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Posts Tagged ‘commuting’

Lami, you got some complainin’ to do

March 14, 2010 2 comments

My partner calls it “complaint blogging” — that form of online communication where you get your knickers all in a twist and just dare somebody to try to straighten them. But even though I consider myself a world-class whiner IRL, I try not to do too much of it here. Partly because I don’t need another reason to dwell on the negative — if I type my gripe, I’m going to be wearing my angry face for the duration of my thorough, anal-retentive editing of the post.

And then there’s that whole privilege thing I’m trying to work on. As a (deep breath) tall, thin, educated, hetero, middle-class, adult white male (whew), I realize I’m generally the winner in every game of “privilege bingo” I play. So I need to ask myself if this is a legitimate complaint or am I just butthurt because someone else’s needs displaced my own.

But there are times when I decide that it’s perfectly OK for me to get my kvetch on, either because it will expose a problem that doesn’t affect just me — using my voice to help those less likely to be listened to, and it doesn’t take a lot of bus trips to figure out that you’re riding low in the low-privilege lane — or else just because I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore. Maybe punks aren’t running wild in the streets, but at least the buses could run once in a while. So here’s what I submitted to Our Fine Bus Service (Centro):

Very Dissatisfied

This morning I waited in vain a half hour at the corner of Some Road and Some Other Street, from 8:00 AM until 8:30 before giving up, walking home and taking the car that fortunately was available only because my wife was out of town.

Not only did the 237 not show, but also the 537 never came either (I walk down Some Road so I would have seen it come by).

Because of this I was over an hour late getting to work today. When I called Centro to ask whether the bus was coming, all the customer service representative told me was that the radio on the 330 was broken and so there was no way to know what had happened. Not even an “I’m sorry” or “Give me your contact info and I’ll have a card good for a free ride sent to you.”

What’s worse is that the CSR initially decided that I “must have just missed it.” No, in fact I was there five minutes early; why should it be assumed that the customer is wrong?

It’s frankly ridiculous that *two* buses don’t show up, that nobody knows why, and that nobody at Centro seems to give a damn that they can’t be depended on to get their customers to work.

These times ought to be presenting opportunities for Centro to be getting more people to take mass transportation, and I’m sad that I’ve had so many negative experiences lately that I’m hesitant to recommend anyone use your services.

This is not the first time I’ve used the handy response form on the Centro website to register my concern. The last time was because I was sassed by a driver, who after buzzing past me (I had to jog down the block to where he finally stopped) laughed that it was my fault for not being more obviously standing at the bus shelter that he wasn’t watching. But that Blue Bayou moment was just a warm up for this case of “Carmine said there would be two buses and here there are none.” So I wasn’t surprised at the reply from Chris Dithers (not the real name), Centro’s Customer Service Supervisor:

Mr. Redlami,

Thank you for your email regarding the buses #237/#537 Some Other Street not showing up. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Be assured that this matter will be thoroughly investigated.

I reviewed the #37 Some Other Street schedule to verify the times the buses were scheduled to depart Some Road and Some Other Street. A #537 Some Road bus was scheduled to depart at 7:59am and the #237 Some Other Street bus was scheduled to depart at 8:05am.

I am under the assumption that you were waiting for the 8:05am bus? This scheduled trip will be looked into specifically and at the conclusion of the investigation, you will be contacted.

Please provide me with your mailing address as I would like to send you a courtesy ride coupon for your inconvenience.

Again, thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Chris Dithers
Our Fine Bus Service
Customer Service Supervisor

Looks good, right? I get $1.25 (cost of a ride) for my wasted hour, and they’ll be sure to let me know why there were no buses. So why am I still peeved? I mean, aside from being somewhat peevish by nature? Maybe it’s because I don’t like the idea that the “customer service” line didn’t provide any, and rather than respond to that part of my complaint, Chris is trying to mollify me with a free ride (I have to thank my partner’s laser vision for zeroing in on this issue).

So what’s next? Besides responding to Chris (hey, I’ll take the voucher for starters) I’ve figured out that there’s a rep on the Centro board from my town, so that’s where I’m taking my concerns next. Because that’s the way I troll.

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You know we’ll have a good time then

March 12, 2010 2 comments

Sometimes in my current pre-divorced state I find myself kicking the tires on single parenting: going it alone on shopping, meal preparation, laundry, getting kids out the door in the morning, checking on homework and all the other things that don’t sound nearly as important as going to the office and pushing out a report on the US Immigration Courts but nevertheless become my primary focus when my soon-to-be-former partner is out of town.

While on daddy-duty I tend to focus on the tasks at hand, and frequently feel too harried and put-upon to listen to a synopsis of the latest book in the Warriors series or a preview of the features expected in Portal 2. At times like this I wonder if I’m sounding a little too much like the dad in the Harry Chapin song who never had time for his kid.

But once in a while I manage to step out of what I’m doing and really pay attention. And then I wonder what life is going to be like when seeing them get up in the morning and go to bed at night is the exception and not the routine. Sometimes I admit I’m impatient for the day when I’m on a predictable schedule of responsibility. But there are some moments when the enormity of the coming change smacks me in the face and I get maudlin for the kind of idyllic suburban family life that I occasionally glimpsed but never really had.

