This morning my imagination was caught by the image of a “Camel” bus in Havana, Cuba. The Camel Bus is public transport vehicle consisting of a modified shipping cargo container being dragged by a semi. I couldn’t help but believe that if my father were in charge of public transportation for a country, something similar would happen. My father is a man who has no problem with using a Geo Metro as a farm truck, or a beat up van to transport goats and poultry. Once he borrowed the parish schoolbus that transported country kids to the Catholic school in the big town 20 miles away. He filled the bus with kids and headed around that town collecting bags of leaves for mulch from every single front yard he could, until the bus was full to the brim and we were perched high atop piles of leaves. He was really on top of the town composting trend- I just wonder what the bus looked like when he was through with it. I certainly don’t remember cleaning it.
I am thinking about public transportation because I took the bus downtown with Mary a couple mornings ago so that she could catch the Airport Flyer and make her way home.
Although I struggle to maintain some sort of hip and urban facade, I am still shy about using the public transportation system here in Pittsburgh. As Mary noted while visiting, country people drive everywhere. It just makes no sense to walk five miles to the grocery store if it is five or ten or twenty miles away. The exception to this rule is Colleen, the fiercely dedicated distance runner who can and does run to visit relatives miles away on a regular basis. Here in the city, I walk constantly. I walk to dance class, to the grocery store, to restaurants. I walked through thick snow to the hospital for check ups when I was pregnant. I am given the opportunity to walk all over town, wearing through the soles of my worn boots, because we have decided to share one car in our household. This morning I am thinking about Havana, about cargo containers rumbling down the streets, and pondering just how lucky we are to be able to make that choice. We could probably keep two cars rattling and rumbling along, just barely- although it is sometimes brutally expensive to keep one in working order. We are able to make the choice to keep “only” one car for two and a half people because we live in a walkeable city, and one with a troubled but existent public transportation system. Walking through the city gives me new experiences and inspiration every day, teaches me a great deal about the culture of this place and these people, and forces me to get up and get moving.
Taking the bus is a little more frightening than walking for a country girl. Someday soon I hope to be able to hand over my fare without a high level of confusion, nervousness, and awkwardness. The only comfort is that when the bus pulled up and we got on, it literally took Mary four minutes to pay the driver two dollars and twenty five cents. It only took me two.
The fact that it is possible to take a bus to the airport is what really amazes me. I have never lived in a place where it is possible to get to and from the airport without complex and burdening plans involving begging and prostrating friends to disprupt their lives to drive me there (you know who you are, and a thousand thanks to you) or hefty parking fees. There is a great freedom leaving the car at home, hopping onto the bus, dragging luggage through the downtown streets (lets just gloss over that little hiccup in the process. Pack light, is what I’m saying.) and then catching another bus that flies through the secret bus routes and straight to the airport. I also enjoy picking people up from the airport by meeting them downtown at the bus stop with a fresh cup of coffee instead of fighting traffic to reach the airport. I also enjoy watching people on the bus and pondering their style. I loved this ultra modern flapper here.
I know that I am lucky to have the choice to take the bus. Lucky to own a car, lucky that I don’t depend on an undependable route to get me to work, lucky that there still is a city bus system in Pittsburgh. Lucky that the bus isn’t a converted cargo container being dragged along the streets of Havana- although there is enough of my father in me to wish that I could ride in one of those one day.