Friday, December 12, 2008

Riding the bus

The Wenches have been without wheels for about 5 weeks now. Wing Nut says it's only 5, but I think it's more like 8--feels that long anyway. Our 12 year old Saturn, Melissa, was totaled in a car accident. Nobody was injured, and for this we are most thankful. Melissa saw our family through some major life changes. She had 130,000 miles on her and she was leaking oil badly. She was definitely not long for this world. But, we still had hopes that she'd hang on for a little longer. Things are mighty tight financially for us right now.  Neither one of us knows if we'll have a job come next month. A new car is definitely not in any crystal ball we've gazed into. And finding a used car that meets our demanding criteria is proving to be quite a challenge.

Being without wheels has caused much stress, tension, unhappiness and frustration in our house. There has even been quite a bit of snarling, hissing and growling--and it hasn't been coming from the tortie! Not having wheels means a lot more walking and way more riding the bus. It's an inconvenience, a major pain in the patootie, and it really, really sucks!!!

You might think that it's the curmudgeon who has been doing the complaining. But in this case you would be mistaken. I'm legally blind so no driving for me. No, the wench doing the complaining in this case is Wing Nut. In her defense, she has been behind the wheel since she was sixteen. She grew up in the middle of nowhere PA where the extent of public transportation was the yellow school bus. I can understand how Wing Nut feels about this new car-less situation. For one year--and one year only--I lived in the  middle of nowhere Iowa, in a town that had absolutely no public transportation system. I recall doing quite a bit of cursing in the middle of that northern Iowa winter. It was a major life bummer to find myself without my usual means of getting around. So I do empathize with Wing Nut and recognize that finding herself without her wheels requires a huge attitude adjustment.


The things that bother Wing Nut about taking public transportation are things that I never really stopped to think about. The bus is never on schedule--usually it's late and occasionally it's early, but it's never ON TIME. You have to wait for the bus in the rain and wind and cold. When you get off the bus you are never where you want to go -- you have to walk from the stop to your destination and this can be anywhere from a short walk to a not so short walk. Climate control is not something that is highly valued on busses. Bus drivers and passengers run the gamut from friendly and polite to downright scary.  I guess if I did stop to think about it, I might conclude that riding the bus is not a very enjoyable experience. But I can't afford that luxury.

I have a very different view of public transportation. The bus allows me to be gainfully employed. It allows me to keep myself fed, clothed and healthy. It lets me get to the park or the library or the museum. I can even take Diva Dog with me on the bus here in Seattle even though she is not a guide dog. Heck, if I was a hard-drinking wench I could even stay out at the bars till closing time and still get home via the bus. My quality of life is highly dependent on the availability of public transportation. But it goes much deeper for me. My sense of self-worth depends on it too. As long as I have access to public transportation I do not feel that I am a burden to my family or friends or society. The bus is my ticket to freedom and independence.


Today I received a sign that Wing Nut is making huge strides in adjusting her attitude. This morning we had to run a  couple of quick errands. We'd forgotten to get wax paper yesterday when we were at the grocery store. And we needed cotter pins at the local hardware store. We hopped on the bus and got our errands done in no time flat. Wing Nut even seemed quite chipper to be taking the bus. Then, as we were walking home from the bus stop, Wing Nut nonchalantly said, "Hey look, my bus transfer is good until 3:30 p.m. I think I'll hop the bus after lunch and go to downtown Ballard." My brain overloaded. It just couldn't handle the cognitive dissonance. She looked and sounded like Wing Nut, but someone must have switched her out.  "Who ARE you? The Wing Nut I know, and love dearly, would NEVER voluntarily take the bus--for no good reason, just because she can, just because she wants to get the most out of her bus transfer. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY WING NUT?" Try as I might, I couldn't get the thoughts whirling inside my head to make their way out my mouth. I am rarely caught speechless, but this was one of those occasions.


After lunch Wing Nut did indeed take the bus and strolled around Ballard for a while. She seems no worse for all that bus riding.



Libby said...

Great post!! Over in the UK they want us to use public transport more, but what you say needs to occur, punctuality, stops where you need them etc etc, Simple really!!!

our friend Ben said...

Oh, Wenches, I can so sympathize! My ancient, battered red VW Golf, the Red Rogue, is huffing and puffing along as best it can, and gods, I'm praying night and day that it makes it a few more years, since there's no way I can afford to replace it, even with another used car. (I've actually never had a new car.) Living smack in the middle of nowhere, PA, as I do, public transport is not an option, unless I want to steal a neighbor's cow and see if I can ride it into Kutztown. Every time I have to drive in bad weather, I pray for protection from accidents---insurance would probably pay five cents for the shattered little car. Good luck with your jobs, another car---maybe something will providentially appear, a close friend once "inherited" a truck from coworkers who no longer needed it!---and everything. (Curmudgeon, have you considered laser surgery? My vision was 20/800 before, and probably 20/40 after, and the only reason it wasn't 20/20 was so I wouldn't have to get reading glasses.) And thank you so much for a truly thought-provoking post!

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

We don't have any public transportation out here in Tiny Town Texas. I don't know what we would do if we found ourselves in your position. It sounds like Wing Nut is adjusting. Good luck with the job situations.


Karen said...

Oh, I feel for WingNut (and you, from the snarling, but maybe that's in the past?). In SF I rode the bus like a champ but here I have to haul a kid around so it is drive drive drive. We go on the bus so little that it's actually an adventure! And of course I feel guilty about it all... I know right where that Viking bus stop is, 3rd and Market! Too funny. We must have literally been neighbors at one time. :) Good luck hauling to work and stuff in the awful cold this week. Brrrr! And I hope you get to keep your jobs! Scary times. PS I have Chinook book bus passes that we probably won't use - if you want them, shoot me an email!

Philip Bewley said...

I am glad that Diva dog can come along!
Stay safe! Thinking of you both.

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

That's it Libby! it's all so simple and common sense. So why is it so hard??? Make all the bureaucrats ride the bus for a month and I'll bet we'd see some major changes--real fast!

Here's hoping the Red Rogue keeps huffing and puffing OFB! WN really doesn't recommend riding the neighbor's cow into Kutztown! Unfortunately that's a no go on the laser surgery for Curmudgeon--very long story.

No buses at all? Yikes Aunt Debbi, that sounds like Iowa.

Hi Karen. I love that Viking stop. And the one with the animals on top over by the zoo. Yes, the snarling is mostly in the past. Hurray. And yes, we can always use extra bus tickets. We'll be in touch. Thanks so much!

Hi Philip. I've noticed this past week that when I'm wearing my "Bah Humbug" Christmas hat nobody wants to sit next to me on the bus. Go figure! Hee hee hee.

Kerri said...

Wonderful story! You write so well, and always make me smile :)
It's good to be grateful for the little things, that's for sure.
Although, I guess a bus isn't really a little thing!
Thanks for sharing those thoughts.
(you could write a book...and do it well!)

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

Greetings Kerri! Thank YOU so much for reading my story. BTW, I did my own share of grumbling in Dec., when Seattle came to a grinding halt during the snowpocalypse. The bus routes were either cancelled or running with HUGE delays. Grrrr! But during this past week with rains of biblical proportions everything has been running smoothly.