Friday, September 17, 2010

Driving Rough-Shod Over Potholes

The wheels on the bus go round and round,
round and round,
round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all through the town.  - Philip A Parker

The morning commute. I'm on the Q60 bus, which runs from 60th Street Manhattan, east to Queens.

Is this the worst bus run in the city? I certainly hope so because anything worse would be REALLY scary.

I'm sitting carefully, holding on to the rail of the seat in front of me. I do this for two reasons.

1: the seats slope down at an angle of about 10 degrees below the horizontal, and are made of a slippery synthetic material. If you weigh less than 20 stone you are likely to slip off onto the floor in front.

2: Once the bus turns onto the Queensboro Bridge (don't you just love the way Americans spell 'borough') there are deep and plentiful potholes. The drivers rarely slow down but rather put the accelerator pedal flat to the floor so that the bus bounces around and all the passengers, not just me, hold onto the rails of the seats in front of them, so that we all look like terrified people on a Big Dipper.

Seats on the Q60
There is, no there WAS a woman sitting behind me. Suddenly she flies through the air sideways, landing on the passage-way floor, still in sitting position. People try to reach her to pull her up, but it isn't easy. The bus hasn't slowed and the Samaritans move gingerly lest they suffer a similar fate.

Eventually everyone is back in their seats. The woman who flew through the air hasn't spoken a word and is staring straight ahead. Spooky.

I decide to occupy myself by taking photos. Here's one of the seat next to me. God this city's going to the pack!

Seat on the Q60 September 2010
Oscar Wilde could have said, "There's only one thing worse than sitting in a Q60 bus, and that's not sitting in a Q60 bus."

Waiting for the Q60. That's what I spend some time doing every working day at 8:30 a.m. On the corner of Second Avenue and 60th Street. There's usually a few of us there. Waiting. It is the starting point for the trip and there's a dispatcher man stationed there. Well not always, sometimes he's sitting in his car, especially when it's snowing. There's no shelter on the corner and the wind-tunnel gusts blow Manhattan dust onto our clothes and into our hair.

The dispatcher doesn't talk to us. He doesn't tell us if the bus is running late. Sometimes he'll chat to a bus driver who has shown up late from the Queens - Manhattan run. Usually about the baseball. The door of the bus will not open till the driver is ready to go. So we continue standing, while we listen to dispatcher and the driver talk about baseball. The dust or snow and an occasional page of a newspaper blow around the desolate corner that bears little resemblance to most people's idea of a bus-stop.

Once, when we'd all been waiting half an hour I asked the dispatcher if there would soon be a bus coming. He looked at me. Stunned. "How would I know?" he snapped. "Well what about the two-wave radio you have; can't you contact the bus, or even base?" I ventured. He just shook his head incredulously and before walking away from me, told me slowly as if talking to a small child, that he couldn't control the weather or traffic jams and what did people expect nowadays.

"Stand Clear of the Doors Please"
I called after him that I didn't expect him to control the buses, just to tell us what was going on.

The next day when I had just taken my seat on the bus and it was about to start. Mr Dispatcher stood at the doorway chatting with the driver. Then he turned to me and said very loudly so everyone in the bus could hear him, "There are some really weird people around. People who think we control the weather! The things people expect nowadays".

Why do I get the Q60 bus? Why not the subway? Well there's only one thing worse than the number 6 subway ...

But that's another story.


Anonymous said...

For a few years (when I was younger) I envied your life in New York - the Big City, the bistros, the kultchur, the delicatessens, the excitement, the ALL of it. Y'know, I think I'm over it. I don't think you'd swap it for life in the slow lane, or life in some suburban enclave in New Jersey or upstate NY. Nope, you are a Big City Girl, girl. Enjoy!

monty said...

Ah buses. The buses in Pingsha when I first got there had seats made from stainless steel bars. No cushion or fabric you sat on stainless steel. Fortunately they improved but you were still lucky to get a seat.
In this day and age it would be relatively simple to have satellite tracking on buses hooked up to units at the bus stop that tell you how far away they are.

Grahame said...

What does a dispatcher do?

Jaded NYer said...

He dispatches. Busses. To locations.

Kate said...

What does a dispatcher do? Well the Q60 one does very little. They are meant to keep track of the buses on their line and if a bunch of buses are ready at the same time to stagger them. I think they keep a log of arrival/departures. They can communicate with individual buses and base.

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