May 9, 2005
For my first day of being car-less in Cleveland for a week, I had a good start.
Woke up at 6:30am, took my dog for a walk. Made some coffee since I don’t think the bus driver would agree to make a quick stop at Arabica for me. Had an English muffin with my coffee. Watched the morning news to find out about the weather. Nice today. Good.
Took a shower, got dressed, I pet Kozmo’s head and left the house. I listened to my iPod on the walk over to the bus stop at E. 173rd and Grovewood. Got to the bus stop at 7:34am.
Concerns? Yes. “Am I on the right side of the street?” “How much will it cost?” “When do I pay?” “How do I get a transfer?” The 39X goes by on the other side of the street and it’s pretty filled with people. I really start to think I’m on the wrong side of the street.
About 10 minutes later a young woman comes to the stop. I ask her if this bus goes downtown. She said yes.
The bus arrived at 7:48am. The bus driver was a very nice smiling middle aged woman. I asked her how much. $1.50. I asked her for a transfer. She said the only thing she could give me was an all-day pass for $3.00.
So this experiment is going to cost me at least $15. I wouldn’t spend that much in gas for my car for the week. Yeah…I know. That’s not really the point here.
When I told people I was going to do this experiment I got a few different reactions. Mostly “WHY?!” I mostly told everyone it was because a friend sort of dared me to do it. She said I couldn’t do it.
I think I can.
The bus arrived at 7:48, not long after a garbage truck stopped right in front of the stop, the garbage guy tried to empty a cemented public garbage can. When the guy couldn’t get the metal top off he just scooped a handful of what was on top and threw it into the truck. Nice. As the truck sat there, at least a couple of gallons of garbage juice leaked out of the bottom of the truck and left a huge puddle.
Okay… back to the bus. As we rode down Grovewood it got pretty packed. I felt bad because my knees were pressed into the seat in front of me. I hope the guy in the leather Marines jacket reading the sports page didn’t mind. A crazy guy got on at Lakeshore and E. 153nd. Kinda happy-crazy with a baseball hat and a wild gray beard. After he got on the bus he was asking a couple of people in the back for 16 cents.
I put my headphones back on and put it on shuffle. Along the shoreway I listened to Vogt Dig For Kloopervok by The Books, Lesson # 1 by Viva Voce and Flamethrowa by Pavement.
I got off in front of the BP building downtown (is it still called that?) As I tried to go to the front of the bus to get off it stopped really fast and I went flying forward and knocked my knees into someone elses knees. I felt bad but it seemed to be no big deal to them.
Okay. So now I am in Public Square. It really is beautiful with the morning sun shining on all the buildings and all the flowers in bloom. I’m considering a walk into tower city for coffee but worry about missing my bus, the #326 Detroit.
As I stood at the Northwest quadrant of Public Square and waited for the 326 a #10 luxurious looking Laketran bus pulled up to the stop. A dozen or so white suburbanites got off the bus and quickly skittered away.
Not long after, at 8:28 am the 326 pulled up, covered in a giant yellow “Xtreme Radio!!!” ad. Whenever I see busses covered in those ads I think it looks pretty cool. Well now that I have been in a bus that has one, I hate em! It makes the bus darker inside and you really can’t see out the windows very well. A person in a motorized wheelchair got in the bus too. She was a very loud Appalachian type woman in a really cheerful mood. A bit too talkative with her friend who was on the ride with her. She kept trying to talk him into shopping at the CVS and Rite Aid with her. As she tried to get off at W. 65th she rolled her knee into a bar that was sticking out. She started wailing “My knee, my knee! Oh lord my knee!” She was very dramatic about it. The woman sitting a seat away with a child sleeping with his head in her lap rolled her eyes at me.
A few stops later I got off the bus. Walked down W.73rd to my office. It was a very pleasant experience and am looking forward to my ride home.
May 9, 2005
My ride home seemed to take a bit longer. I got on the #326 at Detroit and W. 73rd at 5pm. The bus was half-filled. It was a louder ride then the ride in. Lots of students yammering about. Teasing each other. It was a quick ride to Public Square.
I got off and walked over towards E. 3rd and Rockwell but found a stop before that on the Northeast quadrant of Public Square. I got there as a 39F stopped. As I started to get on the busdriver stopped me and told me that the bus was turning into a "B". I was confused so I got back off. A woman at the stop asked me what the driver said. I told her I wasn't sure. I asked the busdriver if the bus was going as far as E. 176th and Grovewood. She said yes but it was not going to be an "F", express.
