Tag Archives: 27

Westbound 27, 12:15 PM

A sixtysomething woman stands near the front door looking for her fare. Her purse-digging delays the driver long enough that a forty-ish man running at full speed is able to make it to the stop before the bus pulls away. He walks past the woman on his way to his seat, breathing hard but still looking sharp in a black Kangol and blue silk shirt.

The woman raises her eyebrows.

“You didn’t have to do all that.” she mutters. “You look too good for all that running.”

Dear Danielle

Around midday today, I boarded the 27 behind a young woman wearing white pants, a gorgeous green and blue blouse, a Seahawks cap, and a long, light-blue wig. Her magnificent outfit alone is reason for sharing, but there’s more.

As I passed the woman to sit down, she said hello as if she knew me and then asked about my kids. I couldn’t place her at all, so I assumed she was someone I see when I’m out and about walking. But this woman interacted with me as though I must know her as well, announcing almost immediately that she was a mother now, too, and walking over to my seat to show me the adorable baby photos on her phone.

I am ashamed to say that I pretended to know her, which made our interaction somewhat awkward. (Of course, bonding over babies can take the edge off of almost anything.) Finally, our conversation revealed who she was: “Miss Danielle,” a young woman who had interned at Chicklet’s preschool one summer. Chicklet, who has always been a tough customer, adored Danielle, because she was patient and compassionate and a good listener.

Back in those days, Danielle was a student at Garfield. After her internship ended, the kids and I would sometimes see her on the bus or around the neighborhood. She always made a point to say hi to Chicklet.

On the bus ride today, I learned that Danielle lives in Puyallup now, and that she has started a job at a sandwich chain all the way downtown. She lives near the transit center, so we spent a good long time talking Sounder versus 578. Sounder is more expensive and doesn’t run often enough, but it has bathrooms, great views, and predictable travel times. Plus, she was given an free unlimited ORCA card through a school program, so for now, cost isn’t an issue.

After she got off the bus, I thought about the Danielle I had known when Chicklet was in preschool, so different in appearance from the young woman I had met today. I thought about the fact that neither of us could have pictured the future she had walked into, one choice and changing circumstance at a time.

This is not an idealization of the past, nor is it a self-righteous hand-wringing about the perils of young motherhood. It is, at least in part, a rage against the unfairness that pushes a young mother searching for housing to the distant exurbs. But mostly, it is a meditation on change.

In the few years since Danielle left our neighborhood, it has become a place she might not recognize. (The preschool where we met her, which has been serving children in the same location for over 50 years, is one of the few institutions that endures.) In those same few years, she became a person I did not recognize. I wonder what changes she saw in me.

Dear Danielle, tenderhearted preschool helper, mama of beautiful babies, hot mama wearing the heck out of her blue hair and white jeans: I hope to meet you again on your journey.

Westbound 27 stop, Yesler & 3rd, 8:15 AM

Moments after the kids and I step off the bus (on our way to the Water Taxi for a summer adventure), a 50-ish Latino man approaches and hands me a business card for his wife’s hair shop, which has recently opened somewhere nearby.

“My wife is black,” he explains, “so she’s specializes in black hair. Braids, barber services…” He stops to look at us more closely, then hesitates. “Also Middle Eastern hair. Erm. All kinds of hair.”

Eastbound 27 stop, Yesler & 3rd, noon

A young black woman with a beautiful, medium length, natural hairstyle exits a building near the stop and walks to it. Two middle-aged white men exit shortly after her and pause to chat on their way down the hill. Seconds into the conversation, one of them says, “[Rachel], your hair is the talk of the office.”

She smiles uncomfortably. “Really? Hopefully, my performance is as well.”

Thanks for the ride

It is hard to put into words how much our bus family appreciates the hard-working men and women who get us where we’re going safely, day after day. Our prayers are with Mr. Deloy Dupuis, the 64 year-old 27 driver who was shot in the face while doing his job yesterday morning. We also pray for the family of the shooter, Martin Duckworth, who was killed by police shortly after the incident—and for an end to the senseless gun violence that plagues our nation.

On busing and baby sharing

Yesterday, after tiring of the wait for my six-, then eight-, then ten-, then twelve-minute late 27, I resorted to the 4. I was immediately glad I did, despite the fact that the bus was (per usual) extra crowded, and I ended up standing in the no man’s land with poor pole access.

You see, Smooth Jazz was at the wheel.

Riding on Smooth Jazz’s bus always feels a bit like a celebrity sighting for me. (Not surprisingly, many of the people I consider “celebrities” are bus drivers.) As soon as we finished our excruciating creep up James, he turned on his trademark mellow music. (One of these days, I’m going to start making requests.) By then, I had a seat, and a view of all the goodness that was taking place around me: Small talk. Flirtations. Coworker gossip. Laughter.

