Tag Archives: bus books

Bus chick preparedness, part III (or, Anatomy of a bus bag)

As I’ve mentioned before, bags are important to bus types. After footwear, a bus rider’s bag is probably the single most important accessory (equipment?) she owns. And yet, it’s been years since I’ve had one that worked well for me. Since Chicklet was born, I’ve been looking (not actively, but still) for a bag with the following attributes:

• Ability to carry baby/kid stuff and adult stuff
• Simple, but with enough compartments to make frequently used items easy to access
• Professional in appearance (for those times I’m traveling without children)
• Comfortable to wear with a baby in a pack

I finally bought a new bag in December. I let go of the last requirement, since I won’t be wearing Busling much longer (more on that very soon), and since all the bags-for-baby-wearing options I found seemed impractical for other purposes, not especially easy to use, and, um, ugly. The new bag has adjustable straps, which are useful but not as sturdy as they could be. (The adjustable strap was actually the source of my beloved pre-baby bus bag’s demise.) And, though it’s professional and reasonably attractive, it’s definitely not my style. All that said, so far, I’m mostly satisfied.

For those who’d like to know, here’s what I keep in it.

At least one compact, age-appropriate book for each child. Since books are our most-common form of ride entertainment, I tend to rotate them frequently. (Thanks, SPL!) I don’t usually bring toys because they take up space, are easily dropped (try picking up a block from the bus floor with a baby and a bag on your lap), and don’t really entertain an antsy child anyway. Instead of worrying about bringing a lot of distractions, I take advantage of the built-in distractions of the bus, scenery, and fellow riders. It does require some effort (more on this later as well) but has so far worked for me.
A small pad of paper and a box of erasable colored pencils for Chicklet. She uses them only occasionally when we’re out, but since they take up very little space and come in handy if I need to jot something down and my phone is not cooperating (see below), they’re worth including.
Bubbles! These are great for passing the time waiting outside and (again) compact and portable. Just be sure not to mix them with the main contents of your bag.
Non-perishable snacks. Busling is, for some reason, obsessed with raisins. Since they’re very portable and healthy (and also a favorite of Chicklet’s), they always go in the bag. I also usually bring some kind of granola/energy bars for Chicklet. These I save for times when she’s walked an especially long distance or we’ve stayed out longer than expected. She thinks of them as dessert, so they work well as bribes—I mean, good behavior encouragement. Oh, and sometimes I bring animal-shaped mini crackers. And teething biscuits.
Diapers and associated paraphernalia (folding changing pad, wipes, lined “wet bag”)
Minimal extra clothing. I bring pants and underwear for Chicklet—just in case a restroom emergency strikes when we’re not near a restroom—and an undershirt and one-piece outfit for Busling. (Chicklet now has her own bus bag and could theoretically carry her own extra clothes, but since we don’t always bring her bag, it works best for me to keep them in mine.) I’ve never actually had to use the extra garments, but I’m sure I’d have a need if I ever traveled without them.
Umbrella. Yes, real Seattleites do carry them. Mine’s compact and has a cover (so I can avoid loss/wet-umbrella on the seat bus foul) and return it to my bag when wet. The good news is, my new bag has two waterproof, insulated hidden side pockets, so it’s OK if I lose the cover.
Smart(ish) phone. My phone isn’t fancy (and honestly doesn’t work very well), but I mostly only use to tell time and find out when the next bus is coming. And, of course, for the occasional call.
Wallet. It’s got the usual stuff: money, ID, library card, Orca card, and et cetera. I keep it in a very snug front pocket (tough for a thief to slip out) but perfect for effortless hip-taps on the Orca card reader.
Antibacterial gel. Ahem.
Hand lotion
Mini package of tissues
Gum. Hey, fellow passengers appreciate attention to these matters.
Rain bonnet–just in case I put some effort into my hair
Digital camera. You never know when you’ll pass a guy with a snowboard checking a schedule.

I keep this stuff in my bag at all times (restocking when necessary) and add only milk (which I keep in the other insulated side pocket) and a thermos of water at the last minute. This makes the ordeal of getting out of the house with two kids as simple as it can be.

All of this fits well and is easy to access, and the bag is not at all heavy. If I’m going out alone (to a meeting or some other business-related event), I can easily add my laptop without reconfiguring.

Your turn. What’s in your bus bag?

Miss(es) Manners for transit types

The SF Muni ladies, who’ve been doing their part to reduce bus fouls in the Bay since ’08, have compiled some of their most popular (or perhaps I should say, most necessary) bus and train behavior recommendations into a book: Muni Manners: An Etiquette Guide for the Mass Transit Savvy. The blurb:

Picking up where Miss Manners leaves off, Muni Manners brings a modern spin to transit etiquette and covers a range of infractions affecting riders – everything from personal space to personal hygiene.

