Thursday, September 8, 2011

Danger in the City ... Phoenix Valley Metro

Part I ... Peoria to Gilbert

On Saturday, September 3 ... I had undertaken a journey from Peoria to Mesa-Gilbert via the Phoenix Valley Metro. The first three miles was the bicycle ride to the Arrowhead Town & Country Mall in Glendale.

At the mall staging area, a crazed man was shouting obscenities while the Glendale police were "babysitting" him. The lunatic wildly paced around and argued with the officers. There were roughly four Glendale policemen who oversaw the unruly man.

I was sitting at a bench nearby, whereupon a Glendale officer requested that I move to another spot further away ... for my own safety, since the man was acting rather unpredictable and might be dangerous. Not long later, the bus arrived. But to my shock, the police sent the wild man to the bus -- "dumping" him into the vehicle and "no longer their problem." As soon as the officers walked away, the man mockingly told the bus driver that the policemen needed to come back so that "they can kiss his ass."

I placed my bicycle on the front carrier of the bus. I then sat in the front while the crazy man sat in the back. The bus was filled roughly one-third of capacity. For the next several miles, the crazed man periodically shouted obscenities and let out some high-pitched screams. The other passengers were silent, uncomfortable, and appeared frightened. The bus driver spoke into the intercom, ordering the man to shut up.

Subsequently, the driver radioed for help. At the next stop, the authorities were going to come to arrest that man or take him into custody. But at that next stop, the wild man exited the bus, shouted more obscenities, then walked across a parking lot and toward a convenience store.

With the man gone, the rest of the bus ride was quiet. But it became crowded. Most of the passengers were very poor, wore old clothes, looked dirty, nobody talked, everybody looked sad. Virtually everybody were Latinos, with a few blacks mixed in.

On a positive note, the bus and the bus driver were very wheelchair friendly. A ramp and lift gently transports the handicapped person upward into the bus interrior. The driver then very dutifully assists the wheelchair person and straps him onto the seat belt contraption.

At 19th Avenue and Bell, I transferred busses with my bicycle. It was roughly a 15 or 20 minute wait in the oppressive heat. The temperature was about 110 F.

When the bus arrived, it was a long line to get into the vehicle. We were stuck there in the queue, as the bus driver haggled with boarding passengers over the price of fare and ticket disputes. After about another ten minutes, one young couple (who had already entered the bus) now turned around and came back out of the bus. I asked them why they now refused to board? They replied that they were 75 cents short. I gave them a dollar. (Their destination was to an apartment complex several miles to the south.)

The bus was jam-packed full. Again, everybody looked poor, had sad faces, and were very quiet. Nobody looked at nobody. The silence was surreal, considering how crowded it was in there.

Open containers of soda pop are prohibited in the bus. Yet passengers with open drinks would board, the driver would tell them no, they argue back, the driver caves in. Dogs (except for service animals) are also prohibited. One middle-aged lady disobeyed the bus driver, boarded the bus with her little pet dog. This reminded me of buses in Southeast Asia, where peasants would bring in their little chickens, too.

Again, almost all of the passengers were either Latino or African-American. But there was this one Anglo-white guy that was on board. He was particularly obnoxious. This man started berating the bus driver for his "violation" of Valley Metro rules regarding the driver allegedly doing the beginning portion of the bus route with an "out of service" sign on display. The passenger kept on haranging the driver, telling him that his report to the Phoenix City Transit Authority will result in his termination from employment.

The bus driver ordered the passenger to go sit down and be quiet ... because his tirade is causing a danger and distraction from driving the bus safely. But the man kept on his diatribe. (We passengers were ready to punch that idiot in the face.)

Fortunately, the next bus stop was the transfer to the Phoenix Light Rail. But that was where the obnoxious man also got off. Ironically, he happened to be another fellow biker. We both boarded the train. That man was no longer nasty; he suddenly became nice and polite. He helped me into the train and directed me into the bicycle section. (It's very strange, this Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.)

The train journey was comfortable, not crowded, and had more middle-to-upper income folk as passengers. Most of them were now white Anglos. The end of the train ride was just west of Downtown Mesa. I transferred onto another bus for the ride toward Gilbert. Once in the bus, there was a small sprinkling of passengers.

Part II ... Mesa to Peoria

Boarding the Phoenix Light Rail at the Mesa Station was at around 10:00 PM. A few of us cyclists boarded into the center part of the train. It wasn't crowded at all.

As the train arrived into Tempe, throngs of college students boarded. Most of them got into the back compartment. They were loud and boisterous. Many of them were also drunk. During the journey, it felt like a party.

At the next stop, young Blacks and Latinos boarded. They entered into the front compartment. As we progressed onward to Central Phoenix, one middle-aged Hispanic woman started cursing at this one ornery hombre. She accused him of making some kind of sexually explicit remarks. She was lunging at him, in the process of punching him in the face. The other Latino women in her vicinity held her back and tried to calm her down. The Mexican man was smirking back.

At the next stop, more Blacks boarded, wearing clothes that suggest gang attire. They sat in the front compartment with the Hispanics. As the train then proceeded, the Blacks and the Mexicans got into a brawl. I pressed the red emergency button, delaring to the train engineer of "a fight that is now occurring in the train." Then immediately, the engineer spoke in the intercom, "Stop fighting." Fortunately, at the next stop, the fighters all disembarked.

Once I got off the train at Montebello and 19th Ave ... I finally felt safe. Bicycling across North Phoenix into Central Glendale at Midnight was peaceful solitude. Whereas inside the train, I felt like a caged animal.

About the only incident I encountered on my bicycle that involved danger was these young teenagers who were drunk. They were driving wildly on Olive Ave. near Glendale Community College. As some kind of crazy stunt, they dumped off one of their buddies into the middle of the highway, who was then staggering on foot. The stench of alcohol was very strong. Then they double backed, skidding their vehicle while doing a u-turn. Whereupon I had to bicycle away from the scene, lest I become victimized by their antics.

At 67th & Thunderbird, I hung out at the Quiktrip (QT) from around 12:30 till 1:15 AM. I joined a small group of 20-somethings AND an off-duty policeman (from Tolleson) ... who was contracted for night security at that QT on the weekends. We were all loitering -- in front of the "no loitering" sign. So we were all breaking the law. The policeman was friendly. (Yet I was tempted to ask him why he wasn't arresting us for "loitering.")

The last leg of the bicycle ride was uneventful. Though it was the wee hours of the morning, the summer heat was still radiating from the concrete below. Once home, I was glad the day was over.

Phoenix Valley Metro (Wikipedia Link)