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Now I get it. So I started to get on and she stopped me again. She told me that the bus was not going to be leaving for another 7 minutes and an "F" would be coming any time now. I still got on. The bus was very clean and had an empty seat by a big window that started below the seat and went up to the top. I thought it would be like riding along in a fishbowl. That seemed like fun to me. After sitting there for 2 or 3 minutes I realized how HOT a fishbowl in the sun could become. I stuck it out tho.
A women came up to the bus door yelling at the busdriver, "WHY ARE YOU PARKED HERE?! I CAN'T SEE WHAT OTHER BUSSES ARE COMING AND I CAN'T WALK OUT INTO THE STREET!" She was an older woman with a cane. The bus driver told her she would be moving in just one minute. The woman started yelling at her again, "YOU DID THIS YESTERDAY, I'M GOING TO REPORT YOU, I'M GOING TO REPORT YOU!!" The bus driver closed the door and pulled away. I felt bad for the busdriver. She seemed really nice. As we started to turn the corner a 30-something man who was dressed in full Malcom X with a dashiki came running after the bus. The driver stopped and he got on with a "Thank you my sister." I thought that was kinda cool.
As we rode home I realized we were going to go down Lakeshore thru Brathenhal. I tried to guess who were the people who were going to get off in that neighborhood. I was pretty much right on the money. One surprise was a guy who looked like a mall kiosk cell phone accessories salesman. He got off in a very tony area.
I got off the bus at E.174th and the short walk to my house felt like the longest walk. I really thought "why am I doing this? I'm tired, my dog probably has his legs crossed waiting for me." I did nothing else that night but make dinner, walk my dog and watch a documentary on the Carter Family.
May 10, 2005
Alright, yes. I have done it again. Although as I waited for the #39 at 174th and Grovewood I thought about how stupid this whole thing is if I am just "not driving to work" every day and taking the bus. It seems stupid to make an "adventure" out of this. People do it every day. No big deal. I was thinking that I need to do other things without my car. I think I am going to go grocery shopping tonite. I will try and bike or just walk. It's supposed to rain. I imagine a bit of rain won't kill me. A bit of lightening might tho. I tend to be the tallest thing around. We shall see.
The bus ride this morning started out nice. I got a good seat with lots 'o leg room. As I sat there I thought about listening to music but the silent ride downtown is very peaceful.
At around 152nd and Lakeshore, 4 or 5 people got on the bus. The last person was a woman with very thick glasses who looked to be about 30-something. When she got on the bus it was kinda crowded but there were empty seats toward the back and the middle. She walked up to the seats in the front of the bus that face the aisle and in a very high voice, asked a man who was sitting there if she could have his seat. He ignored her. She then asked the woman next to him if she could have her seat. She ignored her too.
She then did this very formally about 3 times to both of them. They kept ignoring her. It was kinda weird. Finally the guy told her there were plenty of seats in the back. She said in her high loud voice, "I'm disabled! I'm disabled". She then asked both of them about 2 more times for their seats. No one got up at all. This whole thing was making me really nervous.
Finally the bus driver turned around and said that the woman has a "disabled" pass. The guy got up and walked towards the middle while muttering under his breath about her and sat down. The woman with glasses continued to announce that she was disabled. She was getting the other passengers attention, "Ma'am, ma'am, ma'am....I AM disabled, I AM." She did that until she personally told everyone near the front of the bus that she was indeed disabled. I believed her.
At the next stop an older woman got on the bus and the guy that wouldn't get up for the disabled woman immediately jumped up and offered the older woman his seat. I was happy to get off the bus downtown.
After I got off the #39 I decided to get a cup of coffee. I didn't do that yesterday partly because I was worried about the "no food or drink" rule on RTA. It didn't seem to apply to morning coffee. The perky girl at the Starshmucks counter in a giggley manner asked me "How my day was so far". What else could I say but, "Fine thank you."
I walked over to the Northwest quadrant of Public Square to catch the #326 again. It is just so lovely there in the mornings. Really.
At the stop a well dressed young man with a see-thru backpack was asking people for change. I thought it was weird until I "saw-thru" his backpack and noticed soap, comb, underwear, blanket and a styrofoam take-out box. I don't know why, but something about that told me he was a runaway maybe?
And maybe I am reading too much into it.
The #326 came about 10 minutes later and I got on the bus with a bunch of students, a punkrocker, and a cute butch lesbian.
I got off the bus across from the McDonalds at 72nd and Detroit and walked down to my office arriving 15 minutes early. Not bad.
The ride home.
