Friday, August 8, 2008

Hello, Dolly!

In case you didn't read all about it, the TU sent a few good reporters out on assignment to give our bus service a whirl. The article stirred considerable response including Pantaloons' excellent workaround when things don't go as planned (read the post then scroll down to the comment- it's worth it) thanks to All Over Albany , a number of reader responses on the TU Crossroads blog, Roger Green's Zen and the Art of Bus Riding, a CDTA Board member who gave the newspaper a piece of his mind (available for your viewing pleasure on the CDTA website - the July 30 meeting - about 32 minutes into the meeting), and some rather lively discussions on the bus -- imagine that!

What was I doing during all of this hubbub?

Soaking it all in, of course.

One of the very first responses I had to the article was a strong agreement with Margo Janack and Carm Basile, two CDTA spokes-folk. From the original article:

"Mainly, Janack and Basile wanted to know this: Why didn't our bold investigators just pick up the phone and call the authority's Customer Information Center before heading out?

The number, they note, is listed in the phone book, posted at bus stops, printed on schedules and displayed on the Web site."

Exactly. 482-8822. I love that number. Calling the CDTA information line when I'm on my way to a bus stop, waiting at a bus stop, and even on a bus has helped me many times.

It was a few months ago when I overheard a conversation between bus riders about service. One said to the other something like this, "Oh, when I didn't catch that bus I spoke to Dolly and she told me ...."

I chimed in, "What?"

My fellow rider responded, "Oh, Dolly -- on the information line. She's worked there forever."

I try to be personable. To get to know people. To at least take note when I'm on the phone with an operator that they too are human. But, I had never retained the names of the helpful people on the other end of the customer information line in my memory bank. Probably because most of the times that I've called, I've been rather frustrated.

Since that day, I've paid closer attention when my call is answered, and sometimes, I too speak with Dolly.

The other day, I was running late. So late, that I didn't even check the bus schedule before leaving the house because I just didn't want to know. I dropped my daughter off at camp, and headed towards Western Avenue. As I was walking across Main towards Madison, it happened again.

I saw a bus driving west along Western Avenue -- and I thought a really bad word to myself. I had missed a bus.

My mind started to work, "Now I'm probably going to have to wait a while or maybe it'd be faster to walk over to Washington Avenue and catch that line. Wait... could it be possible that was not the bus line I even wanted?? Sometimes there is that other line that runs up Western..."

I didn't want to go into my bag and start fumbling through the bus schedules. It was just too much work. It also slows me down. I decided to call for help.

Dolly answered.

"Oh, hi Dolly -- I've got a couple of questions."

First I asked her if that bus I missed could possibly be the one I really didn't need, the Number 11.

"No," she said without a pause, "The Number 11 doesn't even run this time of day."

Ok... so, when is the next Number 10?

"They run every 20 minutes."

Ok. I knew that, really. They tell me every time I call. It can be hard to keep it all on the front burner though. Well, not for Dolly.

What about the Number 30... going towards Washington Avenue from Western? She checked. That bus rarely runs, and I had missed it. I asked when the next Washington Avenue bus was.

Dolly told me, and I realized I'd be cutting it too close if I tried to walk over there.

The twenty minutes (by this time, much closer to 15 minutes) would go by quickly if I waited on the bench at the stop on Western and Allen and read my newspaper.

I couldn't help myself, "Thank you Dolly, you're a doll!"

She laughed. Poor woman, she probably gets that ALL THE TIME.

1 comment:

Roger Green said...

You're lookin' swell, Dolly.