A man got on a few stops past Harborview with a box of various goodies, including fruit and some Easter-related toys. Across from him was a woman with infant twins and an older girl, who was probably around eight. The mother was holding one of the babies on her lap while her daughter struggled with the other. The double stroller was stowed awkwardly nearby in the wheelchair area.

Before Box Man had been on a full block, he offered some of the toys to the girl, gesturing to the babies to indicate that the gifts were to be shared. The girl looked to her mother for approval before accepting, then held the toys at arms’ length, either out of amazement at her good fortune or healthy suspicion.

A few minutes later, the mother rang the bell for my stop, so I offered my assistance getting everything–stroller, babies, big kid, bag, and new toys–off the bus. She matter-of-factly handed me a chubby, sweet-smelling baby and proceeded to gather her things. Together–each of us balancing a little one on a hip–we maneuvered the double stroller contraption down the bus steps and set it on the sidewalk, stowed the new toys, and strapped everyone in. Then, we headed in our respective directions.

It is likely that I will never see that woman or her children again. It is even more likely that in two months, or a year, or five years, I will forget the beautiful surprise (the gift!) of being handed a stranger’s precious baby, of cooperating with her to overcome a challenge I know well. Of smelling that sweet chubby cheek for a few moments at the end of a challenging day, on my way to see my own precious (not so) babies. (Chicklet’s about to be in Kindergarten, people!)

But whether these experiences are remembered consciously is not particularly important. (This is a good thing, since my memory has been basically shot since I was busing while pregnant the first time.) It is these daily interactions that inform who I am and how I view my community. Sometimes, they change my perspective. Often, they deepen my compassion or my gratitude. Always, they make an impression.

Despite all the drama-filled, funky rides I’ve endured (Woman on the 14, I feel you!), despite all the annoyances, despite even the looming cuts, I cannot imagine life any other way.

How the Bus Fam celebrates a sunny day

I am not a fair weather bus chick. I love my city (rain, clouds, and late-spring chill included) and my carfree life no matter the season. I’d be lying, though, if I said that I didn’t prefer getting around during time of year when it’s light both early and late and there’s a high probability of sunshine.

During the months between May and October (aka, bus chick high season) life on the ground is lovely–far, far prefarable to life trapped inside an exhaust-spewing metal box stuck in baseball traffic. We walk more than we wait (truth be told, except in extreme weather conditions, I do that year round), worry less about how late we get home (sadly, bedtimes still exist during DST), and spend as much time as we can outdoors.

On a beautiful day, there is plenty of occupy us in our own corner of the city. We are spitting distance from five great parks. We can walk to a city pool. We can take the 27 down to the lake and put our feet in the water. (Almost as often, if we have time, we walk all the way down there–and back.)

But sometimes, much as we love our neighborhood, we get tired of beating the same paths. Sometimes, on a sunny day, we have a hankerin’ for an adventure. Today was one of those times. So, we bus types rose early, threw on some playin-outside-in-the-sunshine gear, and did what we do best.

First, we caught the 27 to 3rd & Yesler, then walked to Pier 50 to catch my beloved Water Taxi.

My city

View from the Water Taxi







Busling love, love, loves the retro paint job on “his” Space Needle.

Busling's Space Needle







It was Chicklet’s job to find the mountain. Hello, Tahoma!

Hello, Tahoma!


On the other side:

On the other side


At Seacrest, we caught the (free!) Dart shuttle to the Admiral District.

Shuttle to Admiral

We stopped at the church where my mom’s ashes are buried to bring her some early Mother’s Day flowers.

Flowers for Caroline

Then, we played (and had a snack) at the park near Hiawatha Community Center, which is one of Chicklet’s favorites.


By the time we caught the shuttle down to Alki, it was still early.

Shuttle back to the beach

Gorgeous but still a little chilly







Chillin at Alki

Good name













After plenty of good sand and water time–and after a quick stop at the cafe formerly known as Alki Bakery–we caught the 56 downtown.

And, they're spent!

Despite an extra-long wait at 3rd & Yesler (27 was 18 minutes late, and nothing else was coming), we made it home in time for Busling’s nap.

Perfect, perfect day.

2011: The bus year in review

The bus theme for 2011 was “adjustment.” It was a tough year on several fronts.

1) Busing with babies
I started the year grappling with the awkwardness of traveling with a toddler and a preschooler. The challenges increased as the year progressed (and baby #2 grew heavier, squirmier, and more opinionated). We still got around, of course, but I always felt like I had to choose something to sacrifice: convenience, physical comfort, carrying capacity, or sanity. Usually, it was two of the four.

I’ll admit that problem-solving isn’t my strong suit*, but I’m still convinced that most of the challenges I’m dealing with are inherent to our situation** and are just going to have to be endured. I’m hoping that by this time next year, things will have (mostly) worked themselves out.