The ride home was really quick. I snuck out of work about 10 minutes early to see if I could catch the 5pm #326 at Detroit and 73rd. I did. Ya know, so far all the bus drivers have been really nice people. It goes against what so many people complain about.
My dad was a bus driver in the early 60s for Cleveland's bus system. I think it was called CRT then. I don't think he was a very nice bus driver.
His favorite story is about how he used to have to always pick up old ladies in front of the West Side Market and how bags of fruit and vegatables would always break as they were getting on the bus. He told us how annoyed he would get hearing them scream and complain if he wouldn't get off the bus and help them pick up all their stuff. How they would beg him to crawl under the bus for a rolling green pepper. One day he was running late and an old Italian woman's bag broke. A couple dozen tomatoes went spilling under the bus. ( I think he exagerated that part a bit) He said he told her to back away from the bus and he would get off and help her. As she got back onto the sidewalk he "slammed the bus door and sped off crushing all of her tomatoes!" This story was always told with such glee. It used to bug me. Still does I guess.
Anyway...I was able to catch a #39F as soon as I got off the #326. The timing was perfect. I sat down in my fishbowl sauna window seat. The bus got pretty packed pretty quick. A woman sat in the seat next to mine and I was trying my darndest to make room for her. I had my backpack in my lap and crossed my arms and was holding my elbows very tight. I think she thought I was maybe creeped out about the idea of touching her with my elbows so I thought I should make some sort of pleasant small talk.
Hmmmm. What do you say to a stranger? You mention how you wish it were Friday, or you mention the weather. I mulled for a moment, practiced my line in my head and then said,
"Boy...feels like August doesn't it?"
She chuckled and said, "Yeah, I can't believe it's only May and it's this hot."
I chuckled back, "Yeah."
Mission accomplished. Things felt more relaxed immediately. It's so interesting how the smallest connection of human-ness can make things easier. ( I think I need a small connection with some basic vocabulary and grammar here too.)
I got off the #39 to make a quick stop at Walgreens a couple of miles from my house. This may seem like something that is too personal to talk about on a blog like this, but I think it's relevent. I was surprised by the start of my period this afternoon. That is the one thing I did not count on when I started my car-free week. I usually keep extra "supplies" in my car's glove box. So I had to stop and buy some "supplies" on the way home. I got back on the bus about 15 minutes later and took it to my stop. Pretty simple.
May 11, 2005
MY DAY OF SHAME AND EXCUSES.
Okay. Yes. I drove to work today. I'm angry about it.
I have a dog who I have to take outside by 6, 6:30 at the latest. I can't count on my co-workers to finish on deadline. I work for a newspaper and it goes to print today. It goes to print every Wednesday. I am the last one to work on it. I have to stay til it is finished. They could not tell me yesterday that they could finish on deadline. I asked them if they please could. I told them why it was so important. They still couldn't promise to finish by deadline. I'm really upset about this. I know there are other things I could have done to make this work...but I didn't. I am not going to give this project up tho. I am not driving tomorrow. No way. After I get home from work I am not driving either. ugh. ughh.
May 12, 2005
Yay! Back on track. And today was no easy day to be car-less. I do a radio show at WRUW on Thursday mornings from 8-10am. The station is located at Case Western Reserve University which is in University Circle on the eastside of Cleveland. There are no real direct ways of getting there via the bus system. So I decided to take my bike AND the bus to get there. I had to get up pretty early to make this happen. 5am to be exact.
I started to leave the house around 5:40am but when I got my bike out of the basement and out the door I had somehow knocked the chain loose. Ugh. I love riding a bike but I hate getting dirty. Yes, I can be amazingly prissy at times. After about 10 minutes of fussing with the chain I got it popped back on. I jumped on my bike and rode the 1/4 mile to the busstop. It was such a nice cold cloudy morning, I loved it.
I ended up waiting about 20 minutes for a #37bus. I think I just missed the one before. When the bus pulled up I went to the front and pulled down the bike rack and put my bike on the front of the bus. It's very quick and easy. I always worry it's going to fall off when we hit bumps and go flying into traffic or under the bus. Hasn't happened yet tho.
I rode the #37 up into Clevleland Heights. I thought that way it would be an easy downhill ride to the radio station. A friend, "Carless Ann", offered to ride along with me on her bike. I got off at the end of her street and rolled down to her house. We went down a bumpy pot-holed Meadowbrook Road. I have been hanging around Cleveland Heights since 1988 or so and that road has NEVER been smooth.
