Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CarFree Two

We fulfilled our carfree pledge and enjoyed the stigma of riding a bus.

On Tuesday night Julie did some preparation for breakfast and lunches. But, we overslept a few minutes, got further behind schedule and decided there wasn't time for breakfast and opted for homemade scones and coffee as we drove to town.

It rained. For a while it rained hard. Carefree promoted walking, bicycling and mass transit so rain was a deterrent. We found a parking spot and walked to the bus stop in a small drizzle. As we got to the stop there were three buses waiting since this eastern-most stop is the turnaround for three routes. Rather than take the route 66 bus as planned Julie spoke with another driver and we boarded his bus. As we waited the driver struck up a conversation. We discovered he lives off-grid on the edge of Flagstaff. We quickly exchanged information about cisterns, inverters, solar array size and other things we have in common.

As the bus proceeded west toward town several people boarded, primarily college-aged young people boarded. A middle-aged woman sat down across from Julie and began talking. Both Julie and she thought they recognized one another. Two guys on bicycles loaded their bicycles on the carrier on the front of the bus and joined us. One young many with limited English tried to pay the usual fare. The drive explained it was a fare-free day but the young many didn't understand and tried again to put his fare in the drop box. The driver covered the box with his hand and the young man finally understood which brought a smile to his face. A young woman boarded and the driver asked her a question. It was quickly obvious she was a regular and he was asking about a final exam that was scheduled for that day.

After we got off the bus and walked toward campus Julie made the comment "What we just saw was an example of community".

At the end of the day I walked south to Julie's office. We had planned on riding a campus bus the the north end of campus, walking to a city bus stop and catching the last bus that ran every 15 minutes. It didn't happen. A talkative graduate student caused Julie to work late so we missed the city bus. However, I did ride a campus bus for the first time. I've worked on campus for almost nine years and had never taken a bus.

As we walked to the city bus stop we realized we were two or three minutes too late. A man, obviously a panhandler, was working the bus stop. He struck up a conversation and was entertaining without being offensive. He asked for fifty cents so he could buy some soup at a local convenience store. I asked how he was going to heat the soup and he replied he would use the store's microwave. It occurred to me how out of touch I am having never shopped a convenience store for a meal. Having no pocket change I opened my billfold to get a dollar and he spotted a ten and a few other ones. He asked for money for tax. I pointed out that he had twice the amount he had requested and should have enough for tax. However, he persisted in a pleasant way and Julie gave him some change for the tax.

Since we had missed the bus and the next bus wouldn't arrive for thirty minutes we decided to walk to a local restaurant for a light meal. It was a pleasant experience. After eating we walked to another bus stop. While waiting a young woman who appeared to be in her early thirties rode by on a bicycle. She stopped a short distance away, turned around and came back. After saying hello she said she had a "strange request". She was looking for a few acres of land where she and two friends could camp. In return they would do work on the property. I asked what kind of work and she said she did house cleaning and two men did general maintenance work. Unfortunately the bus arrived at that time and our conversation had to end abruptly.

We rode the bus to the last stop, walked to our car and our small adventure ended.

Carfree day wasn't a huge success. The rain caused a few people to change their plans. On the morning bus an accident caused a traffic backup. As we passed the long line of cars regular bus riders commented that it was the longest line they had seen. There were 631 pledges that should have saved 5,585 miles of driving. It may not have been a huge success but for Julie and me it was thoroughly rewarding.

Above I wrote we "enjoyed the stigma of riding a bus". I didn't know until this morning there is a stigma involved. Yesterday Julie read the psychology department newsletter that contains information about faculty research projects. One person is investigating the "stigma of riding a bus".

I like this stigma. I'm going to experience it again.