the fellow, hard to say if this is fact or fiction. If fact, wonder if he realizes the potential harm by indulging in whimsical use of antibiotics? He is well-spoken and appears bright and intelligent - of course, this country is full of those kind of people and look who got elected president - enough, I swore I would not get political in this blog. Anyway, if he's really telling the truth, he could be in a serious sweat if a time comes that he really needs antibiotic therapy. Oh well, keeping my opinions to myself.

That's the nice thing about a blog. You can just opine for pages - not really keeping thoughts close, but not indulging in those unpleasant in-your-face confrontations, either. All the world can be an editorial writer.

13 September 2005

On the bus

Bus was very low key this morning - 6 am, same as always, but the energy level was low. The bus was making a lot of loud, clanking noises - kind of like what you hear on an airplane when the landing gear goes up or down. This kept happening during high speed braking - figured our landing gear would just quit and we'd have to walk the rest of the way. Perhaps the silence on the bus was a unified effort to keep the bus running. You've got to figure that everyone is hearing the noises and most are probably thinking along the same lines -bus breakdown, what do we do. That should produce a collective, unspoken bus prayer - Please don't let the bus break down. All that energy and karma being sent to the mechanical parts; it has to keep it going.

There was a young man on the bus when I got on. Had his bicycle helmet and was reading the paper. The bus took its usual right turn onto Rural and stopped for a passenger. The young man looked up, appeared startled, and asked the driver what bus is this? The driver said 66 and the young man announced, I need to get to Kyrene and Guadalupe. The driver told him he should get off, cross the street and catch the 92 - it would take him to Kyrene. The young man, in a not-so-very-friendly tone of voice, said "I'll just take my bike and ride there!" So what was that about? He was the dipstick that got on the wrong bus, or at least didn't bother to check which route he needed. Such arrogance - as if the whole bus and route were his to demand and order about at his whim. Assume we won't see him on the route again.

Since there was so much clatter of bus parts, think I'll start recording the bus number - just curious how often the same one is used on the route and if it's noisy every time. Today we had #4133.

12 September 2005

Bus Blogging

Starting my second month as a "bus rider" and totally enjoying the freedom from driving hassles. Nice to arrive at work, road rage free. There is a bus culture but it's not like any other group wherein we participate. On a single ride, to or from work, it appears that every ethnic and socio-economic class is represented for at least a portion of the ride. Whether finances, driving record or just personal choice influence the reason we're on the bus, the bus is a great equalizer. I see more good manners than bad and in the small, sometimes hot and crowded confines of the bus, it restores my faith in basic human civility. Why can we be so kind and respectful on the bus and such raving assholes on the highway? What happens behind the wheel? Save that for another time.

I love mornings on the bus best. Everyone is sparkly clean and the scent of showers and soap and shampoo drift lightly through the air as each new passenger boards. A fresh start for a new day. The memory of sleep still lingers in the eyes and calm seems to be the order of the day. No time yet for agitation to begin stirring up adrenaline. The highy charged individual seems very out of place in the serenity of the morning ride.

Today a young man asked the driver if this bus would take him to his destination - the driver said it was a beginning and that he would explain the rest of the route if the young man would board the bus. Once on, the young man was obviously anxious and forgot to pay for the ride. The driver called back several times and had to remind him that money was due. The young man's anxiety distracted him, but eventually he walked forward with the money and received instructions and his transfer slip from the driver. Ours is a small bus and every transaction is easily observed by all on board. While nothing was said, there was a strong sense that anything to remedy the young man's discomfort or the driver's need for payment was available from all the other passengers if necessary. There's an interesting dynamic and energy on the bus.

Bus stories, you gotta love 'em.