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Dear Bus: I Quit

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I was born and raised in LA. My first experience with public transportation was at age 6 when my mom said we could ride the bus to the mall. We waited at the bus stop for 30 minutes but the bus never came. So we walked home. That pretty much sums up how I feel about the bus right now.

For 5 years (during and after college) I lived on the East Coast; I didn't have any access to a car and I absolutely loved it. I never had to worry about traffic or parking. I was reading books on the way to work and mingling with my fellow city dwellers (which despite my seemingly bitter attitude, is actually my favorite thing to do). I always wanted to return to what I felt was my carefree car-free lifestyle, but for the past 8 years I've lived on the westside and it's been rather (read: very) difficult. Taking the bus to my job would take an estimated 2-3 hours each way (according to www.metro.net), or 35 minutes each way driving myself. It seems there is no good answer for those of us who use the 405.

Well yay for me, 6 months ago I started working 2 days a week at an office only 2.5 miles from where I live! I vowed to not take my car there ever, as here was my chance to return to a (40%) car-free lifestyle. Woo hoo! Free at last.

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So I started taking the bus every Monday and Thursday from my home (West LA) to work (Westwood). Let me tell you about a typical bus day.

AM
6:35 Wake up with cats in my face. Get ready for work.

7:15 Walk to bus stop.

7:27 See my bus pass by me because apparently I walked too slow and had I been there 14 seconds sooner, I could have been on it, even though the schedule says it comes at 7:29.

7:38 Get on next bus (where was the 7:33 bus? I DON'T KNOW) which is packed to the gills with middle school students in school uniforms screaming at each other. Can't get far enough onto the bus so every time the door opens it hits me. No one will move to make more room. Starting to get very dirty from the gunk on the doors rubbing against my back at every stop.

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7:45 Get shoved by someone coming off the bus, which rips my scab off my arm and I start to bleed. Can't find anything to sop up dripping blood so try to wipe it on my pants (they're brown, close enough). People are starting to look at me funny, which results in my getting shoved closer to the door and risking involuntary disembarkment at each stop.

7:46 Notice that bus ride is taking twice as long because each exiting passenger has to unwedge himself from the back of the bus, push past 45 middle schoolers and scream "THIS IS MY STOP! OPEN THE DOOR! "Then the middle schoolers tug their ipod earphones of out their ears and say "what?"

7:55 Arrive at stop waaaaaay too late and start to sweat out of fear that I'll be fired.

8:12 Get to my office 12 minutes late after running all the way there. Now have blisters on my heels, I am dripping in sweat, my hair is a mess, and I'm late. 8:00am appointment has been waiting there for 12 minutes and is rather irritated. Mop off my face with some paper towels and try to gather myself together.

-work as usual-

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PM
4:49 Leave work walk to bus stop.

4:59 Realize I only have a $20 bill so I go to the store and buy a bottle of water to get change for the bus because I'm too much of a baby to just ask for quarters.

5:04 Walk back to bus stop wondering the best way to get quarters in this town or where I can get one of those pre-paid cards. Remind myself to look that up when I get home.

5:05 Bus pulls away 5 seconds prior to my arrival at the stop. Vigorous arm waving proves futile, if not embarrassing.

5:16 Next bus comes. Bus is too full and driver is not letting anyone on, though it did let someone off. I would think that since I was smaller than that person, I should be allowed to board in his place. The driver pulled off before I could plead my seemingly very logical case. End up in an exhaust cloud and can't get out. Start coughing just to be dramatic.

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5:24 Next bus comes. It is equally as full but driver is letting people board at their own risk. People are falling out as the doors open and women are smashed up against the windshield. I cram myself onto the bus and wedge myself between a pole and a stinky BO guy on a cell phone who is talking way too loudly.

5:35 Bus makes a stop at major intersection. People are trying to cram themselves onto the bus. Doors will not close. Major delay as driver tells people to wait for the next bus and they protest loudly and furiously. What they were hoping to accomplish, I do not know.

5:39 Finally get to my stop. Step on 5 people trying to get off the bus. Back is starting to ache from very awkward standing and trying not to get sucked into vortex of BO man's pit stench. Walk home, limping from this morning's blisters.

5:51 Arrive home. Realize I got off work an hour ago and I traveled less than 3 miles. Could have been home 40 minutes ago if I had my car... but I didn't. Missed my 5:30pm class at the gym, and can barely make the 6:30pm class if I decide to rush like hell and drive myself, but since my head is pounding, I don't go to the gym at all. Spend the rest of the night wondering what the hell is wrong with me that I must insist on taking the stinky time-consuming bus. Ended up with a terrible headache and wasted the rest of the night with an ice pack on my head.

Cost round trip: $1.50 + one bottle of water minus one trip to the gym.

So I quit taking the bus.

This is what my day looks like now.

7:00 Wake up with cats in my face
7:35 Get in car
7:44 Arrive in parking lot at work
7:48 Get to office, start the day non-sweaty, non-achey and without blisters with plenty of time to spare.

- work as usual -

4:45 Leave office, walk to parking lot
4:49 Get in car, drive to gym
5:15 Arrive at gym with plenty of time to spare for the 5:30 class
or
4:49 Get in car, drive home
5:01 Come home to two cats in my face

Cost round trip (gas): $0.21

Okay, let's explore other options. I could walk. It's two and a half miles uphill the entire way. I tried it once without anything on me and it took about 45 minutes, so I figure carrying my camera, laptop, lunch, change of clothes and shoes, book and papers in a large hiking backpack I could get there in under an hour, though I would likely need to shower once I got to work. Walking home would be much faster, given that it's downhill and my lunch bag would be lighter. Not a terrible option, but seems rather messy.

Or I could bike. I don't have a bike. I calculated it costs 21 cents round trip in gas and I go twice a week, so a $200 bike investment would pay off in a mere 18 years. I don't plan to be working there for that long. Or in 412 years I could get a Segway, which sounds more fun.

If you read my blog, you know I am extremely accident prone. I've been to the ER twice since June thanks to freak injuries and I've been in 3 not-at-fault car accidents since October 2006. I was almost hit while in a crosswalk (by a MINI Cooper Flexcar, of all things - fortunately there was a cop nearby and that person was promptly pulled over and ticketed) and had someone back into me when I was walking through a parking lot (I hit the car's trunk with my hand, at least she stopped). My instincts tell me that riding a bike through West LA during rush hour is a bad bad idea since it is clear that my asswriting-despising karma has God throwing large objects at me left and right.

Where does this leave me? I'm a quitter, and quitters never win. But neither do bus riders, it seems.

Photo by Malingering