We then rolled down Coventry, that was nice. Then down Mayfield Road through Little Italy. Lots of cars. I would have rather gone thru Lakeview Cemetary but I think they (not the dead people, the groundskeepers) frown on riding yr bike there.
I love flying in the wind on two wheels. I like to go really fast. Ann would rather "just enjoy the ride" I mentioned this to her and she said that I ride in "fits". Fast, slow, fast, slow. I'm sure that's annoying.
I got down to the station and locked up my bike. I was in such a good mood from the bike ride thru Cleveland Heights so early in the morning.
I did my radio show (www.stonecoldbikini.com) It went well.
To get to work on the West side I decided to take a bus and just bike a little bit. From the radio station at the corner of Bellflower and Ford I rode over to Juniper and then up 115th to Superior. It was there that I could catch the #326 that would take me right to work. I only waited about 10 minutes for the bus. When I got on it was kinda empty and quiet. That all changed in a matter of two stops.
At around 110th st. About 10 people got on. One of them was a woman who I imagine was in her late teens, early 20s. She was dressed QUITE fancy. Red patent leather slides, white satin pants and a bright red blouse. She was carrying a metal box-like purse that was covered in blinged-out accoutrements and the word "fetish" across the front. The guy she was with was model handsome in a leather jacket and a bright red baseball cap. They got on together but he walked towards the back of the bus and sat down. She sat down in the front next to me... waaaaaaaay too close. She had the whole side of her body leaning against mine. She really did not have to be that close. It made me uncomfortable.
As I sat there I realized she was arguing with someone. There was no one around. Then I heard the baseball hat handsome guy in the back of the bus arguing back at her. It got pretty heated. She started shouting "You're like a female, you're like a female, I'm gonna cap yr ass"
A bunch of high school age kids got on right after that and she knew a few of them. They all started talking and laughing and that took some of the heat out of the situation. She eventually got off telling him, "My nigga has an Escalade, I don't need this bus! I don't need you!"
A few stops later, as the bus pulled up to a bus stop shelter there were what appeared to be two 20-something women basically laying on top of each other making out. Everyone on the bus went silent as we stopped. I heard the woman behind me who had a toddler in her lap tell the person at the other end of the cell phone that there were "dykes" in East Cleveland. As the bus pulled away, everyone started debating about what they had seen. "It was two chicks!" "NO, that was a dude!" "Oh...that's just wrong, just wrong" "They ain't nothing wrong with that! They ain't men" Pretty much everyone got off downtown in Public Square.
I rode the rest of the way to W. 73rd. Got my bike off the front of the bus and rode down to my office. Very nice.
4, The Ride Home
May 12, 2005
You will not believe this...when I got on the #326 to go downtown the bus was FILLED WITH CHICKENS!!!!!!!
No. Not really. I got a ride home yesterday. I think that was a bit of a cheat. But I did not drive. I left my bike at work. I will take a bus in tomorrow morning and then ride it home.
May 13, 2005
This is the last day of the experiment. I hate to sound corny, but it has been really kind of empowering to take the bus, and/or bike for most of the week. It feels sorta freeing. It's also nice to start to recognize people at the stop and say good morning. I have been in a much better mood when I get to work. When I drive in the mornings I am so inside my own head fretting about everything while music and news blasts on my car radio. Not soothing really.
I got on the #39 this morning at 7:45am. It was a nice easy trip with no drama at all. I got to sit in my fishbowl seat and see everything in the front seats of people's cars as we passed them on the Shoreway. It made me feel better about the state of my car. Not as messy as most.
Also...if you are driving a big macho truck with red, white, and blue "ribbons" plastered all over it, vanity plates that say "4X4EVER, don't sit and pick your nose for 4 or 5 minutes. It's not really a proud patriotic display on your part.
I got off my bus downtown and stopped at the starsmucks for a morning coffee and a dose of over-perkyness. Now I think I know what Meg Ryan would be doing if she were not acting.
I walked over to the #326 stop at the Northwest quadrant of Public Square. On my way over I noticed a pack of teens eating apple slices and yogurt out of a plastic container. I thought that was kinda odd since almost all the teens I see walking around downtown or on the bus always have cans of pringles chips. I think that is their lunch or breakfast most days.
I then saw a couple of women handing out free samples of McHeart Disease's new lunch item. Fruit and Walnut Salad. I wanted one but always feel weird about asking for free stuff. I got over it and walked up to the people handing them out. They gave me one. I wonder if it's the same size as the one you have to buy. It had 4 small slices of apple. About 4 grapes and a 1/4 cup of really overly sweet yogurt. No walnuts at all. I wonder how much the real one is. It's not gonna make kids healthier if for the price of the the Fruit and Walnut Salad they could get 3 cheeseburgers and a small fries.