This morning I had one of those pauses. The two younger boys had just gotten on their bus, which was mercifully only ten minutes late. It’s been as much as a half hour late, and when that happens I have to choose between leaving the kids sitting outside so I can get to my bus, or waiting and giving up on getting to work at anything close to my normal time.

So they got on their bus and I had twenty minutes for the thirteen minute walk to the bus stop. I like this time because it gets me exercise as well as time to think or even, if it’s not too snowy or rainy, do some reading (yes, I read while walking). I also get to watch the parade of yellow buses go by: besides the three public schools in the vicinity, there’s a private school just down the street, and I’m always amazed to see all the far-flung school districts represented by these students.

One of those buses turned out to be the very one my kids boarded a few minutes earlier. I looked up to see my eleven year old flashing a toothy, goofy grin while he waved at me. The bus stopped at a light and I caught up with it, creating another waving opportunity. It passed me again, only to stop at the intersection to make a left turn. As I walked by a final time, I turned and caught one more wave from my youngest and that’s when it hit me that I’d probably have a lot fewer of these wonderful silly interludes. Of course I’m already having fewer as the kids get older. Even if I weren’t moving out, I’ve always made it clear that I expected them to.

But what I’m realizing in these countdown days is that while I shouldn’t idealize my parenting experiences — there have been plenty of frustrations all around — I nevertheless want to cherish my kids and the good times we have while I’m still part of their daily lives. Whether it’s cooking something like broccoli quiche that they like so much they’re too busy stuffing their faces to tell me so, or trying to appreciate the various kinds of music they create or consume, or watching with satisfaction as they make friends and little by little go about the task of replacing their parents as their principle avenues of companionship and support. Basically trying to Be Here Now. And of course, avoiding those “Cats in the Cradle” moments.

Categories: Essays Tags: , , ,

Missing the Bus

January 26, 2010 1 comment

I started taking the bus to work regularly sometime after 6/6/06, which was when a driver on Long Island ran through a red light and through the intersection and through the front end of Stitch, my blue 2005 Honda Civic. I decided to start taking mass transit when I realized that the bus fare would be less than my annual parking fee. I decided not to replace Stitch when I woke up to the fact that my single income wasn’t covering the two car payments I’d been making since my wife had stopped working. Since I’m getting divorced, I’ll be needing to buy a car again soon, but for now the bus — aside from walking — is still my primary form of transportation.

Usually I enjoy mass transit. I grew up in Brooklyn where I took either a bus or a train to school from the time I was 10 until I graduated college. I like meeting the drivers and other passengers — my interactions with them are nicely limited — and I like having the time to sit and read my New Yorker or whatever book I’m working on.

In NYC, I never really had to pay too much attention to schedules because the buses and trains I took generally ran all day and all night long (though occasionally, particularly in my Rocky Horror-going days, I would have to be aware of when the last train ran). But here I need to know the schedules, and so I have a nice collection of all the ones that go to or from the places I need to be.

I like reading schedules. They’re nice and orderly. They give me a sense of comfort the way a map does when planning a trip.

But occasionally taking the bus is stress-inducing, as it was tonight when the first of the two buses that go down my street didn’t show up. I’m used to it being a few minutes, ten minutes late. But tonight, not at all.

That there is a bus that goes down my street at all is probably because a Centro board member lives in my neighborhood and requested that route. I can’t understand it otherwise, as there’s rarely anyone besides me still on when the bus turns the corner off the main drag onto my street. I can take the one that doesn’t turn on my street, though that leaves me with a 3/4 mile walk. I don’t mind the walk, but in winter when it’s really cold and the sidewalks are impassible I like having the option of not having to walk home in the road in the dark.

The driver of the second bus had no idea why the first one didn’t show. She asked if I’d called the problem in. Generally I don’t bother, as it’s not likely to make a bus appear. She mentioned that the regular driver was on vacation — I noticed he was missing yesterday, so it makes sense that someone goofed.

I really like that driver. He recognizes me, and stops directly in front of my house without my having to ask him. I used to have mild anxiety attacks because a previous driver on that route used to get annoyed if I asked her to stop anywhere but at the scheduled stop. For some reason there isn’t one on that side of the street within a quarter mile of my address though there’s one right across the street.

The regular driver — and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never asked his name — also honks and waves when he sees me walking down my street if I’ve taken my non-winter commute. And he offers me a free ride if it’s raining or he sees me carrying groceries when I’ve made a quick stop at the corner store. It’s one of the little things that makes me happy to be a passenger, and that I think about to offset my anxieties when I encounter breaks in the routine.

So I made it home and dutifully sent out an email to the bus company informing them that the bus never showed up. My partner suggests that I should complain in cases like this because, as a white suburban male, my voice is one that is likely to be heeded. It’s a small thing I can do on behalf of the other passengers whose needs might otherwise not be considered.

I’m home now, and soon I’ll be eating dinner and then getting the kids through their evening routines. It’ll be a relief to be back on a predictable schedule.