On this, the last day of summer (known to some as the end of the bus chick high season), I came across a minor bus/truck fender bender in Pioneer Square. Luckily, the bus was headed to base, so no passengers were displaced–unless, that is, I got there after the riders had already been booted. If they were, I’m sure it only made them stronger. You haven’t earned your true bus chick stripes until you’ve been kicked off a “disabled” bus in the rain.
Busnerd saw this fancy, digital sign on the 48 today:
Apparently, it shows the date and time until someone rings the bell to get off, at which point it alternates between the regular “stop requested” text and the date and time. Nice.
I’m hoping these signs will one day be capable of displaying other useful information: the bus’s status (whether or not it’s on schedule, for example) and the status of common transfer routes. And hey, for extra revenue, Metro could sell messages (birthday wishes, marriage proposals, etc.) like they do at basketball games.
Last week, Laura from Eastlake sent me this note:
You often talk about Smooth Jazz and I must admit that I have been jealous. I would LOVE for the ride home to be to some music. So I thought I would send you a quick email to tell you about a great driver I had the other day coming home. It was on Wednesday night on the 70 at about 6pm. The bus driver sang a song to the entire bus about “humoring your bus driver so he doesn’t leave you at your stop while waiting.” It was really funny, he said he made it up on the spot, and the entire bus applauded and laughed (with him).
Her e-mail was the inspiration for last week’s Real Change column, which was about some of my favorite drivers (including Smooth Jazz and one I used to call Preacher, for his tendency to pray on the job). Then, last evening, the woman who helped me at Nordstrom rather spontaneously launched into stories about her favorite 49 drivers: the one who looks just like Dave Chappelle–not as funny but really nice–and the one who is so cute she sometimes flirts with him on her way off the bus.
All this talk about cool (and sexy) bus drivers has me wondering: Who are your favorites? Why?
Why busing beats driving, according to my Gail:
1) You don’t have to wait for a light to put on your makeup!
2) You don’t get accused of causing accidents just because your cell phone rings or you have to kill a bee!
3) If someone scratches the bus you don’t have to lose a day’s work getting quotes! Likewise,
4) If your fellow passenger throws up – no one has to fight over who’s going to clean it up!
5) On rainy days you don’t have to carry extra mats for the floor!
6) You don’t burn your be-hind on the seats on hot summer days.
7) You never hear of small children being left on a running bus for ‘just a second’ when Mom jumps off at a 7-eleven for a Slurpy.
Last night, I met my brother Jeremy (aka Saulty) at The Apartment after work. On my walk from the bus stop, a man stopped me and asked, in very broken English, how to get to the airport. I don’t know if the man had highly sensitive buschick-dar or is just very lucky, but either way, he came to the right place.
I walked him to the 194 stop on 2nd & Pike and in the process learned:
• He is from Turkey.
• He spent the summer working in a cannery in Alaska.
• He wanted to see Seattle before he returned home.
• Seattle is a beautiful and fabulous city (wait–I already knew that), despite the expensive lodging. (According to my new friend, even the hostels downtown are too high.)
I also learned that my brother does not like to be kept waiting on a chilly street in Belltown on Friday night. Wait, I already knew that, too.
Despite the large number of fabulous, active, interesting people who choose to be car-free, it is still considered an “alternative” lifestyle. We bus- and bike-dependent types are viewed as outside the mainstream: martyrs; angry, political types with something to prove; or die-hard environmentalists participating in “sustainability experiments.” Here’s the thing, though: Some people choose not to own cars out of good, old-fashioned, American self-interest.
I wrote an essay on the personal-benefit aspects of car-free living for this month’s issue of Seattle magazine. And then, a couple of weeks ago, I found an entire book on the subject. Chris Balish’s, How to Live Well without Owning a Car (Ten Speed Press, 2006) shows people how to improve their lives–especially their finances–by (don’t make me say “I told you so”) giving up their cars. Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:
Without a car to constantly take care of, you’ll have fewer hassles, lower stress, less aggravation, and less to worry about. You may even find you have more free time. With no car in your life you may also improve your health, get more exercise, lose weight, and sleep better. In other words, you’ll be happier, healthier, and much wealthier. Best of all, practically anyone can live happily without owning a car–or, as many people call it, living “car-free.” This program is not abstract theory. It’s not a fringe concept applicable to a select few. It’s a broad-based, step-by-step process that almost anyone in mainstream America can follow to start saving money right away. Even if you’re convinced you “need” a car, this program may change your mind.