Talk about a required ride read!

The Muni Manners book is self-published and not available at the library (they really should stock some at those cool library vending machine thingies at the BART stations in Contra Costa County), but it might be worth the investment to purchase a few copies. You can keep one for your personal transit geek reference library and carry the others in your bus chick bag–to hand out to the frequent foulers you encounter on your rides.

Walk like a woman

My current* bus read is Helena Andrews’ new memoir, Bitch is the New Black. While the book isn’t exactly my flavor (no disrespect), there’s no doubt about Ms. Andrews’ talent; the woman is hilarious. She’s also a total bus chick–well, minus the buses, anyway. Peep it.

From chapter 10, “Walk Like a Woman”

In the face of my driver’s license deficiency and an abhorrence for the close body contact [ahem] prevalent on most Metro systems, I’ve learned through pluck and circumstance to use the legs God gave me. People, I’ve walked across state lines–multiple times–without getting winded or wreathed. Never thinking twice about the damage being caused by the thinning skin above my smallest three toes until it was too late. I average five, maybe six miles a day without even trying. Pedometers are for [censored].

Except for the lack of driver’s license (I do, in fact, have one) and the distaste for transit (um, hello!), this could totally be me. I am an absolute walking fool. Once, when I was pregnant with Chicklet, I talked Bus Nerd into walking from our home in the Central District to Pier 55 to catch the Water Taxi. After the ride, we walked from Seacrest Park all the way to Pepperdocks on Alki and, after a quick lunch with my brother, Joel, and some friends, all the way back. Did I mention that it was August? Nerd (a man who’d rather get there already than “enjoy the journey”) still hasn’t forgiven me.

Chicklet, it seems, is embracing her inheritance. Last week, when I declined to pick her up during our morning stroll to her preschool, my little chip off the big chick didn’t even protest. Instead she puffed out her chest, two-year old style, and announced, “Bus Chicks know how to walk!”

A bus chick and her chicklet walking in the city (Photo credit: leedsinitiative.org)



Bus reading, part–OK, I’ve lost count

For some unknown reason, I regularly receive a monthly e-mail newsletter from King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson. (This is only unusual because I don’t live in his district and don’t remember signing up for it. Call me a civics nerd, but I do actually enjoy reading it.)

Councilmember Ferguson is a proud bus rider and regularly mentions Metro in his communiqués. His latest bus-related broadcast: The inaugural entry of Bob’s Bus Books.

This month, I am starting a new section in my eNews to share what I have been reading on my bus commutes. A few of the books I have enjoyed in the past few months are:

• The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig – Doig is a Shoreline resident and was nominated for the National Book Award for This House of Sky.
• The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – I stole this one from my wife’s reading stack.
Winter Wheat* and The Curlew’s Cry by Mildred Walker – Walker’s works focus on Western themes. These two novels take place in Montana and were no doubt inspired by her time there.

I am currently reading Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, which many consider to be the best novel set in Oregon.

Looks like Mr. Ferguson is partial to novels written by and about the West. Not that I can talk; I just finished reading (in honor of the anniversary of the boycott, and all) three Rosa Parks-related books–two by her, one about her–in a row. And since we’re on the subject…

My current bus read is Green Metropolis, by David Owen. I would have gotten to it sooner (it came out in September), but the library’s waiting list was about 50 deep. I dutifully waited my turn, and then, just days after my name finally came up, my sweet baby brother, Joel, bought me a copy for Christmas. Lucky for the next person in line.

I digress.

Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s blurb about the book:

Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan — the most densely populated place in North America — rank first in public-transit use and last in per capita greenhouse-gas production… They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation.

I’m only on chapter one, but I already love it, and not just because it completely validates my world view–and hates on Portland**, just a little bit. (OK, mostly because of those reasons.) I’m actually learning something about individual energy consumption in the US, and since Owen is a strong writer, his nonfiction goes down nice and easy. (That means that this novel-preferring bus chick won’t take three months to get through it.) Get thee to a library and check out Green Metropolis (or, at least, get on SPL’s website and add yourself to the wait list) immediately.

Next up for me, another Christmas gift: Barbara Kingsolver’s latest, The Lacuna.

And you? What’s on your bus reading list for 2010?

* I’ve actually read Winter Wheat (my mom lent it to me over a decade ago), but I don’t remember much about it except that I enjoyed it.
**Folks, I have nothing but love for our Northwest neighbors to the south, but I do admit to being a wee bit jealous of all the love Portland gets from the rest of the planet. Sue me.