As I waited for the #326 I sat down and just marveled at how much I just love being in Public Square in the morning. It doesn't hurt that it's a sunny spring morning.
As the the virtual robins were circling my head and singing a sweet song, a bum fight broke out in front of me. Not really a fight...more like a spat.
One guy, we'll call him "Salty", the retired merchant marine, threw his friend, we'll call him "Slim," the cracked-out retired parking lot attendent's jacket into traffic. After doing that, Salty stood there with his arms akimbo daring Slim to "get the jacket now!" Slim lit a cigarette turned his back on Salty and started cussing him out.
Eventually Salty gave up, picked up the coat, folded it neatly and put it over his arm like a maitre 'd at a 4 star restaurant. He walked over to an RTA driver standing on the corner who was probably waiting for his shift. Salty asked the driver for a dollar. Slim walked away. That was the end of the spat.
The #326 bus arrived more crowded then usual. I got on and sat next to a guy who did not seem like he wanted to share his seat. He had a bananna in his chest pocket. He was not happy to see me.
I got off the bus at my regular stop and walked down to my office in such a good mood. Tonite I have to take my bike home. It's s'pose's to storm. Oy!
5, the ride home
May 13, 2005
Nope, no rain. And I'm so proud of myself. I rode my bike from my office at W. 73rd to Public Square. I know that is NO BIG DEAL to any regular bicycle rider. And it's no big deal to anyone who is in semi-decent shape. I am not.
The ride wasn't too bad. Traffic was a little heavy between W73rd and W65th, but after that it was semi-pleasant. The one big concern I had was going over the Detroit-Superior bridge. As a matter of pride, I did not want to have to get off my bike and walk when the hill got too tough to ride up.
When I got to the W.25th and Detroit intersection, traffic was kinda crazy. It took a long time for the light to change to just get across W25th. So when I did, I decided not to wait another 5 minutes to get the the North side of the bridge and decided to just go over the bridge on the very narrow South side sidewalk.
Seemed like a good idea until I got to almost the very top where it is JUST wide enuff for one bike, another bicyclist was coming the other way. He seemed to be zooming along on his BMX style bike. I decided to get off mine and try and make as much room as possible for him to pass. I felt so stupid at that point for not crossing Detroit to go to the North Sidewalk when I had the chance.
He zoomed by and thanked me for making room. I got back on my bike, peddled the couple of yards up the rest of the incline and then zoomed down the other side towards Public Square. That was a blast.
I headed up Superior and instead of trying to ride right through Public Square I took a left onto W.6th then turned right onto a one-way street going the wrong way. I Headed towards Rockwell and W.3rd and got there just in time to catch a #39F bus.
I got off my bike and tried to pull the bike rack down. It was stuck. I tried a few times one handed while my other hand held onto my bike. It wasn't budging. I looked up at the bus driver. She looked at me bored and shrugged her shoulders. I felt kinda dumb at that point. Kinda silly looking all red-faced and sweaty with my big bike helmet trying to yank down the bike rack.
I decided to just set my bike aside with the kickstand down and try it with two hands. I had to really, really bully the thing. It came down with a thunk. At the same moment the wind blew my bicycle into the street.
When my bike hit the ground the seat came off with a couple of little parts that hold it on. I was a real spazzmo at this point scrambling to gather all the doo-dads and get my bicycle up on the rack. The handlebars were a little bit twisted too.
I stumbled on to the bus and apologized to "Yvonne" for taking so long. She shrugged again without looking at me. I think Yvonne was bored.
I walked to the middle of what appeared to be normally a long-distance type bus. Really comfy seats with personal a/c vents above each seat. Very nice.
On the ride home, while fretting about my bike bouncing around to Yvonne's lead footed driving, I sat there and thought about the week of (almost a whole week) not using my car. It was great. It felt very freeing. I also thought about how much better I felt since I was walking more, exercising more, polluting less.
It's easy for me to say all this though since I have the option of taking the bus OR driving my car.
It would be cool if RTA offered an "Anytime" pass of sorts. One you could buy ahead of time and use for 10 rides. Anytime. Within a month or something like that. Sort of a "gift certificate" pass. I would be more up for riding the bus if I had one of those. That way I could buy a pass and NOT have to use it every day in a week or month.
c a r l e s s - in - c l e v e l a n d