Tag Archives: 4

Westbound 4, 10:20 AM

A thirtysomething man finds a seat near the door, directly in front of an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

Woman: “Good morning. How are you?”

Man: “Somebody took my wallet.”

Woman: “At least you had one for somebody to take.”

Small moments

Last Thursday, I met with a woman named Rachel about a bus-themed event she is planning. Not surprisingly, Rachel and I bonded over our love for buses. We talked about the connections that happen on transit, how they influence us, instruct us, and ground us in our communities. Rachel called these interactions “small moments,” which — leaving aside the association with elementary school writing curriculum* — is exactly the right way to describe them.

Most of my meaningful bus encounters aren’t stories with a beginning, middle, and end. They don’t result in epiphanies or lasting friendships but instead in a slight opening of my heart, a brief glimpse into another life, a kindness shared or received, a small surprise.

There was the time last Friday, when the kids and I were waiting at the Madrona Park 2 stop while the bus was laying over, and the driver, who could surely have used a few moments to himself to eat, use the phone, or just be blessedly alone, opened the bus doors and invited us inside 10 minutes before he was scheduled to leave. Because it was cold.

There were the four teenagers in the back of a Friday evening 106, talking smack and cursing up a storm, then — remembering my kids —  turning to me and saying, “Oops! Excuse our language.”

There was the time in mid-November, at the height of my post-election rage and panic, when I spotted this graffiti message in front of my seat on the 3.

There were the Thanksgiving rides to and from my brother’s house (three buses each way), populated with passengers (including us) carrying dishes to share and foil-covered plates of leftovers.

There was the time Chicklet and I boarded the 48 on the way to church, and the driver announced to everyone within earshot, “Look — twins!”

There was woman next to me on the 27 having a desperate phone conversation with DSHS, trying to figure out who to talk to and how to get credit for the services she was receiving, so that she could be reunited with her children.

There was the time we played musical chairs on a crowded 4 — an elderly man getting up for a woman with a walker, and then another person offering a seat to that man, and so on, until six people had made room for someone who needed a seat more than they did.

There was the man at the 14 stop showing his birth certificate to random strangers to prove he was born in 98122 – a zip code where he can no longer afford to live.

There was the Saturday when Bus Nerd and I took Busling on separate 8 rides and later figured out we’d had the same driver, because we each returned with a snack bag of chips he’d given to Busling upon boarding.

There was the woman on the 120 who reminded me of a younger version of myself: brownish, with a bus bag, reading a big book. After I snuck a peek at the title, we spent the next few minutes bonding — over books in general and Zadie Smith in particular — until we reached her stop.

There was the time we took my three-year old nephew to the Children’s Museum, and Chicklet left one of her beloved Harry Potter books on the 8. Thanks (obviously) to wizard magic, we rode the same bus on the way home, and Chicklet found her book right where she’d left it.

There was the Link ride back in June, where I saw a woman in a hijab with a Pride t-shirt and a man with a sign that said “LGBTQ solidarity with Muslims.”

There was the time I waited at Mount Baker Transit Center with two senior adults and their 12 preschool-aged charges, who chattered cheerfully — wearing matching backpacks and grins — as they waited for the 8 in a perfectly straight line.

There was the time my kids successfully chased down a 50 for the second morning in a row, and the driver told them they would grow up to be track stars.

There are so many more, every day — every ride. Most are quickly forgotten. They are part of the background of my life, perhaps in the same way as a driver’s daily maneuvers. But unlike drivers, I am reminded every time I travel of the humanity that surrounds me.

And it is beautiful.

***

* Chicklet and Busling have both written their fair share of “small moments” stories in their school careers. So far, none have been about the bus. ; )

Eastbound 4, 12:30 PM

A sixtyish man is sitting in front of me, looking out the window as we creep up James. We pass a handful of people standing on the sidewalk near the jail. Among them is a black priest.

The man snorts in disbelief. “Why would a black person take a vow a poverty? We’re born poor!”

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.

Eastbound 4, 3:05 PM

A bus-wide discussion about how hot everyone is (par for the course on any [non-air-conditioned] Seattle bus on any day above 80 degrees) is in full swing before we even reach Harborview. Folks express all the usual (uninteresting) weather-related sentiments, until a middle-aged man sitting directly behind the driver adds his two cents.

“I’m about to go home and get naked. Yep, I’m going to get naked with a little, tiny fan.”

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

Did I mention that they closed my stop?

This will teach me to choose a home based on its proximity to bus stops.*

Stop closed!

Dear bus rider: You’re screwed.

I’m more than a little irritated that Metro posted this notice in August and then never even responded to the feedback they requested–mine or anyone else’s.

I get all the stuff about stop consolidation and blah, blah, blah, and I will even admit to being a bit of a NaMBS (as in, “Not at my bus stop!”) about this. But there are legitimate reasons (other than the fact that I really need it) that this stop–and the one across the street from it–shouldn’t be closed.** If Metro doesn’t consider the reasons legitimate, they should explain why.

 

 

***

*I should have gone with my instinct and moved near a Link station. Call me crazy, but I wanted to stay in my neighborhood.
**And hey, if they’re looking for stops to close, there are two stops less than a block apart slightly further north.