How to Live Well… has received a fair amount of media attention, and not just because of the novelty factor. Though it’s a bit repetitive in parts, the book extremely persuasive–so persuasive that I predict it will convince lots of people to dump that extra ton (or two) they’ve been lugging around. Here are some reasons why:
• It is written by an attractive, successful, image-conscious, Midwesterner who accidentally discovered a better way to live–just the right person to convince the skeptical that car-free living isn’t only for granola-eating, hemp-wearing, co-op shopping, Berkeley students.
• It provides many alternatives to driving cars, including walking, public transit, bicycles, and scooters.
• Though it focuses on the financial benefits of not owning a car, it doesn’t leave out any of the others: environmental, social, physical, emotional.
• It explains the detrimental effects of our car-centric culture without demonizing cars or judging the people who drive them.
• It gives useful, specific information about how to prepare for, and eventually live, a car-free life.
• It includes a chapter about car-free dating–critical for all the sexy people who are considering taking the plunge.
• It promotes car-sharing for situations that require a car.
• It offers strategies for reducing car use for those who can’t give up their cars completely.
• It is full of inspiring testimonials from people all over the country who are happily living car-free (and “car-lite”) lives.
Buy How to Live Well without a Car for every prospective bus chick you know. Buy it for all your broke friends who are two value meals away from selling their plasma. Buy it for your upstairs neighbor, your Aunt Mae, and your cousin Junior. Buy it for your fraternity brothers. Buy it for your dentist.
Better yet, make all those folks check it out at the library. It is, after all, a book about saving money.
A cell phone conversation:
“You owe child support? How much you pay?” [pause] “900 a month? For one kid?” [pause] “Damn. That makes me feel a little better. I only pay 600.”
Recently, I’ve started to consider expanding my transportation options. No disrespect to the bus, which has served me well for many years and will remain my primary mode of transportation, but there are times when I want more control over when and how quickly I get somewhere. To that end, on Monday, I took a beginning commuter class through Cascade Bicycle Club’s Education Foundation. (Well, it wasn’t an official class; I spent a couple of hours getting schooled by their extremely knowledgeable commuting specialist, Chris Cameron.)
Despite the number of bike nerds I know, I’ve never really considered biking a viable option for regular travel, 1) because of practical considerations like how to dress, weather, and hours of daylight, and 2) because I am terrified to ride in the street. (I’ve participated in Bike to Work Day a few times, but for that, I used bike paths, trails and sidewalks. Plus, there was the added incentive of free food at the end of the line.)
Chris gave me some good information about how to equip a bike for safe travel, and we even did a trial run along Sand Point Way. I’m feeling confident enough to try biking on my trips to Madison Market and for other miscellaneous errands in my neighborhood. Next step: Find a decent used bike.
Highlights of Monday’s class:
• Riding the 74 for the first time (to get there)
• Meeting Patrick Burns McGrath (aka Cascade Commuter)
• The bowl of chocolate kisses in the CBEF office
On Saturday, on the 48, I sat behind a man transporting case of a certain poultry-inspired brand of bourbon. That stuff ain’t cheap. Perhaps he’d recently visited the coin-counting machine at his credit union.
For some reason I have yet to understand, Bus Nerd has entirely too much change. Everywhere he goes, change follows. It is in his pants pockets, in his coat pockets, in his busnerd bag. If you’re ever short bus fare, search the cushions of a couch he has recently sat on; you’re sure to find at least a couple of trips’ worth. And don’t get me started on his (former) bedroom. His spare-change jar filled up at least a year ago, subsequently overflowing onto his nightstand and into his most recent ad-hoc container, a plastic bag on the floor.
Last Thursday, to prevent this change from overflowing its way into our current bedroom, I offered to take it to the free coin-counting machine at the credit union near my office. The plan was to stop there on my way to work, which would have been an unremarkable errand–except that I am a bus chick, and the change I offered to carry weighed almost 35 pounds. Despite Busnerd’s warnings and admonishments, I carried the money in my backpack, along with my laptop and other bus chick necessities, for the entire 15-mile (two buses plus a very long walk) trip. Fortunately, I managed to remain upright for the journey, and I was rewarded at its end. The change added up to $360. I think I’ll use it to buy Busnerd an extra-large piggy bank.
Of course, a 35-pound backpack full of change is far from the oddest thing I’ve carried on the bus. Last month, I carried my wedding dress home on the 27, to the dismay of the clerk at the fancy shop that made it. A couple of Thanksgivings ago, I rode the 3 with a still-warm fried turkey.
And those are just the two of the many. Anyone else carried something odd/unwieldy/embarrassing on the bus?