Bus Adventures and Misdirections

18 Nov

Due to recent circumstances which shall not be mentioned for the time being, I have been forced to face a new frontier…the MBTA bus system.

Now, to those of you who grew up in a bustling city where the bus was a natural form of transportation, you may not understand how foreign this concept is to those like myself who grew up outside the suburbs. Rural towns have rarely even heard of the idea of public transportation and most of us are socially conditioned to believe that the roaring metal tin cans roving the streets transport the unwashed miscreants of the world from point A to point B in the most inconvenient route possible thus making them something to be unquestionably avoided.

I no longer have the luxury of adhering to such foundational values, unless I am willing to give up my employment, social life, and any hope of escaping the confines of my fourth floor apartment. Therefore, Tuesday, for the first time in my life, I rode the bus. Now, I am not a stranger to public transportation. I grew up south of Boston and relished any excuse to take the train into the big city. The train is correlated with adventure and I felt accomplished every time I successfully arrived at my destination. Going to school north of Boston brought a new wealth of opportunities to further my amorous relationship with the T. I was that much closer to city life and that much more enthusiastic about exploring the cobblestone streets and underground tunnels.

The commuter rail and subway, however, are a vastly different playing field than the wheeled beasts making circles and winding paths through the cities and towns of the Boston area. A train has one start point, one end point and very specific and unchanging target points in-between, which can be easily plotted and chosen. On the other hand, there are a zillion busses, some of which have the same number but different destinations, with countless stopping points and transfers, which creates a veritable cluster-fuck of chaotic misdirection. As you can imagine, a virgin to the hard, audacious pipeline of vehicular bedlam, the past few days have been a sadistical confrontation to my navigational skills. I am choosing to allow room for comedic interlude in my poorly conducted adventuring, I am nothing if not able to laugh at my own misfortune and fine the humor in most unfortunate situations.

Day 1 – Up before the sun and as eager as a two year old with a new toy to conquer and destroy, my over confidence sent me on a mission to face the new day with a smile and a Charlie Card. I needed to take the 455 to Revere to catch the 411 which would drop me in Malden. I got off three stops too early, had to walk at least 2 miles part of which was up and over one of the steepest hills I have ever seen, to catch my connection, which, thank God, was 20 minutes late because of mechanical problems. I managed to make it to work unscathed and mostly still confident in my ability to successfully surmount the challenges I had faced. The journey home proved I could indeed make the same mistake twice when I, again, had to brave the dark and the cold and cross a highway on foot because I was too nippy at the bit. I just hope no one saw me walking in confused circles trying to figure out which stop on the four corners I should be standing at. Luckily, I met some sweetly entertaining characters to conceal my minor embarrassment. The first was an adorable old man (who I sincerely hope becomes my Tuesday night bus buddy) on his way to a Bible study. He was sweet and complimentary and enamored by my midnight painted nails. A few stops after he had vacated, a middle aged man from Mississippi took his place who made me laugh and told me about his ventures in the subway earlier that day. I love accents, and if he had been younger and/or cuter it would have made my night that much better.

Day 2 – My eagerness waning, I again met my rival on the street corner determined to make a better exploit than the day before. Getting into the office was much less convoluted, but getting home proved to pose problematic. Never take a bus you think is early at 5:00pm, most likely it is the wrong bus, even if it has the right number on it, ALWAYS look at the destination, even if it means standing in the rain for ten more minutes. Otherwise you may end up in the middle of Revere with no idea which bus connection you need to take and a dead cell phone. The driver called last stop and I got off in a dazed fog, asking myself what I had done. Refusing to cry or panic, I looked at a map, but after realizing it was gibberish, called my dad on a phone that was breathing its last breath. Just as he found the route I needed to take and began reciting the numbers, the battery buzzed its death cry leaving the line dead and the air silent. All I had been able to gather was “116,” which happened to be across the street. More map staring and forceful barricading of the welling tears led me to exasperation. The girl standing beside me said something which I laughed at and agreed with. She asks me for a lighter which I am sure I don’t have but look for anyway and we make a joke about the point of carrying cigarettes with no lighter or a lighter with no cigarettes. When she asks a passing fellow smoker on the street for a flame, she offers me one and the simple gesture restores my hope and determination. The nicotine sets my synapses buzzing and this angel of the night lets me use her phone to call my dad back just as the 116 bus pulls up to the curb. I thank her and decide I’ll take my chances. The bus driver must have been a gift from heaven as well because he guides me safely and uncomplainingly to my destination. I really do believe with all my heart that God looks out for me in my tumultuous attempts at independence, giving me just what I need, right when I need it.

At home, I let my dad know I didn’t perish in the streets and open a bottle of wine to unravel the tensely strung coils in my body. There is something to be said about getting drunk in your kitchen with the music blasting, baking a cake (or whatever the mood calls for at the time). Add in a little text flirtation and I’d say it’s the recipe for a perfect night, but maybe not a perfect morning.

Day 3 – Hung over and tired despite crashing into my pillows early, I was not quite defeated, but mostly unexcited about facing the challenge ahead. Traffic made the 455 late in arriving to my connection, and of course the day was more frigid than the previous two. Second piece of advice, always bring an extra sweater. There is a good chance you may find yourself sitting at a bus stop for nearly an hour just trying to huddle close enough to yourself to stay warm. Late for my meeting, I was overjoyed that my father was all too willing to pick me up from work instead of at my apartment to bring me home that night. (Why was I going to my parents’ house? Well I was going to see the midnight show of Breaking Dawn with a friend from my hometown of course!!).

I am choosing to see the silver lining in all this despite the mishaps and uncertainty. Hopefully a long weekend of rejuvenation will detonate the reset button and Monday will be a new quest leading to success. If not, I am sure you will be hearing about it.

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