I ride the bus to work today.
It’s nothing new and hardly exceptional, for the town or myself. I always wanted to live in the big city, and part of that is not being stuck in a car, far from everything. The bus isn’t a limo but it gets you where you need to go.
Seattle is a bus town, having given in to a parochial lack of foresight thirty-some years ago and ignoring an early chance at a subway. It has become a local habit to grouse and complain about the bus while becoming more adept at riding or not-riding it, as the case may be, and bemoan the American anathema of The Wasted Tax Dollar. Having grown up marooned in Texas suburbs, the bus works pretty well to me. At least there is one, and it comes more than once a day.
In 1997, my first real job was downtown. When the job ended on October 13, 1999, I had driven to work maybe three times. I think the pass cost me $33. At least Seattle is the sort of town where nobody looked at me quizzically when I said I bought my own pass while they paid who knows how much for gas and parking. In Seattle you rationalize how the bus just doesn’t work for you while respecting the other person’s sacrifice.
I like the bus. What’s not to like? You get to sit down. You can read or nap or watch the world go by. It is easy to see the leaves changing, geese leaving or arriving, the sun on the water in puddles when you don’t have to take care of a machine.
Microsoft’s free bus pass has been burning a hole in my pocket for the past few months. I used it the first day back in September, where I was reminded why suburbanites don’t ride the bus: an hour to go ten miles, and that with Microsoft paying the county to keep the route alive. I wanted to make it work and not fork out gas money, and now it does. The car is wedged in the garage and there’s no need for it to leave.
There is something earnest and joining about riding the bus, something out of the time of the train station and the status of owning a watch. Riding the bus says yes, we can share a space and the unconscious goal of needing to build something, even something very simple, together. It is part of the fabric, like turning on a light. Like light, we don’t notice it just as much as we depend on it, and we don’t pay what it really costs.
Honda’s Civic means to imply this practical, considerate belongingness. I own one, but it is still better to ride the bus.