Friday, February 11, 2011

The Kids on the Bus Go Splat, Splat, Splat...All Through the Town

We don't own a car. In the city, living without a car is actually feasible. I don't want to give the impression that it is fun or desirable. But it is possible.

As a result of our pedestrian lifestyle (ahem), we have become pretty bus savvy. I'm now quite familiar with a number of routes and know how to get my kids and myself to any number of places via public transportation. The kids ride for free, so the three of us can go anywhere on one token.

There. I've stated all the benefits of riding the bus. (Oh, but I forgot the thrill of pulling the cord, looking out the window and on occasion having the entire back row of seats all to ourselves. And, the kids' favorite: yelling, "Back door!" when we're ready to exit at the back of the bus.)

Riding the bus with two young kids goes a little something like this: I anxiously watch the street for an approaching bus while collapsing the double umbrella stroller and keeping half an eye on the children who are running around like squirrels before a snowfall. If the bus is taking an inordinate amount of time, I then rotate among the following activities: calling Septa to ask the operator to determine the exact location of the next bus coming my way and surely mentioning no less than three times the precise amount of time (plus five minutes) I've been waiting; feeding the children snacks; mumbling under my breath with child-friendly versions of swear words such as "where the heckle is the mother-loving bus?!"; yelling at the children to stay where I can see them or get back on the sidewalk or yes you can sit on those steps or no, stop climbing on that.

The stroller, post-heave.
When the bus finally arrives, I flag it down with gestures reminiscent of a woman drowning. The bus door opens, Fifi climbs aboard and I yell, "First seat available!" approximately seven times as I heave the thirty-pound stroller up the steps and lift Vance up a full eighteen inches by his hand alone. I then attempt to get Vance safely into a seat, anchoring my legs as much as I'm able with the weight of the stroller upon one side of me, as the bus lunges forward and the force of its motion pushes me backwards. Once my son is settled, I usually endeavor to lift the awkward stroller full up above my head, in an "Operation"-style attempt of getting it between the metal rails without getting stuck on them as I try to stow the stroller above the wheel well. Then, finally, I begin the process of digging through my pockets to find and deposit the token (unless I happen to be wearing a glove and smartly stored it inside).

I would say about 75% of our bus trips go this smoothly. Those that don't are usually ameliorated by a kind older person who grabs one or more of my children as they hurtle down the aisle, in their Newtonian opposite and equal reaction to the bus barreling down the street. I can't tell you the number of times I turn to check on my children and they are in the arms of some person I've never met. I am indebted to the kindness of bus-passenger strangers.

Notice how the fellow passenger keeps
her hand out to protect Fifi.
Thanks to public transportation, the kids and I are able to enjoy all sorts of field trips that give us a much-needed reprieve from the house. So, despite all the horrible, evil things I've been known to say about Septa, the truth of the matter is, I value their services immensely.

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