Tag Archives: Real Change

More carrots and sticks

This time, I’ll start with the stick:

Jeremy and Joel
The victim and the vigilante

In the middle of the night on Thursday/Friday, one of my younger brothers happened to look out his kitchen window in time to catch two people breaking into the car of my other younger brother (they’re roommates). He (the first little brother) ran them off and then stayed up for hours to wait for the police and fill out the report. This is fourth car break-in/theft they’ve had to deal with in three years. And no, their cars aren’t that nice.

Now, the carrot (and you thought it was that picture of my adorable little brothers):

Funky buses and early party exits aside, I will always prefer buses to cars because of the sense of community I feel when I ride. My June 28th Real Change column, also known as a day in the life of a bus chick:

A Shared Ride


Saturday, 1:25 p.m., southbound #36.

The bus is crowded already, only halfway down Third. I am lucky to find a seat facing forward–one of the last. The shy six-year old riding with her grandfather and three younger siblings is not so lucky. She stands, holding the pole nearest the front, while the rest sit in the sideways seats, speaking a language I guess to be Vietnamese. The little girl clutches the pole tighter when the bus lurches. This happens frequently, sometimes several times per block. (The driver, you see, is still working out his relationship to the trolley brakes.) I consider offering my seat, but I am far away, and they are sticking together.

A tall, thin man wearing a denim shirt and a Mariners cap gets on a few blocks after me. His body is erect and strong, but the steel gray hair and weathered skin betray his advanced age. He stands across the aisle from the little girl, holding on to the opposite pole, until two teenage boys offer their seats. Both the girl and the old man look suspicious, the old man no doubt weighing his pride against his desire to rest, the little girl perhaps remembering her lessons about strangers. After a bit of coaxing, the old man smiles and takes the seat. The little girl continues to cling to the pole.

In the seats closest to the driver (who is still struggling with the brakes) are two women — one in short shorts that (perhaps for the first time this year) expose her ghost-white legs, the other covered from head (a big, floppy, canvas hat) to toe (socks and laced shoes) despite the 80-degree heat.

At Yesler, a preteen boy followed by an entourage of adults carrying Gap shopping bags races down the aisle on his roller tennis shoes. He barely misses a barrel-chested man clutching two hot-pink, two-pound hand weights, which he has been curling periodically since I got on. In the International District, a withered old woman manages to climb aboard without the aid of the lift, despite the broomstick — weighted on either end with a garbage bag stuffed with empty aluminum cans — that rests on her frail shoulders.

And the shopping bags, hand weights, and aluminum cans are just the beginning. My fellow riders, who fill every seat and then some, carry languages, memories, hometowns. Loved ones. Losses. Anger. Aches, pains, and diseases. New shoes, romance novels, Bibles, gossip magazines. Prescriptions. Spare change. Telephones. Bedrolls. Clean underwear.

And many, many stories. Stories that are now connected as a result of a single, shared ride.

Another “ism” that plagues our society

This week’s Real Change column is about “carism,” the ways in which the infrastructure and attitudes prevalent in American cities (ours included) force the use of cars as the primary mode of transportation. (A more accurate term would probably be something like “transportation mode-ism,” but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and I think mine’s more fun.)

Some examples of carism I mention in my column:
• The lack of sidewalks and bike paths
• The amount of our city’s land that could be used for residences, services, businesses, or even open space that is instead used for parking lots and garages

Do you think that Seattle is “carist”? If so, how does the carism affect you? If not, tell us why not.

Still more on mommies

This time, mine.

In honor of Mother’s Day, my March 29th Real Change column:

Back on the 8

Every time I hear Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” I am transported to the house where I grew up and to the joy of dancing in the living room with my father on a Saturday afternoon. “The Men All Pause” by Klymaxx reminds me of my older sister, Carey, gorgeous and powerful and singing along with the record player in our childhood bedroom. Anything by Black Sheep takes me back to my college days, when my girlfriend, Monique, and I would beg our dorm-mates for a ride to the current “it” club and dance ourselves dizzy to “This or That.”

Buses, too, have associations for me. The 2 was the route I took to my elementary school. On one ride, a schoolmate got “beat up” (read: slapped and pushed a few times until the bus driver intervened) by some older girls. To this day, I cannot ride a 2 without remembering that incident. I was on the 545 the first time I saw my fiancé, and I will always associate it with the thrill of our first few months together, when the endless, inch-by-inch crawl across the lake seemed far too short. The 194, the “airport bus,” reminds me of all of my best adventures, including (and especially) my trip to Paris last May.

Then there’s the 8, which takes me from my house in the Central District to 15th Ave. on Capitol Hill. I love 15th — August Wilson vibes at Victrola, Frida Kahlo coasters at Casita, scrambles and coffee cake at Coastal Kitchen — and have long associated the 8 with this marvelous street.

