And when you ask her what kind of meeting the mommy pig is going to, she says, “A transit task force.”
Happy, happy, summer day!
P.S. – Busling had a good time, too.
On a Wednesday morning walk to Chicklet’s preschool, she requests to be carried. Per usual, I decline.
“You don’t need to be carried, you’re a…”
Chicklet, who has apparently changed her tune since our recent discussion of the topic, anticipates my response and cuts me off.
“I’m not a bus chick!” hollers my little Link-obsessed darling. “I’m a train chick.”
And for the record, I was going to say, “big girl.”
Over the long weekend, we bus types did the Zipcar thing and spent Saturday hiking on Mount Rainier. In the old days (back when it was just Bus Nerd and me), our Tahoma adventures included hard hikes (for which we were rewarded with breathtaking views) and overnight camping. These days, we stick to easy day hikes and settle for great views. I miss our grown-up trips, but I do enjoy bringing the little ones. Exposing Chicklet and Busling to the beauty of the natural world is good for them in all kinds of ways. I hope it will also help them understand why it is crucial that we (and by “we,” I mean humanity in general and Americans in particular) change the way we live and get around.
It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling a bit since I started busing with two babies. The problem isn’t the actual busing –I worked out those logistical kinks pretty quickly; it’s the timing. I feel like I’m constantly rushing or waiting, and doing either with two small children is a heck of a challenge. But folks, it only took a day of driving with two babies to remind me why I am so grateful for my life on the bus.
It wasn’t all bad. The trip to the mountain was fairly–actually, very–pleasant. We left when we were ready instead of scrambling to get everyone out the door by a specific time. The luxury of cargo space allowed us to be pretty indiscriminate about what we brought with us. (Extra books? Extra snacks? Extra clothes? Why not?) We didn’t even bother to organize most of it. Busling slept for the better part of the ride, and Chicklet entertained herself by requesting songs (as it happens, she’s also a Dwele fan) and playing with her dinosaur sticker book. Nerd and I had some rare time to chat. The whole family arrived at the mountain rested and ready for action.*
The ride back was pretty darn bad. Busling started screaming about 10 minutes in and, except for a few minutes of sleeping, didn’t let up until we arrived home and were finally(!) able to remove him from his car seat. Chicklet spent most of the ride trying to (and succeeding at) removing her arms from her car seat straps. We pulled over once to recombobulate her (while Busling was screaming his head off, mind), but it didn’t take long for her to start up again. If the straps were loose, she removed her arms because she could. If we tightened them, she struggled to get out because they were “too tight.” When she wasn’t endangering her life, she was whining, begging for snacks, and asking when it was going to be time to get out.
I couldn’t reach either child from my position strapped in the front, though twice I twisted myself onto my knees to re-strap Chicklet. I couldn’t even see Busling (he’s still too small to face forward), which is probably just as well, since I don’t enjoy watching him scream.
I never have those kinds of problems with my kids on the bus, mostly because they have my attention. I can hold them, entertain them, console them, and correct and redirect as needed. Yes, the timing can be a pain for me, and the waits** are sometimes tough for Chicklet, but the actual rides are almost always fun. In two and a half (plus) years, I’ve endured exactly one bus meltdown, and that only lasted for two minutes.
What’s a little rushing (or waiting) compared?
*Unfortunately, we had to delay our action for some time, since all of the parking near the trail head was taken. (That’s the thing about cars: You always have to find someplace to put them.) We drove around for a good while, then gave up and parked a decent walk away at the ranger station.
**Thanks to OneBusAway, a lot of the waiting (at stops, anyway) can be avoided. I don’t always take advantage, though, mostly because I’m too busy keeping up with children to look up the stop on my phone.
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!”
Earlier this month, I celebrated my car-free anniversary. As of March 5th (or was it the 6th?), I’m officially seven years in.
It’s been an eventful seven years. I bought a home, got married, lost my beloved mother to cancer, and had two children. Navigating so many major life events without a car in a city that all but requires one has certainly had its challenges, but it has also integrated the bus into all of my significant recent memories*–and made it impossible for me to imagine my life without Metro. As I wrote in my Real Change column back in 2006, buses have associations for me.
