Back in May, Bus Nerd’s mama (aka my Gail) gave him a subscription to a Detroit city magazine for his birthday. (As you might already know, the man is rather partial to his hometown.) In last month’s issue, there was a profile of an artist who makes replicas of old-school Detroit bus scrolls.
On the old busses and streetcars passengers learned of the various stops by way of signs on destination boxes [which] contained a continuous, two-sided canvas scroll with an alphabetized list of street names. The destination boxes were manually operated by the drivers and operators, using a hand crank.
I sort of hate to admit it, since this will no doubt brand me a “pseudo,”* but we ordered one. (How could we not? Buses + the D + history = goodness x 3.) We chose one that included the name of one of the streets Nerd lived near when he was growing up, so now he has a reminder of home (other than the Vernor’s ginger ale that occupies a full shelf in our refrigerator, that is) out here in the 206. But back to the scroll. Fellow bus chicks, behold:
Of course, being both a transit geek and a history lover, I was immediately compelled to research the specifics of how the scrolls worked. I didn’t learn much about that (MEHVA types: a little help, please?). What I did learn is that having a bus scroll (or, at least, a bus-scroll-like poster) in one’s home is apparently a “thing.” They’re everywhere on the internets—in Etsy shops and on dedicated sites galore. One of these sites encourages visitors to “design your own scroll for that special someone.”
If your special someone is a bus chick, you probably should.
* This is not a term for the bus glossary, since it’s not transit related (or transit inspired). It is, instead, a Saulty special. “Pseudo,” used as a noun in this case, essentially means a pretentious person. (My brother would provide a more colorful description, but I’m hoping you get the point.)
Back when I was a young BCiT, I made my grandma mad by (unintentionally) announcing her age to a full 55. At six, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want people to know how old she was. Even now, I find all the shame and secrecy surrounding the number of years a person has been on the planet to be somewhat difficult to understand.
Folks, I’m no spring chicken. Unlike my father, I can’t claim to predate I-5*, but I am old enough to have a (somewhat fuzzy) memory of the Sonics only national championship. (Sorry, didn’t mean to start down that path again.) I’ve tended to view my advancing age as a good thing, since—for one thing—it’s advancing. (I’ll take being alive plus one over the alternative any day.) It also means I’ve lived enough years to have learned a thing or two—and that I’m inching ever closer to that Metro senior discount. I digress.
Last Friday, on an afternoon 3 ride home from visiting some friends on Queen Anne, little Chicklet passed the time (and entertained her neighbors) by making up a song about us.
The lyrics went something like this: “Mommy’s 38, 38, 38; Mommy’s 38—and Rosa’s 3!”
*I do, however, hope to outlive it.
For Jerome–born May 15, 1939
I was just one of your children. I wasn’t the oldest and I wasn’t a son. Wasn’t good at sports or confident enough to impress you. I was just one of your children, but you were my hero. The man to whom all others have been compared–none ever as brave, as smart, as strong.
How many days did I watch you bolt your soggy cereal and grab your briefcase, sprinting up the alley to a world I wished I knew? That world symbolized courage and independence, and everything I wanted to be. To be included in it was an honor beyond measure.
On the days we rode together–you carrying my heavy backpack along with your briefcase as we hurried to make up for your lateness–I had you all to myself. We discussed the stories you read in the newspaper, what I was learning in school. When I talked, you would cock your head to one side and look right at me, nodding seriously as if my opinions mattered, as if you had never before heard such profound ideas.
On the days I rode alone, I did my best to show I was worthy of the honor. Bus tickets in the pocket of my red cardigan sweater, I watched carefully out the window for my stop, remembering to ring the bell to let the driver know I wanted off. Two blocks to 3rd and Pine, to the number 2. Hold on to the transfer–pay as you leave. Then off at the school, hoping the other children would see me–infinitely more worldly and sophisticated, able to get where I was going without the assistance of an adult.
Twenty-seven years later, I still feel worldly and sophisticated when I climb the steps of a city bus. Twenty-seven years later, I still think of you every time I do.
To get to my office from the bus stop (or to the bus stop from my office), I have to walk a decent distance. By the correct path (which involves using the actual sidewalks the city of Redmond provides for pedestrians), it’s probably close to three quarters of a mile. But I don’t take the correct path. Like all the other 545 riders who work in my building, I take a shortcut through an empty lot that is partially paved–and partially not. This works great–except in winter, when it gets dark at 4:30, and the street-lightless evening walk requires the same headlamp I bring on my annual camping excursion to Tahoma. And except when it’s been raining a lot, and the “partially not” part turns to a sea of mud intent upon destroying the carefully maintained (and oft-repaired) shoes of any bus chick with the temerity to enter. Still, I carry the flashlights and endure the ruined shoes and stained pantlegs, all in the name of saving those few minutes that the shortcut provides.
Or at least I did.
Today, I headed home from work earlier than usual (to get back to the West Side in time for Rebecca Walker’s talk) and found myself dodging the mud puddles in the empty lot at an unfamiliar time. A time, apparently, when the actual inhabitants of the lot–geese!–enjoy their evening constitutional.
I might have mentioned my general, rather minor fear of birds. I probably haven’t mentioned a very specific terror of geese. This fear began in early childhood, when the geese at my grandpa’s farm chased and bit me any time I dared to walk past the pond. The fear is greater now than it was then. Perhaps it’s because my imagination has distorted the memory. I’m guessing it’s because a fellow bus rider recently told me that he was knocked off his feet by an angry, dive-bombing goose during a morning crossing of the shortcut lot in question.
Tomorrow, I’ll be taking the long way.
A baby bus chick with her beloved grandpa, a proud keeper of geese
A couple of months ago (yes, I have a serious backblog), a reader e-mailed to point out the irony of my first name (which, for those who don’t know, is Carla). As surprising as it might sound, I haven’t thought about my name’s association with automobiles since elementary school. Back then, the class clown (incidentally, the only other kid in my grade who rode the 2 to school) got a kick out of making fun of it. “Truckla! Trainla!” he’d tease on our morning ride. Later, on the way home, he’d pick up where he left off: “Boatla! Planela!” And so on, ad nauseam, until we parted ways downtown.
Not surprisingly, Busla (not to be confused with bus luh) was the name that stuck. It was also the name he was screaming at the top of his lungs when he “accidentally” (on purpose) threw my backpack (an early form of the bus chick bag) into the pond at the Denny-Blaine stop. But that’s a story for another post.
“Busla” back in the day. That’s me in the back on the left–yes, the one with the oh-so-fresh shag–or, as my brother Jeremy (front right) calls it, the “whip cut.”