Friday, July 11, 2008

Bus Riding

One of the biggest changes I've made in my life lately has been a small one. Instead of taking my truck to work every day, I now ride the bus. It's a small change, to be sure, since I don't actually leave the truck in the driveway but take it up to the bus stop and park it across the street in a shopping center parking lot. In my defense, the bus stop is over a mile away, and to walk it first thing in the morning would just wear me out. Plus, when I get to my destination, it is actually about the same distance from the bus stop at 24th and Lamar to my desk in the heart of campus. It takes me almost as long to walk to my building as it does for the bus to get from South Austin to UT.

In spite of these compromises, it is a big change because it has much such a positive impact on my well-being. It was astonishing for me to see, once I was able to step back and look at it, just how stressful the drive to work actually has been. Now, I actually look forward to going to work because the stress of driving no longer gets in my way. It is sort of like a fog that has been lifted from my vision, allowing me to see clearly the fine details of life that used to be invisible to me.

Now, though I am often prone to daydreaming, I can feast my eyes on the world of the street that rolls past my picture window. Lamar is a busy, active street, and even though we are taking advantage of the light summer traffic to roll effortlessly down the boulevard, there is a lot going on.

The automotive shops are busy already, of course, while most of the restaurants are still dark, with overturned chairs on tables visible through the windows. The car wash is hopping and so is the bicycle shop. Sadly, there are long lines at McDonalds and Taco Cabana, but there is also a good crowd at Maria's Taco Xpress.

Construction abounds. The old Binswanger glass factory is gone, replaced by a high rise, and the last and biggest of the new condominium towers, the Spring, is going up right on the corner of Lamar and 1st Street. They've been doing groundwork there for about six months, so you know it is going to be enormous.

On the bus there is as much to look at as outside it. Once I became a 'regular' rider, I began to observe others like me, who take the same bus every day to get to work.

Others, though, are riding the bus in the morning for other reasons. Yesterday it was the father of two small children, obviously going to return them to their mother after a visitation. Today it was the three homeless guys who emerged from the park to pick up the bus to ride out to their various street corners. Folded cardboard signs tucked into soiled backpacks smelling of ripe cheese are the telling signs of their profession. They are remarkably happy for this time of day and in their state, but then, I suppose they're already a little drunk and not all that concerned with the daily concerns that occupy me.

I wonder, sometime, if anyone looks at me, and tries to figure out what my story is, but then I realize that I am just an ordinary guy who is likely invisible to anyone who isn't looking. Certainly this is the case when I am not on the bus. Why would it be any different now? The anonymity is at once both comforting and unsettling, but real and quite simply unavoidable.

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