Riding the Water Taxi reminds me of the days I spent with my mother during her last months of life. The first time I rode it to my parents’ Seacrest Park condo the spring after she died, I cried. Sometimes I still do.
The 545 will forever feel romantic to me, since it’s the route Nerd and I rode together in the early days of our courtship. I don’t think I’ve ever looked more forward to a commute–or for that matter, to anything.
The 4 and 27 are my baby buses–the 4 because I rode it to all of my obstetrician appointments–and home from the hospital with Chicklet; the 27 because I rode it to the hospital to deliver Chicklet and home from the hospital with Busling.
And there are many more. The Ballard buses (17, 18) take me to my brother, Jeremy (and also remind me of my rather unfortunate adventure as a ball-gown model); the 55 takes me to my Joelie and the place I still consider home; the 14 is all about TAC meetings, Top Pot (Summit side), and writing group get-togethers at my friend Marchel’s house (Mount Baker side); the 194: Paris, Detroit, and airport goodbyes with Bus Nerd; the 8: Mom again.
And the 36, though it’s not one of my regular routes, reminds me of why I ride: to be a part of my community, and to share my travels with the people I share the world with.
Bring on the next seven.
I do my best to keep this blog positive, in part because there are enough people in the world complaining about PT (really, there are enough people in the world complaining, period), but mostly because I really do enjoy my life on the bus. There are certainly challenges, but every choice comes with challenges, and I’ll take mine over all of the drawbacks of driving. I digress.
Folks, in addition to keeping it positive, I like to keep it real, and I have to say, I’m feeling pretty challenged right now. The transition from bus parent of one to bus parent of two has been harder than any I have made so far, including the transition from car-owning bus enthusiast to car-free full-time rider–and even from happily childless bus chick to bus mom. Of course, not all of the pain I am feeling right now is about travel; adjusting to parenting two has been tough for me, even (perhaps especially) when we’re in the house all day. Still, I’d be lying if I said that the bus wasn’t contributing to my angst. Peep it:
The first time I rode the bus with both babies, it was for a family outing: Nerd, Chicklet, week-old Busling, and me. Our Goddaughter, Layla, was turning one, and (thanks to the enormous families of both of her parents), her party was held at a community center in the south end. The three-bus trip (48 + 7 + 39) was less than ideal but was doable with two adults, and, despite the fact that Chicklet was a bit antsy during transfers, we managed it pretty well.
The trip home was more of a challenge, since the 39 only runs once per hour on Sunday evenings. Saying our goodbyes and getting Chicklet appropriately bundled took longer than we expected, and we barely missed the bus we had planned to catch. Had we been traveling without children, this would have been a minor inconvenience, but since we were dealing with a toddler’s bedtime, a newborn’s feeding schedule, a post-partum mom’s fatigue, and a party that ended before the next bus was scheduled to arrive, it was a major inconvenience. We ended up taking a cab home, sans car seats. I worried for the entire (thankfully short) ride.
The second time I rode the bus with both babies, it was to meet my friend Kelley and her daughter at a park in Madrona. On that day, I was parenting solo, and, thanks to a morning errand in the neighborhood, arrived at the 48 stop mere seconds before the bus did. I quickly removed Chicklet from her stroller, but when I tried to fold it down, it wouldn’t budge; a stack of papers I had tossed into the storage basket earlier that morning was in the way.
While I squatted on the sidewalk, trying to un-jam the stroller–with one hand on the baby (to prevent him from tipping out of the sling-like carrier he’s riding in until he gets big enough for the real deal) and one hand on Chicklet (to prevent her from running into the busy street we were waiting near)–the bus pulled up, and folks started boarding. When they finished, I was still struggling.
The driver peered out the door and asked politely, “Are y’all coming?” but I was so embarrassed and discombobulated, I shook my head.
“I’ll just catch the next one,” I said, and then watched as he closed the doors and drove away.
