I’m taking a brief break from my ancestors’ pasts to talk about my own for a moment. I’m sorry that I am not posting as often as I planned to when I initially began this blog. In the past few weeks our car bit the dust. The transmission gave out, and the estimated costs were more than the value of the car.
Thankfully, we don’t live far from the bus lines, and so, for the past few weeks, the bus has become our source of transportation to and from work, with an occasional car pool trip here and there. While it allows to get where we need to go, what had been a fifteen minute trip by car has become a two-hour trek each way by bus. It cuts into time for other things in the day, including writing.
This is not my first venture into the world of mass transportation. While most people really can’t wait to turn sixteen to get their driver’s license, I was not among that crowd. Part of it had to do with having some not-so-great experiences behind the wheel during Driver’s Ed class and practice driving with my Mom. My first time behind the wheel, I was swerving so badly, you would have thought I was in some crazy video game instead of in an actual vehicle. Part of my shyness about driving also stemmed from an event from the summer I was between 8th and 9th grade. My cousin was heading home from a drive-in movie with two cousins of his and another friend when they were struck by a big truck. All of the passengers died; only my cousin survived.
The boys in that car were well-known to my family. We went to the same church. One of them had just graduated 8th grade with me; we had been in the same confirmation class. My brother had played baseball with them for several summers. It was my first time having someone I knew that well of my own age dying. It shook me up, and I looked at driving at the time with a sense of dread rather than excitement.
So, when I was in high school and had the opportunity to volunteer to be a Candy Stripe, my mother said I could, however, she felt it should be my responsibility to get there and back; she was not going to play taxi for me.
Thus began my first journey by bus. With it I took my first steps toward independence. It was an exciting time for me. I was going places on my own, and I didn’t have to wait for Mom and Dad to take me. I learned the various routes and schedules, and I was soon going other places than St. Joe’s; I would go to the library downtown, or head over to the Genesee Valley mall. As long as the bus was running, I could go pretty much anywhere I wanted.
Even after I began driving at nineteen, the bus was an alternative means of transportation when my car was being worked on. I used the bus less and less when I was driving though. It wasn’t until after I left my first husband that bus travel became a regular part of my life again. My car had broken down right before I left, and I wasn’t in a financial position to fix it. I sold it and never looked back. I started using the bus again, and the bus became a regular part of my life until I married my husband Bill.
So now, here I am, riding the bus again. While I occasionally feel frustrated about the limitations bus travel imposes, I still feel much of that same feeling of independence I felt as a teen. I wondered the other day, if any of my ancestors had used mass transit on a regular basis in their own lives, and if so, how it made them feel.