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delays and Directions field notes

March 5, 2007, 2:25pm
UK to Fayette Mall

The bus is packed full when I get on and I get one of the last two available seats. One block down, at the Kentucky Clinic, more than half the passengers disembark. People wiggle a little, get situated a little looser as is evidenced when they spread out more, stretching out and putting their stuff on the now-empty seats next to them. [aside: It feels like everyone breathes a sigh of expansion when the bus thins like this.]  No talk is happening right now, but after a minute or two of crawling in what has become stop-and-go traffic, bodies shift and necks crane to see what’s going on. Obviously, an accident has happened on Nicholasville Road.

The passenger closest to the driver, a black female about 30 asks the driver what the hold up is. Since the bus is quiet and we are all focused on the unseen problem, she has spoken for us all. The driver, a black female, 40ish, gets on her walkie-talkie and requests information from dispatch about the hold-up. While she waits, the two of them talk about how dangerous Nicholasville Road and other accidents they have witnessed. The driver says, “Look” in a minute or two. We can see up ahead that they are trimming trees next to the road. The cherry picker is parked in the right lane so traffic has to funnel into the left lane. The driver phones this info into dispatch.

Without missing a beat, the driver says, “Well now we know” and the two women proceed to discuss other things starting with where the passenger got her pink velour coat. [aside: It would be a good time to break the conversation between the two women given the interruption, the fact that the holdup was not an accident, and that the driver has focused her attention on the call. Given that there is no thread to carry the last conversation, it intrigues me that the passenger and driver strike the conversation up again so easily. It’s also interesting in light of the fact that before this all happened, I saw the woman sitting and keeping to herself for at least five minutes. Once the door to conversation was opened between the two women, the flow remained unstopped.] Three minutes later, the woman reached her stop just past Southland Drive. As she exited the bus, the good-byes between the two women were gregarious. [aside: I’ve noticed this trend, get it going and when it is time to get off, you get “good-byes”.]

But the interaction isn’t over. I am making notes when we approach New Circle Road a few minutes later. The bus has returned to quiet and only a few of us remain. The Asain woman immediately in front of me turns quietly around and timidly asks with her chin down and her eyes wide, “do you know where the bus stops closest to Reynols Road?” I point out where the next stop is around the corner near Lexington Green, but just to be sure, I do what this woman probably wouldn’t feel comfortable doing, I yell the same question to the driver, I am loud, I am sitting near the back of the bus, everyone turns around as I ask, then look up to the driver for the answer.

“Yep, that’s the stop unless you want to catch the bus that runs back the other way but we’ve probably missed that connection” because of the tree-trimming roadblock.

“Oh, so that’s why you were late!” says a man that just got on at the last stop. “Yea,” I say, “but she did a good job getting us through it as fast as possible.” “Thanks,” the driver says, brightening. We stop and the Asian woman gets off. She has trouble lifting her bike off of the front of the bus. The man that just got on jumps up. He is wearing fatigues; about 30ish with close-cropped hair and in good shape, he may be military. He states, “I’ll help”, gets off the bus briskly and quickly disengages the woman’s bike. He hops quickly back on the bus.

We are the only three left – the driver, this guy and myself. I’m unwilling to let the talkative spirit of the bus go [aside: too reflexive?] so I say, “How do you make up the time after a delay like that?” The driver tells me about the 1½-hour route and how she makes up the time on Tates Creek Road where there will be fewer passengers, lights and other delays. The man asks if driving is a good job. She jumps right into that one and we two become an audience, as she talks up the issues hot among the drivers right now. For example, she says, drivers aren’t granted overtime when the route comes in late even though it’s due to delays like this that are out of their control. My stop at Fayette Mall comes up fast. I get off saying good-bye to both and get a “take care” and a nod from her and a “bye” from him. As I disembark, three new passengers get on. The bus changes in a second. It is not the same space it was a second before. As the bus flows through the city, the city flows through the bus…


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