The three of us did, in fact, wait the 15+ minutes for the next bus, and when it arrived, I was prepared: Busling strapped to my chest, bus chick bag on my left shoulder, Chicklet on my left hip, Orca card in my left hand (ready to swipe), stroller folded up and ready to be carried on board with my free right hand. I managed to get everyone–and everything–on and off without incident, but that ride only took us part of the way there. (We still had a short 2 ride, which I skipped in favor of a medium-distance walk, to go.) By the time we finally made it to the park, I was stressed and tired, and we were late to meet our friends.
Since that enjoyable trip, we’ve gone on several outings as a threesome, with (thankfully) much less drama. For one thing, I don’t always bring the stroller for Chicklet; she’s capable of walking several blocks on her own. Whether or not I bring it depends on how far we have to walk–and whether I’ll need to contain her–when we get where we’re going. For another, I usually don’t arrive at stops right when the bus does. When I get there a couple of minutes early, I don’t have to rush to get ready to board and am therefore better prepared to deal with any equipment malfunctions that may arise.
Of course, getting anywhere on time (let alone a couple of minutes early) with a newborn and a two-year old is a feat in itself. This is one of the many reasons I am grateful that I can walk to many of my regular destinations. When it’s not raining, we walk to church, to the library (it’s across the street!), to the park, to the doctor’s office, to restaurants and coffee shops, to grocery and drug stores, to community centers, and to friends’ houses. On occasion, we even walk downtown.
And so, here’s hoping I’ll get to reap at least one reward of the bus (or not) parenting lifestyle: A speedy return to my pre-Busling form.
At 2 AM Saturday morning, Chicklet woke up with a fever of over 104. After calling our insurance hotline and talking with an on-call nurse and doctor, we decided to take her to the emergency room. Even if the bus had been running at that hour, walking and waiting were out of the question (for me, anyway–Nerd was down), and there were no Zipcars available in our neighborhood. So, we settled for option three–a cab–and were sitting in the Swedish ER within 15 minutes of the call.*
Fortunately, Chicklet was not seriously ill. She had case of strep throat, from which she has recovered quite quickly. And have I mentioned how grateful I am to have insurance and access to quality medical care? I digress.
The prospect of emergency-illness situations like this was one of the few issues that gave me pause when planning for car-free parenthood. Nerd and I both knew that we’d remain car-free when we had kids and that we’d do whatever was necessary to make it work,** but from the beginning, I’ve felt anxiety about how we would handle the inevitable medical emergencies that seem to arise with small children.
I realize that this is an irrational fear. After all, we’ve chosen to live in a dense(ish), urban neighborhood that gives us easy access to both regular and emergency care. Our home is a block from Chicklet’s pediatrician and within a couple of miles of four hospitals. We also have multiple travel options (Zipcars, cabs, or ambulances, depending on the circumstances) for situations when her pediatrician’s office is closed and a bus is not available or practical. Still, there’s something about not feeling in control and about having to figure out how to get somewhere in a moment of crisis, that doesn’t–or, at least, didn’t–sit well with me.
Now that we have a few Chicklet ER trips under our belt (one by bus, one by Zipcar, and this latest, by cab), I feel more at ease. In every case, we were sitting in the waiting room within 30 minutes of our decision to go, which is faster than most car-owning suburban parents–many of whom live long drives from hospitals–can make it. In fact, if all else failed, we could probably walk to a hospital faster than a large percentage of Americans could drive to one. Shoot, if my parent-protective-fear-adrenaline instinct was activated, I’d run.
*It was actually a good trial run for labor (assuming that ever happens), which will also probably involve a cab ride.
**So far, we haven’t changed much–in terms of our transportation and living situation, at least. We still live in the same–though much more crowded–home, still rent Zipcars about as frequently, and still ride the same routes. About the only thing that’s changed is that we walk in our neighborhood (mostly headed to parks) even more than we did before.
Still no swine flu shot for Chicklet. [Sigh.]
Pharmacy: 700 doses
Line outside pharmacy: 1,000+ people (probably closer to 2,000)
I’ve never seen a line so long–not even the time I waited for half a day to score New Year’s Eve Prince tickets. It was up to four blocks before the walk-in clinic even opened.
There’s supposedly another walk-in clinic tomorrow. It starts at 9:00. 5:48 (AM!!!) 75: Here we come!