Wednesday, April 18, 2007

adventures in bus riding

On Sunday, we decided to go to Target.

This is not an easy task for us. Since we don't have a car, and the nearest Target is about three miles away, we can't just walk there. Usually we make a Target run or two when I use a state car for work and have it overnight or through a weekend, but it had been a while since I'd had one and we really needed to make a Target run.

So I went onto our local transit website and figured out how to get there on the bus. Luckily, there's a bus that goes almost straight there from not too far from our place, so we hightailed it down to 13th and Broadway and hopped on an 83. I knew how to get there using some other buses, but this was much nicer - very few stops, the crowd of people weren't smelly, scary, or obviously mentally ill like the crowd on the other bus we would have taken (that route's notorious). It dropped us off in a very convenient place and we sauntered right in to Target, looking longingly at everything that weighed more than a few pounds, and bought essentials.

Riding that bus in Denver made me feel a little different than riding the bus normally does. When I was in middle school and high school, riding the bus meant freedom to go places outside my tiny town, freedom to go to the pool or the movies (nope, we didn't even have a movie theater!) or shopping, or, later, to go to San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area to visit a boyfriend or have an adventure. I never drove then, so the bus was my only way to get around, and I was so much younger than most other people riding the bus that it was kind of exciting when someone my age got on. I actually met a few friends this way, one of whom I'm still in contact with. I also had several interesting encounters with unusual people (I still remember the guy who smelled like mange and told me all about how a laser disc player worked, and I also remember the lady who kept lighting a smudge stick and huffing it. She was traveling with a guy who obviously thought he was Jesus, down to the long blond hair-blue eyes-beard-robe-sandals outfit, and also, the lady called him Jesus).

When I moved to the Bay Area for school, riding the bus was the easiest way to get to some of the off-campus apartments and houses where my friends (and eventually I) lived. I took BART to get into the city, but took the bus to get around there, too, and the bus patrons down in Berkeley and SF were students, commuters, and vagrants - a whole microcosm of society in one vehicle. I almost got run over a few times by buses running red lights in Berkeley, which prepared me pretty well for the way drivers act in Denver - seriously, the light can have been red for 30 seconds and it doesn't seem to matter; the bus will plow right through. Anyhow, I had to ride a bus to my first real, non-contract, full time job out of college (I took BART for part of the way, but it was in Alameda so I had to bus the rest), and the people on THAT route were mostly old Chinese ladies who would buy vegetables in downtown Oakland, or middle-aged African-American men on second shift. Living in the Bay Area, the bus was just how I got to work or how I got home/to friends' places - it wasn't freedom, just transportation.

Denver's bus system is really good. The light rail is getting better and more useful, but the bus system will get you within a few blocks of just about anywhere in the metro area (and some outlying areas as well). Since moving here, I've learned which sorts of routes are considered commuter routes, and which ones are how the people without cars get around. Though I've been a person without a car for a year and a half now, I've been lucky enough to have access to state cars for work and have had to spend very little time on the bus. It's good to know that it's there when I need it, but at 28 years old, with a good paying fulltime job, I feel really out of place on the bus most of the time - it's mostly lower income, teenage to elderly, people of varying races (but largely minority) riding the buses I've ridden in Denver. Hulk takes one particular bus home from school, the aforementioned notorious route (when he can't get the better one) that travels all of East Colfax avenue - the tenderloin, the skid row, the prostitutes and addicts and the very poor, disabled, or homeless, all traveling along a street that goes from interesting to weird to sad to run down as one goes further east. He prefers the other bus, but when it's nearly 7 PM and he's been at school since 8:30 in the morning, he takes what he can get. Those buses run frequently, and some are Limited and don't stop very often, so one can get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time and transfer to whatever route takes one to where one wants to go.

Which is what we did last night. We had to take the bus out Colfax (it was a Limited, so didn't stop every two blocks, and only took 45 minutes and not an hour and fifteen to go the same distance), wait for another bus, and take it south. Then we got off the bus, walked to someone's house, looked at a car, test drove it, and put down a deposit. All in about 3 hours. I got the car loan stuff figured out today, and as of tomorrow we will be the proud owners of a 2002 Honda Civic (4 doors, 49K miles). As we rode the bus home from the woman's house, all the way out in BFE Aurora , I looked around at all the people riding the bus: the woman with the little girl, the young guy with the beard and the mohawk, the middle-aged men and women and young people going downtown to have fun, and thought to myself how glad I am that as of tomorrow we won't have to do that again. While Hulk will still ride the bus home from school sometimes (when it isn't nice enough to bike), we won't have to ride the bus to Target. Or to Michael's. We can go camping this summer, and hiking in the mountains, and all the things we used to do. We can go on road trips and visit our friends up near Boulder, and go up to the cabin. We can visit Hulk's parents. We can drive to California next March only to make our way leisurely back after our Big Event. We will be people With Car, and I can't wait.

So why so sudden? The car's a fantastic deal, and I happened to see it on Craigslist yesterday and didn't want to pass it up. I've been looking for a while, and saving my pennies, and my monthly payment is going to be tiny (hooray for great credit!). It's the most expensive thing I've ever bought, but with its low mileage, we'll probably be driving it for 10 years, after Hulk teaches me to drive a stick. Heh.


-qir said...

heh heh heh. You have been assimilated.

Seriously, great news!

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Awesome news...I have a Civic too and I really do love it. Can't go wrong with Toyota or Honda.

Yank In Texas said...

Yay! We have a civic too! Older, a '97, but it still runs awesomely.

Yay for having a car! Go and purchase larger items!

Abby said...

Congrats on the car, very exciting. While I can't say I am completely car-less (roommate owns one), I can identify with all your different memories of being dependent on buses. I don't think they have worn off for me yet, I still love a good bus ride.

SRB said...

Ooo! I second monkey on hondas and toyotas - I love the Civics too. Congrats on auto-vehicular freedom.