2) Bus cuts
What’s a little kid-related bus inconvenience compared to no buses? Those of you who live in King County no doubt remember this summer’s terrifying, “we might have to cut 17% of your service” moment. The County Council passed the (temporary) congestion reduction charge, but the problem hasn’t gone away–for KC Metro, or for transit agencies across the state (CT and PT have already implemented drastic cuts) and the country. If the state doesn’t figure out a real solution to the transit revenue problem ASAP, those barely averted cuts will become a reality.

In the meantime, riders (including this one) are already feeling the pinch. Metro is closing stops, reducing hours, eliminating routes, and taking other steps to save money in anticipation of its bleak revenue future.

3) Bus access
2011 was the Bus Fam’s first full year in our new home, which, though only five blocks from our old (and beloved!) one, sometimes seems worlds away. We still ride all the same routes, but instead of being across the street from three major stops (two of them sheltered), we are blocks away from even the closest. Only one of the nearby stops has a shelter—if you can call it that. (No bench? No windows? No thanks!) Being off the busy thoroughfare has plenty of advantages, but I’m just now beginning to realize how spoiled we were, bus-wise, at the old place.

Further complicating my adjustment to our new bus reality is the fact that the stop where we used to catch the 4 and 48 was recently (and rather unceremoniously) closed by Metro. Now we walk close to half a mile to catch those routes–not so fun when traveling with two small people in the rain. Our bad for basing our home selection on the location of bus stops, I guess.

And speaking of…

Choosing a home based on access to particular routes is also probably not the best plan. Metro’s proposed service revisions include the elimination of the 4 and the drastic reduction/alteration of the 27.

Apparently, “transfer” will be my bus theme for 2012.

*I almost always prefer continuing to do what I’ve been doing to actually putting in time (and research!) to figure out a new way to approach a problem. By the time I figure out a good way to handle a situation, there’s a new problem to deal with.
**My situation:
– An almost two-year old who doesn’t do well in a carrier anymore but isn’t quite ready to consistently walk the kinds of distances we cover
– A reasonably mature four-year old with a tendency to dawdle without a firm hand grip + a mom who is way(!) too paranoid about cars to let said four-year old walk near busy streets without holding a hand
– A transit system with few low-floor buses, a difficult stroller policy, and mediocre stops
– Frequently crowded buses
– Frequently rainy weather

27 + 55 = Mom

Today would have been my mother‘s 66th birthday. Bus Nerd is out of town, but Chicklet, Busling, and I made the pilgrimage to the church where her ashes are buried. (This was the first year we brought home-grown flowers: some Cosmos something-or-others Chicklet and I planted in the spring.) We spent the better part of the day in the neighborhood–lunching with my brother, playing at a nearby park, and–mostly–thinking about how much we miss having her in our lives.

In honor of my amazing mama, I’m reposting my February, 2007, Real Change column:

On Jan. 3, after a four-and-a-half year battle with breast cancer, my mother, Caroline Dunne Saulter, died. She was 61 years old.

Caroline never approved of my choice to live without a car. She blamed herself, for allowing me to ride the bus at such an early age; my father, for showing me how; my husband, for providing my first example of car-freedom; and me, for being my stubborn, willful (and impractical) self. She wanted me to live a mainstream middle-class life, to stay indefinitely when I visited (instead of until the last bus left her neighborhood), to be protected from the elements, and to be inside (either a building or a vehicle) after dark. Despite my unwavering commitment to my choice, she hoped that one day I would grow up, get over it, and just buy a hybrid already.

The irony of this is that it was, in large part, my mother’s example that gave me the courage to step outside the mainstream and choose a life that reflected my values.

Caroline’s commitment to her own ideals began at an early age. Despite her head-turning beauty and easy popularity, she chose not to accept the bigoted views of her peers in the suburban Ohio town where she attended high school and almost always found herself on the “wrong” side of lunch-table arguments. When she was 16, she took a bus by herself from Cleveland to Washington, D.C., to participate in the March on Washington. She remembered the experience as one of the most moving of her life.

In 1966, she left college, joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), and moved to Oregon to help improve conditions for Russian and Mexican migrant workers. It was there that she met my father, a Seattle native and brilliant University of Oregon architecture student who also happened to be Black. They married — at a time when many states still had anti-miscegenation laws — and finished school together.

When Caroline was 28 and most of her girlfriends were shopping preschools, she and my father joined the Peace Corps and moved (along with my older sister, Carey, and me) to Morocco for two years. After we returned, she continued to give her time to the causes she cared about while raising her (eventually four) children.

When she was 57, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She battled the disease with grace and courage — continuing to participate in life to the extent she was able and, in the process, inspiring countless other cancer patients.

So it is not despite, but because of Caroline that I have chosen to live according to my beliefs. Though her life was cut short, she managed to leave the world in better shape than she found it. How could I, presented with her example, not attempt to do the same?