Tag Archives: 14

Caught slippin’

This morning, I had a meeting at 2nd & Jackson at 8 AM and so had to catch the 14 at 23rd & Jackson at 7:44 AM. When I got to the bus stop (a few minutes early, as usual), I immediately took out my pass. Then I sat down to wait, clutching it with the confidence and satisfaction of a transit geek who’s got an annual, peak-fare pass and is ready to use it.

Except, my friends, it was no longer a peak-fare pass. (Ahem.)

This morning’s ride was my first peak trip since the fare increase, you see, and it (the fare increase, that is) had temporarily slipped my mind. I’d been meaning to upgrade my pass, but, after several off-peak rides–on which my $1.75 pass still worked–I had grown complacent.

Of course I had no change–not even a dollar. The driver, who had no doubt been dealing with similar issues all morning, was cool about it (no problem–just pay me next time), but I was utterly mortified–in part because I have a phobia of being without transit fare (remind me to tell you about the time I lost my transfer in 4th grade and the 2 driver made me ride to the end of the line), but mostly because my bus chick pride was hurt. (Other people make those kinds of basic bus mistakes, but not bus experts like me.)

On the way home, I paid 50 cents extra.

Happiness is…

heading to an evening meeting (short walk + 14) alone, sans baby pack or bag o’ tricks, wearing: shoes with a little flavor (nothing “earthy” about ’em), that gorgeous coat handed down from your fashion-plate mother, and your now rarely used shmipod, turned up to a volume that is surely damaging your ears (but it’s been so long since you’ve listened to Goapele!) and is preventing you from making progress on that novel you’re so enjoying–which is OK, really, because the author is such an amazing writer you’d gladly read one of her sentences 100 times, and you’re not in any hurry to finish.

Sister, can you spare a dime?

Tuesday, Eastbound 5th & Jackson stop, 8:40 PM

Fellow TAC‘er Miranda and I are discussing the future of transit in the region while waiting for our respective buses (me: 14, her: 36) home from the August meeting. A man approaches and asks if we can spare 50 cents. He has to get to the shelter by nine.

“And,” he adds, scratching his nether parts for emphasis, “I’ve got a rash.”

Wednesday, Westbound 23rd & Jackson stop, 5:00 PM

Chicklet and I are awaiting the 14, headed downtown to catch the 55 to my youngest brother‘s birthday celebration dinner. A woman approaches and asks, in a familiar, can-I-borrow-your-pen tone, “Hey, do you have an extra quarter?”

My wallet being close at hand (in the Ergo Baby‘s handy front pouch), I pull it out to check. As I open it, she adds, “Or an extra dollar?”

The wallet contains a 20 and a dime, so I tell her I don’t have what she’s looking for. The cheerful tone changes abruptly.

“Go to Hell!” she snaps. Then, “Some people just shouldn’t have children. I bet you’re on SSI.”

Performance anxiety

Overheard on a Sunday trip to Fremont:

Westbound 14 stop, 23rd & Jackson, 2:30 PM

A dad and his two elementary-aged daughters are preparing to head downtown for some summer fun. As the bus pulls up, the dad turns to the younger of the two girls.

“Remember Hannah, you’re in charge of putting the money in.”

The little girl nods but looks slightly apprehensive as she steps into line. Just before boarding, she grabs her father’s hand and thrusts her fistful of bills at him.

“Daddy, I want you to do it!”

Eastbound 26 stop, 4th & Battery, 3:00 PM

Four women carrying folding chairs block the bus doors as they talk among themselves.

Woman 1: “Let’s see, if you can break a five, I can pay for her, and then she can buy me a coffee…”

The driver, who is far behind schedule and has already dealt with lift drama, downtown traffic, and a malfunctioning back door: “Ladies?”

Woman 2: “Sorry–we’re just trying to get our money together.”

Driver, exasperated: “It’s pay as you leave, so you’ll have plenty of time to get your money together.”

Woman 3, to the others: “See? I told you! It’s traumatic to ride the bus sometimes.”

Still more on transportation and choices

On Tuesday night, I took the 14 home from the TAC meeting. The bus was packed with people, including several homeless people, who all got off at the same stop. The last woman to get off was in worse shape (both mentally and physically) than the rest and took almost five minutes to make it from the disabled section to the front of the bus. She stopped to stare at the floor, stopped to talk to herself, and, though she was barely able to move the cart she was pushing, became extremely agitated with anyone who tried to help her.

