Monday, April 21, 2008

Public Transit Virgin

For some reason, I decided that today was the day I would finally embark on an RTA adventure. I know, it is truly shameful that I have lived a mile from downtown Dayton for seven years and I have never taken the bus. But, having only one car eventually gnaws at that tether of anxiety and you find yourself fearlessly sitting at the bus stop with your almost three year old child in your lap. I counted my fare three times and placed it my right front pocket, for quick access. I had the totally undecipherable route map in my back pocket, just in case I should want to confuse myself even more. I knew that getting there would be the easy part, but the return trip festered in my mind. If I was alone, I could walk back if I got panicky. Violet could never make it 1.7 miles on foot without begging "carry you" every half block or so. I really did not think this through at all, in hind sight I can see that. I didn't make the connection between the Third & Main stop on the printed map and the "Third & Main" that they are always talking about on the local news. Our destination was the Main Branch of the Dayton Metro Library and the stop at Third & Main is a short two blocks from the library. It made sense, so I didn't give it a second thought.

While waiting for the bus, I was treated to a traffic stunt show at the corner of Wayne and Wyoming. We walk that way all the time, but I have never lingered at the manky old bench before. The speed and recklessness I witnessed put a little hair on my chest. Violet just sat in my lap and patiently chattered on about the "bus-t" (she is randomly applying t sounds to words). My lovely child drew the attention of a man wearing three coats, who was not actually waiting for the bus. All along the way, my pretty child was commented upon. Mostly, people were telling unseen persons on the other end of a cell line about the kid with the "prettiest eyeballs". I didn't know if I was supposed to respond or pretend that I wasn't eavesdropping. Anyway, when we got off the bus at Third & Main we descended into a snake pit of waiting passengers. People yelled and pushed and swore at each other. Little kids were unsuitably supervised (by my standards) and no one looked the least bit excited to be getting on the bus. I was so flustered by the force of the crowd that I started walking in the wrong direction. Violet was delighted by all the new and interesting trash there was to look at. I righted myself and we were soon at the library, where I picked up an official bus route pamphlet hoping that it would reassure me about my return voyage.It did not. I could not enjoy the library. I got my reserved books and we left soon after. Violet was not in the mood to linger, thankfully.

Returning to the snake pit, I realized that the bus could not pick me up at the same place it dropped me off. I had no idea where I should be waiting. The bus stop near my house only had one number on it. The downtown stops had a dozen numbers on each sign and no indication of north or south. There were no instructions on the website. How do people know how to get anywhere? My chest tightened, my mouth dried up. I got on the #7 bus to ask if I was headed in the right direction and the driver (who was distracted by someone's noxious cologne) told me to go across the street, as did all the passengers. We waited on the steps of the old court house. Violet occupied herself with the cracks in the concrete and the unique debris (have I mentioned how pleasant she is to have around). I counted my fare again and put it in my right front pocket. When the #7 came 'round I double checked with the driver before inserting my money and then I started to breath again. Violet didn't enjoy the ride as much as I had hoped. I think she was unnerved by being unrestrained in a moving vehicle. She could have gotten up and ran away from me, but she never stirred from my lap. Once we were off the bus and back in our comfort zone, Violet felt free to become a reluctant walker again and then asked me for ice cream. I was glad to go on foot to the store and get it.

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