Sunday, August 06, 2006

BUS STORIES (Here’s The Story)


A long, long time ago (I can still remember . . . ), there was a TV show called The Naked City which ended with the voiceover, "There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them." The Naked City was New York, of course. I didn’t get there until I was in my 50s, but for the week or so I was there, I saw a remarkable story each and every day.

Several weeks ago, I began riding the bus to and from work. I’d known I should be doing my part to reduce fossil fuel consumption for some time now (just like I knew I should quit smoking years before I got around to it). But when gasoline hit $2.99 a gallon, I started doing some calculations which showed me I was spending about $2.40 per round trip to work.

Serendipitously, my employer was experiencing parking shortage problems at three of its local facilities and decided to offer employees free bus passes to try and alleviate the crunch. A few of us in the office decided the time was right for us to at least try using public transportation.

It’s worked out pretty well. I find that, whichever of the four facilities in town I might have to be working at on any given day, I can get there by bus in almost-to-the-minute double the time it takes me to drive. Most days I go to the office. That 35-minute drive now takes me 70 minutes. (As I pointed out to my wife, the bus pass means I’ve just gotten a raise of $2.40 per workday. As my wife pointed out to me, that means I’m making $2.40 per hour taking the bus . . . ).

There have been some trade-offs. I still get up at the same time (5:00 a.m.) so that’s a wash. Losses: 1) I don’t listen to the news on the way in; 2) I don’t listen to music nearly as much as I used to; 3) I don’t listen to Books-On-Tape/CDs any more – and I’ve heard some fine ones this way. Gains: 1) by all accounts, I’m more relaxed when I get to work/home (I can’t tell if this is because I’m no longer hassled by driving in this crazy traffic town, or because I don’t listen to the news anymore); 2) I get to feel virtuous about doing something to slow global warming; 3) I do a lot more periodical reading; 4) bus stories!

Which brings me back to those New York stories. These days, I can’t recall each story at the drop of a hat. I find them all eventually, but sometimes I have to take a number and read whatever’s in the waiting room. My bus stories are not nearly so memorable or colorful or so city-specific as the New York stories, and I don’t get a story a day like I did in NYC. Still, I’m quite fond of the ones I have. So I’ve begun writing them down.

Stories are meant to be shared, of course, and being both of Irish descent and an old guy means I’m doubly compelled to share them. I’ve been sharing them weekly with family and friends, and several of these folks suggested these stories are ideally suited for a blog. And so here I am, one of eight billion stories on the world wide web.

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