In January of 2004, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in as many years, and my reasons for traveling to 15th Ave. changed. I rode the 8 to Group Health for surgeries, chemo appointments, CT scans, and emergency-room visits. My once-favored route came to symbolize sickness, sadness, and fear. After the cancer went into remission last October, I avoided that bus, along with everything else that reminded me of my mother’s illness.

Last week, I received devastating news: my mother’s cancer has returned. This time, it is not curable. Friday morning, I rode the 8 to meet her for the first of what will undoubtedly be many terrifying and unpleasant hospital visits. But the memories that came to me during that ride were not of toxic drugs, or blood clots, or chances of survival. They were of the Vogue magazines and heated blankets in the infusion center, the chalky “banana” barium shakes in radiology, and the beautiful view from the fifth floor of the main building. They were of endless waits in urgent care — one of which was rewarded by a visit from the cutest emergency-room doctor ever to walk the halls of a hospital — and of diva outfits temporarily replaced by hospital gowns.

The 8 reminds me of laughter. It reminds me of my mother.

Today we took the Water Taxi over to my parents’ side of Elliott Bay, and the whole darn family (me, Adam, both brothers, one brother’s girlfriend, Mom, and Dad)–minus my sister, who lives in California–had brunch at Salty’s.

It’s been a weekend of boats, mothers, and celebrations.

The Fam, minus Carey, plus Adam and LaurenBus Chick on the Water Taxi

Bus fouls

Last week’s Real Change column was all about bus fouls. (What can I say? It’s playoff season, and I’ve got basketball on the brain. Go Pistons!) In case you forgot to buy a Real Change last week, here’s the entry:

In the NBA, a player who commits six personal fouls is ejected from the game. A player who accumulates16 technical fouls in a season is suspended (without pay) for a game and then suspended for every other technical foul he commits (the 18th, the 20th, and so on) thereafter. If only Metro would institute similar rules for those who consistently commit bus fouls!

For those who don’t know, a bus foul is an action or behavior that negatively impacts other riders. Think of it as the bus equivalent of a party foul.

Here are some examples:

• Not having your fare ready when you get on or off. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t wait until you get to the fare box to dig through your pockets for your transfer or ask your fellow passengers for change. Get yourself together before it’s time to pay.

• Asking the bus driver for a free ride while carrying any of the following items: a four-dollar Starbucks extravaganza, an iPod, or a handbag that comes with its own registration form. It takes money to buy gas and pay drivers. If you have some, give it up.

• Getting personal with your SO. Let’s keep this simple: Hands to yourself.

• Performing beauty rituals. OK, so using a compact to touch up your lipstick ain’t exactly a crime against humanity, but since when did it become acceptable to get ready for work on the bus? If you regularly ride with a head full of hot rollers and a carry-on-sized make-up bag, you need to start getting up earlier.

• Holding personal conversations. For those of you who seem not to mind sharing your personal business with 30 strangers, please trust me on this: The rest of us would prefer not to know about the three women you got pregnant last year or the amount of money you need to borrow from your mother.

• Turning up your music loud enough to turn your headphones into speakers. Ever think you might be the only one on the bus who’s “into” Yanni? Please start.

• Opening windows without asking the permission of your fellow riders. Those of us not raised in Siberia would prefer that the bus remain at a comfortable temperature.

• Stopping the bus at a green light to interrogate the driver. Please note: The bus driver has probably not memorized the schedule of every route operated by Metro. He or she might know which bus you take to get to Federal Way, but that’s what maps, bus schedules, Web sites (transit.metrokc.gov), and rider information lines (206.553.3000) are for. Don’t have access to a computer or a cell phone? Ask someone else who’s waiting at your stop.

Too many of my fellow riders are committing bus fouls — sometimes multiple offenses in a single ride. If conditions don’t improve soon, I’ll be forced to start riding with a striped shirt and a whistle.

I was expecting to get tons of e-mail from Real Change readers about the fouls I neglected to mention, but I haven’t received even one. Luckily, I have this blog, which is all about conversation. So, all you bus-riding PI readers, I’m counting on you. Tell me about all the bus fouls I forgot. If I get enough good ones, I’ll write “Bus Fouls, Part II.”

Caffeine is a kind of fuel

I caught the 14 outside of a Starbucks yesterday. The guy who got on behind me asked the bus driver to give him a free ride downtown, and she obliged. This would not have been especially unusual, except that he spent the entire ride in the very front of the bus (within sight of the driver) slurping loudly from the triple-deluxe-super-macked-out-chocolatey-explosion he had purchased while waiting for said free ride.

I understand that there are circumstances when people are not able to pay the bus fare. (Shoot, even bus chicks find themselves in a pinch from time to time.) But come on, man. Next time, save your game for the barista, so you can waste Howard Schultz’s money instead of mine.