The ultimate ride read

After five long years, Ms. Chloe Anthony Wofford (aka Toni Morrison), the writer for whom I gladly miss stops, whose books I actually buy (to avoid the library waiting list and because I want to keep them) and occasionally even sleep with, has released a new novel. The reviews are glowing, but I don’t need reviews to know I’ll love it. Bring on the drawbridges, long lights, multiple bikes and lift passengers (no disrespect), slow payers, and ride-delaying bus foulers! I need some time with A Mercy.

More bus reading

Back in August of ’07, I posted a random list of books I’d seen people reading on buses. These days, the librarians are keeping track (thanks for the link, Laurie and David). Here’s a taste of what they spotted:

Chocolate Flava: The Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Zane (Route 15 on 4/28)
The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (Route 77 on 4/29)
Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox (Route 77 on 4/29)
Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge (Route 7 on 4/29)
Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (Route 28 on 4/29)
Museums and Galleries of Paris / Insight Guides (Route 28 on 4/29)
The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre (Route 28 on 4/29)
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris (Route 66 on 4/29)

Check the post on Shelftalk to see the entire list.

And speaking of…

Today, on my way to West Seattle, I started Black Genius, a collection of essays that I bought for Bus Nerd a few years back.

And you?

Bus reading

Some of the many books I’ve seen folks reading on buses (and at stops) of late:

10,000 Splendid Suns

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

Clan of the Cave Bear (I’m ashamed to admit I read this when I was 12.)

The Color of Magic

Diatoms to Dinosaurs: The Size and Scale of Living Things

The Dispossessed (It’s been a minute since I’ve read Le Guin.)


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (times a bazillion)

Hackers and Painters

The Namesake

The Sun Also Rises

Witch Gate

I’m busy reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by the late Jane Jacobs. I just finished Mountains Beyond Mountains, an inspiring book (loaned to me, once again, by my friend Donna) that made me look forward to my bus rides–more than usual, that is–so I could get back to it already. It’s about Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, and one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever had the privilege to learn about. My next bus book will almost certainly be a novel. (I’ve earned it after three straight nonfiction selections.)

What’s your current bus read?

May Golden Transfer

Golden Transfer This month’s Golden Transfer goes to Howard Zinn–yes that Howard Zinn. I have no idea if the man rides public transportation (though he certainly strikes me as a bus nerd), but he sure knows how to write a comprehensive history. On this morning’s 48 ride, I was reading the most famous of his 20 books, A People’s History of the United States (Yes, I know I started it back in November, but life events required me to take a break, OK?) and was so completely engrossed by the chapter on the labor movements of the late 19th century that I darn near missed my stop. (I jumped up just as the driver was starting to close the doors.)

PictureThis in itself isn’t especially remarkable, except that I have an amazingly sensitive stop sense (I always know when my stop is coming, even if I’m not looking out the window–even if I’m sleeping), and I’m supremely anal about packing my things several blocks before it’s time for me to get off. In addition, I tend not to find nonfiction to be particularly engrossing. I think of it like vegetables–good for me, but not nearly as pleasurable as the dessert of my favorite fiction writers. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed my stop since childhood, and all of those incidents involved a novel. The fact that a history book had me in a the kind of trance usually reserved for Toni Morrison is worth noting–and rewarding.

So thank you, Dr. Zinn, for doing your part to keep bus chicks everywhere entertained–and educated–on their rides.

If it wasn’t for Octavia Butler…

If it wasn’t for Octavia Butler, I would not know my friend Coby, a deep thinker, a gifted artist, and a good soul. We met on the 545 over a year ago. I noticed him because he was a fellow brown person (not especially common on that route) and because he was reading an Octavia Butler novel a mere two weeks after I had finished Parable of the Sower, my first exposure to Butler. I struck up a conversation with Coby and discovered that he was an MFA-student-turned-video-game-script-writer who had also chosen to live a car-free life. We have had a bus friendship ever since.

Coby and I don’t ride the same bus to work anymore, but we have done a reasonable job of staying in touch. Almost every time we get together, the subject turns to Ms. Butler and our mutual admiration of her work. Last Monday morning, when I heard that she died, he was one of the first people I thought of. Sure enough, before the end of the day, he sent me an e-mail, expressing his surprise and grief. I am sorry for both of us that there won’t be any new work to discuss.

If it wasn’t for Octavia Butler, I would not have expanded my narrow (somewhat snobbish) view of science fiction. For most of my life, I thought of science fiction as cheesy, formula pseudo-literature, filled with spaceships and aliens and written for 13-year old boys. But Butler’s work, some of the most thought-provoking social commentary I have ever read, shows the instructive value of writing stories that are not constrained by reality.

If it wasn’t for Octavia Butler, lucky bus riders in our fair city would not have had the chance to talk to a real, live MacArthur fellow. Her P.I. memorial says that she “was a confirmed non-driver who would chat with other bus passengers.”

If it’s good enough for Octavia Butler, ladies and gentlemen…