Could we actually convert someone who is not normally a bus rider into an sbX fan? That was the question we set out to answer that question this week with a special tweetup aboard sbX.
It all began with this Twitter conversation.
Cloud9_72 is the Twitter handle for Inland Empire native Mary Risner. Mary takes a strong interest in community news and closely follows local reporters, law enforcement and politics on social media. Her husband works at the Department of Water, and the couple has a 10-year-old son named Jackson. When Jackson was three, he was diagnosed with autism, and Mary put aside her career as a school tutor to focus her energies on being a full time mom. She also connects with other parents of autistic kids online, helping them find the resources they need.
Mary agreed to take us up on our offer of an sbX tour. I met her and Jackson at the Palm and Kendall Park and Ride where they were admiring the artwork on the glass station panels and checking out the ticket vending machine. I asked them what they thought so far.
Jackson’s blue eyes looked anxious. “I’m a little worried because I’ve never ridden a bus before, except for a school bus.”
“Not a problem” I reassured him. “I am going to be your own personal escort and ride along with you and your mom. You won’t have to worry about a thing. I even have passes and goody bags here for you guys.”
He smiled and started digging into the bag I offered him. “Thanks!”
Mary pointed to the bottom of the map case. “I was trying to figure out the route, and the map was scaring me a little. It covers a huge area and it looks like it would be easy to get lost.”
“Actually that the map for the entire Omnitrans system,” I explained. “You’re right. We have a big service area, so it can be a little intimidating at first. We’re taking the sbX line which is pretty much a straight shot from here to the Loma Linda VA Hospital. The sbX coaches travel down the E Street corridor and back up again in a continuous loop.”
Mary smiled. “I think I can manage that.”
I snapped a few photos of her and Jackson beside the sbX coach. “Hold up your ticket for the picture, mom,” Jackson urged her.
We all laughed.
“I’ve only ridden a bus one time back when I was in high school,” Mary confessed. “And it wasn’t a good experience. I was so shaken up by it that I decided I would rather walk the three miles between my house and the school rather than ever ride again.”
“Let’s see if we can change your mind,” I told her. “Ready to go guys?”
We climbed aboard, and I showed them how to insert their passes into the farebox. Walking up the aisle, they were all smiles as they looked around them.
“It’s actually really nice,” said Mary sounding surprised.
Jackson made a beeline for the center of the vehicle. “Look at the high seats, mom! I want to sit there!”
Pulling out of the station, we made our way to Loma Linda. Jackson was excited as Mary pointed out familiar landmarks along the way: restaurants and malls, schools where she used to tutor, places where family friends work, and restaurants they might want to visit.
The two also liked seeing the different art at the stations we passed. Mary was particularly drawn to the Hunt’s Lane station display “Setting The Table” which featured vintage looking dinner plates on a glass panel.
“They look like real dishes in the glass!” she marveled.
As we pass by a car repair shop, Mary told me her husband had ridden sbX himself recently when he had to drop off his car to be fixed. Instead of waiting around the shop for two hours, her rode sbX over to a local restaurant to get a bite to eat. He thought the coach was nice and liked the fast travel time.
At Loma Linda we got off at the Park and Ride to have lunch at the BK Subs next door.
We chatted about our families, pets and our plans for the summer.
“With school out, we’ve been looking for things to do together that don’t cost a lot of money,” Mary told me. “Riding the bus today has been like a little adventure for us. What do you think, Jackson? Maybe we could take sbX and meet dad at his office for lunch sometime? Or maybe the three of us could take a trip to Inland Center Mall and go to Chuck E. Cheese.”
Jackson grinned, “That would be fun!”
After lunch we board sbX to head back. I find out that Jackson is an avid gamer. He was excited to learn that I’m an angry bird fan and that the red bird is both our favorites. He loves Mario, Q-Bert, Pokemon and all the classics.
“He makes Youtube videos about some of his favorite characters,” Mary told me proudly. “He draws them and makes up stories about them. He’s a really talented artist.”
This was the perfect opportunity to talk to them about some of the features sbX has to offer tech savvy riders. I pointed out the overhead power outlets that can be used to charge small electronics and informed them there was free on board Wi-Fi.
“No way!” exclaimed Jackson practically bouncing with excitement.
He and Mary immediately pulled out their devices to give it a try.
“So what do you think? Have we made an sbX fan out of you?” I asked Mary. “Do you think you’d come back on your own and ride again?”
She laughed. “Yes, it was a lot of fun. And I can relax and hang out with Jackson instead of having to focus on driving. Next time I’ll bring my husband with us, and we can do a family trip. Maybe I can figure out how to take the regular Omnitrans bus to get here instead of driving.”
“That’s easy enough. Just call our customer service center, tell them where you are and where you want to go and they’ll help you plan your trip.”
“Wow, I didn’t know you guys did that. Thanks!”
As we arrived back at Palm and Kendall, Jackson suggested I take one more picture. He’d been having fun during the trip coming up with poses for me and took his job as a model very seriously. “I call this one ‘The Thinking Man,’” he said, propping his hand under his chin and elbow on his knee. “It’s a famous statue.”
“I know that, but I’m surprised that you know that,” I laughed. “You are one smart guy. Thanks for modeling for me.”
We all hugged when we disembarked, feeling like old friends.
“Thanks so much for the trip. We had fun!” said Mary.
As our two new sbX fans walked down the station, I pulled out the camera again. “Hey Jackson!” I yelled. “One last time!”
Jackson turned around on cue and gave a wave at the camera. A good model always knows how to strike a pose.
- Juno Kughler Carlson
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