Most of my life, I have disliked riding the bus. “Dislike” doesn’t really capture the feeling. It’s more like, a deep loathing. Growing up in my small rural town west of Pittsburgh, riding the bus to my elementary or middle school usually entailed waiting for what seemed like forever at the bus stopwhile engaging in mischief with others and getting into the fairly-regular fight with one of the neighborhood kids — sometimes the bullies and sometimes your own friends. Sure, there was the occasional game of “touch” football that you got to partake in, if by “touch” you mean full-contact, sorry-about-the-stitches, boy-that-parking-lot-managed-to-give-you-a-lot-of-road-rash and the like. Due to these goings on, I tended to walk to school a good bit. It was 0.5 miles to walk to my elementary school with a bus stop about the same distance away. It seemed to make sense that I could avoid the wait at the bus stop and use that time to walk. By the time I switched to my middle school a mile away, I didn’t think twice — I just walked. And thus began my dislike for buses.
Flash forward to my adult life. When I flew into a city, I always rented a car. Taking public transportation was out of the question for me. It was a bus, a train, or anything of the sort really made me feel ill. I hated flying but considering I couldn’t simply skip the “stop” and walk to my destination, I had to grin and bear it. In April of 2009, I decided for the first time in my life that I was flying to a city where I didn’t want to have to drive. I flew into Philadelphia for the Philly.NET code camp to give a presentation on Domain-specific languages and to spend some time with my cousins working/teaching at UPenn. I got off the flight, grabbed my bag and headed for the train into town. Expecting the dreaded feeling, I instead felt this immediate sense of freedom. I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to park my car, how safe it would be, how I would negotiate the nights festivities spent out while leaving my car and having to find my way back to it later. I was free to go wherever the transit could take me. For the first time in my life, I picked up a few train and bus schedules and I was in perfect bliss. Of course, my cousin Donna Ann found this very amusing as she’s been using transportation of this sort for some time.
In that same year, I had moved back to my home town temporarily to help my parents while they recovered from consecutive knee replacement surgeries. It was a good time for me to spend with family after some messy personal business. When I decided to move back to the Seattle area, I gave my parents my truck. In part it was because it was getting old and wasn’t worth shipping across the country again. In other sense I felt I could use the exercise a bike and the occasional walk would provide. But I also remembered that sense of freedom from a vehicle that I was looking forward to achieving again. I arrived in Redmond and didn’t have a car. I immediately purchased a bike and some basics and started walking and riding everywhere. I told myself that I might buy a car but only after I lost 20 pounds. I lost 22 pounds in about three weeks. I also rode the bus everywhere my bike or legs wouldn’t reasonably carry me in the time I had available. I found it fascinating how many new places I found to eat that I didn’t even know existed. The pace of life slowed considerably and I was ecstatic about that. I was in no rush to get anywhere. There was no stress of burning gas while being stuck in traffic. I could sit on the bus and read or surf the web on my phone while the bus driver did all the work.
Then I bought a car. I didn’t it mostly convincing myself I’d just use it for those random trips to places where a bus, my bike or my legs weren’t practical. Of course, none of this turned out to be true. About a month after getting my car, I started dating the most amazing woman I have ever met in my life. That’s no exageration. To this day, two years later, my heart mealts just to hear her voice on the phone. I’d do anything for her. Of course, that means I drive everywhere with her. We go to Seattle to watch the opera or catch a comedy show at the Paramount or just to stroll along Alki “beach”. My days of more primitive transportation were pretty much done.
A few weeks ago, I got a bug in my ass to start saving as much money as I could. I also wanted to use more common sense means of getting around. Using my car to transport me the measly 4 miles each way to work burned more gas than was really worth it. Parking my car in my parking garage at home is a pain too. Once you lose one of the good (read: wide) spots in my garage, you’re stuck trying to force your way into spots that were made only to satisfy Redmond requirements for parking spots per capita and not really to fit a real car into. Since I got home at strange times of the day, I could never guarantee that I would get a good spot and that just made me want to stay home once I got in each day from work.
One of my old housemates who lives in the building next door to mine asked me if I wanted to hop a bus to Kirkland and go for a walk down by Marina Park one day. I thought it would be fun and I wanted to catch up with my old friend so we did. It suddenly dawned on me that the “bus thing” was still an option. I decided to start taking it. I started taking it this past week everywhere that it made sense to. I’ve taken the bus to the gym, from the gym to work, to work from home, and from work to home. Most of this, of course, is without cost to me since Microsoft provides us with an Orca card for our travel many of those trips are covered with the card. I think I love this “bus thing” all over again.
Of course, I live on the “east side” of Lake Washington where the bus is pretty tame. I can’t say that a bus trip in West Seattle would be nearly as calming or enjoyable. I even got a small taste of that the other day in Bellevue. As I was getting ready to board the bus, a woman coming down the stairs yelled “This is FUCKING STUPID!” As she stood about 6 inches from my face. Being a contrarian her sentiments were shared by me — if only I had understood the target of her angst, I might have agreed with her! The woman was clearly not right in the head as her eyes darted around a bit and she wandered off muttering to herself. I boarded the bus only to see everyone looking at me inquisitively as if I was going to be able to explain what happened. Not wanting to let them down, I said “Wait, am I getting on in Bellevue, or on the west side?” This was met with laughter — the approval I was looking for before I could sit. Then I realized, of course, that this person who just exited the bus may have left a “present” in the seat as often happens in public transport. I opted to stand instead. Hmm. The downsides to the bus came screaming back.
Metro Bus, I think I love you, but I wanna know for sure! Tell me about your crazy public transportation stories.