I can’t lie: My patience and compassion were in short supply. (I had things to do, after all, not the least of which was to inhale a whole handful of Excedrin as soon as I arrived home.) I huffed. I sighed. Near the end of her trip down the aisle, I had begun to roll my eyes.

After she had finally made her exit, the man across from me started joking with his friend about how badly she had smelled. The driver joined in.

“Now that I know,” she said, “I can refuse to transport her.”

At this, another woman–one who had attempted to help the homeless woman with her cart–jumped to the front of the bus and began to lecture the rest of us.

“It only takes two months to become homeless,” she shouted down the aisle. “It only takes a couple more to become depressed. We should be thanking God for what we have.”

The driver sucked her teeth: “I’d like to thank God for soap and water.”

***** *****

I am sensitive to the fact that this incident is a good example of the reason a lot of my own peers choose not to ride the bus. It’s not just about the sensory unpleasantness of being near people in dire circumstances, or being reminded of the desperation that we might otherwise prefer to ignore. The thing is, folks don’t necessarily have 30 minutes to get from downtown up the hill to the Central District.

As a person who rides city buses (Toto, we’re not on the 545 anymore) on a daily basis, I realize that time losses like these are balanced by time savings in other areas (never having to search for parking; bus-enabled multi-tasking; no oil changes, tire changes, scheduled maintenance, or fill-ups; etc.), but you can’t explain that to a bus-averse person who’s on his second ride. And while I strongly believe that Metro should work to attract the riders who have a choice, the agency, with its limited resources, also has an obligation to serve (and certainly no right to ridicule) elderly homeless women who need transportation to shelters.

So yet again, I am confronted with this question: How do we create a public transportation system that truly serves everyone?

I’m not sure I know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ridin’ solo

Today , I rode the bus alone for the first time since Chicklet was born. (Yes, I realize that this makes me a bit pathetic, considering that my child is 12 weeks old. What can I say? She’s cute.) I have left the house without her twice–once for my birthday dinner and once for my friend Donna‘s birthday party–but Bus Nerd was with me on both occasions.

Today, I traveled solo to attend the King County Transit Advisory Committee‘s annual retreat. I wouldn’t necessarily call an extra-long meeting in our regular meeting room a retreat, especially since the room doesn’t have heat on the weekends. But I digress. It was good to commune with my fellow transit geeks without the distraction of a baby (Chicklet attended the last meeting with me), and it was especially good to ride by myself. I didn’t realize how much I missed:

• Running for the bus–not so easy with an 11-pound human strapped to one’s chest.
• Using my bus legs, also not easy (or safe) with a baby strapped on.
Reading! I used the short rides to (27) and from (14) downtown to make progress on Acacia, a novel I started way back at the end of October.

Come March, I’ll return to work and regular solo travels. Then I’ll surely miss these months of bus adventures with my miniature riding partner.

Westbound 14, 1:10 PM (or, Speaking of “What are you?”…)

I’m sitting in the very front of the forward-facing rows, on the driver’s side, in the seat nearest the window. At a light somewhere in the ID, the man sitting in front of me (in the closest of the sideways-facing seats) strikes up a conversation. Three sentences in, he asks an odd variation on one of those questions:

“What nationality are you from?”

I know full well what he’s getting at, but I play along anyway. “I’m from here.”

“No, but what is your ethnic background?”

I cut to the chase this time–no need to prolong the interrogation. “I’m mixed: black and white.”

“Well, you could pass for a lot of things: Lebanese, Egyptian, Mexican…anything with color.” He pauses and cocks his head. “People look at you and expect you to speak some languages.”

Speaking of the 14…

On its way from downtown to Mount Baker, this well-used route happens to pass SOIL gallery. And SOIL gallery just so happens to be hosting an exhibit by former Sound Transit artist-in-residence Christian French, also known as Transitman.

Here’s how Transitman describes his project:

A meditation on the power of choice, and the ramifications of its exercise, this project expresses some of my assumptions about the hidden capacities we all have to make a difference in the world. Every act has infinite consequence. Even a simple choice like how you commute. We have the power to shape the world through our thought, speech or actions. Awakening to this potential is both liberating and unnerving. If you truly believed that you could save the world, would you do what it would take? Even if it meant walking around town in brightly colored Spandex? Careful how you answer…

And here’s Transitman:

It's a bird...it's a plane...
Photo credit: Julie Ross

Finally, a superhero a bus chick can get behind! (No Batmobiles necessary.) Seriously, judging from his website, this is a thoughtful and interesting (not to mention talented) person. The exhibit opens tonight (First Thursday) and runs through June 3rd. Go see this, people!