Monday, June 2, 2014

Maps And Muni

I don't really get sad unless I look at a map, and then I realize just how far from home I am. Without a visual representation, my brain is tricked into thinking it's just a few cities over. My mind has converted all the airports to bus stations. All the plane rides to bus trips. All the layovers to gas station stops. Technology makes the world seem a lot smaller.

Speaking of maps and buses, last night I made the mistake of looking at a map, and today over two-thirds of the buses were on strike. Today was also the first time I've cried since moving. I think I teared up saying goodbye to my parents before the plane, and maybe a little when I've gotten off the phone with family or my BFF, but I hadn't actually cried until today. I'm just not really a crier about irl things, yet a fictional character in a book can make me sob for a week. But this entry isn't going to analyze my apparent heart of stone.

I have an app on my phone that lets me know when the next few buses are arriving. I never look at it in the mornings because I know they come every ten minutes or so. But for some strange reason I decided to check it today, and it notified me the next bus was arriving in eight minutes, and then there wouldn't be another for an hour. I grabbed my things, rushed out the door and--whilst googling and running at the same time--I found out about the bus strike. And thus began a very long trip.

Public transportation problems aren't really new to me. In Philly, I lived through at least two strikes, as well as a subway fire and someone flinging themselves onto the tracks. I've been stranded in weird places and had to fight my way onto emergency buses that rioters were trying to tip over and once a lady even told me, "Sweetie, we aren't in Kansas anymore." (Maybe she picked up on my Southern accent. I like to think I looked like Judy Garland that day.) So with all those experiences behind me, I knew I'd be fine. But I also knew I'd probably be exhausted and late for work.

Because there were fewer buses running, they were packed even tighter than usual. And that's saying a lot because normally in the mornings I don't even have to hold onto the railing because I'm smashed up against other people on all sides. When I got off my first bus to transfer, the second bus didn't even stop to let people on because it was so full. It was kinda like being on the Titanic and watching a lifeboat float away. My phone let me know there wouldn't be another bus for about an hour. And I didn't really even know if that one would stop either.

My parents looking stunning in 1973
and still looking stunning just a few days ago.
I was already sort of lamely wallowing in self-pity and still thinking about the goddamn map I looked at last night and I was frustrated that I was already worn out and hadn't even been to work yet. So to distract myself, I decided to text my parents and wish them a happy anniversary. (Today is their 41st.) And that was clearly a mistake because this is where I fall apart.

My dad texted back a "Love you, too!" and my mom replied with an "I love and miss you. I am extremely proud of you." And that's when I started crying at the bus stop. I'd like to think it was a pretty sort of crying, like how Judy Garland cries when she's locked in the Wicked Witch's tower in The Wizard of Oz, softly sobbing with tears gently rolling down my cheeks. But I know it wasn't. It was ugly crying. And sniffing. And snorting. I probably looked like a maniac. Or at least like Kim Kardashian when she cries.

I don't think it was any one thing. Just the culmination of pent-up emotions and distance and apartment-hunting stress and a bad morning, and I think there's also something really heart-tugging in the phrase, "I am extremely proud of you" that just made me start wondering what the hell I was doing in this dirty city being sardined into tiny cans with wheels every morning and evening and eating noodles out of plastic and foam every night and using the toilet lid as a desk and also there was a crazy man yelling and cursing at the bus stop and I just wanted someone to kick him into the middle of traffic because all that yelling and cursing wasn't going to make the bus come any faster. Kinda like how my crying wasn't going to fix any of my problems, either. I'd need some ruby slippers for that.

But it all passed, and after a few moments I was fine again and ready for life. The second bus came after an hour. I got to work. I made it home. Life isn't so bad. There are bigger problems in the world, like wars and famine and oppressive governments, and some people never even get to talk to their family. I did almost fall off a moving bus on the way home. But I didn't. And so I shall live to ride like a sardine for another day.

-joe