There’s a bus stop conveniently located right in front of the hospital. I used to use it every day to catch the 43 home. These days, when my shift is over, I typically walk the length of The Health Sciences Building and catch my 43 at the stop down the street. It’s less crowded over there, and the walk helps me stretch my legs after being confined to a scheduling desk all day. I love to walk even when it’s between work and home in Seattle.
One Friday afternoon, the clock hit five. I logged off, powered down, shut off, and started walking. I walked on and on. The Health Sciences Building goes on forever. Even if the main hallway didn’t have those jogs in it, I don’t think it would be possible to see from one end to the other. I made it only halfway. An impulse struck me. I turned left, then climbed two flights of stairs. I crossed the T-wing bridge and walked across campus.
I had found my present job with the same serendipitous attitude I use during my commutes home. It wasn’t until after I’d accepted the job that it occurred to me that I had achieved a dream I didn’t know I’d dreamed – to work on a university campus. I grew up in a house full of reference books – It feels comfortable to me to be surrounded by all that learning. University campuses have that same preference for humans over motor vehicles that I found so appealing about Dutch cities. And there’s some other feeling going on here that I haven’t yet been able to focus on. Maybe it’ll come to me someday while I’m looking out through a bus window.
I walked past The Henry Art Gallery and waited for either a 7 or a 9 in front of Schmitz Hall. Pretty soon, a 43 came by, and I climbed aboard. I had no reason to prefer the 7/9 over the 43, and, of course, I could have caught the 43 without walking all the way across campus. And one other thing: The 43 I caught wasn’t even the right bus – It was a “Capitol Hill Only” 43, which turns left onto Broadway and doesn’t make my stop by The Rite Aid.
I do that sometimes – change my commute on a whim or two, I mean. I do it because I can. I work in The U-District and I live in the QFC side of Broadway. I never need to read a bus schedule, and I almost never look at my watch. Is the bus on time? I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter to me as I kept on thinking about Sleepless in Seattle and how it really ended. There’s always another bus in a few minutes.
My daily commutes are never something I dread. Most of the time, especially when I’m into a good book or when I’ve got something on my mind that I want to write down, I actually look forward to my commute. The bus ride is free from distractions and requirements – It’s a relaxing buffer between booting down at work and booting up at home. On that particular afternoon, I found a copy of the tenth-anniversary issue of “Tricycle: The Buddhist Review” that someone had left on the bus seat. I started reading about great moments in American Buddhism. The bus stopped in front of the hospital, and I kept reading and started to think about visiting SAM tomorrow. Saturdays are okay for that.
When the bus made its last stop on John, a couple of blocks before Broadway, I tossed my knapsack (with the Tricycle Magazine inside) onto my shoulder and exited out the back door. The couple in front of me grumbled to each other that busses ought to tell you where they’re going before you get on ‘em. Some people aren’t meant for public transit. There are skills involved in riding a bus, including reading the destination sign – or, if you can’t, asking.
Riding a bus requires the realization that nothing in life – except maybe television and radio – starts exactly when the second-hand reaches twelve. (It think it was David Brinkley who originally said that.) The same traffic that routinely makes patients late for their appointments makes busses late, as well. Riding a bus requires the ability to do something while you aren’t doing anything – like conversing, reading, sightseeing, eavesdropping, or just zoning out. (OK, so maybe the bus ride isn’t completely free from distractions and requirements.)
I started walking in a generally northwesterly direction. I needed to buy some snap peas and rent some videos on my way home. It was the second or third day of Spring, and it was a beautiful afternoon – not too hot, not too cold, neither rainy nor sunny. I don’t get over to the Safeway side of Broadway very often. It feels quite different than our side of the neighborhood – fewer inclines, and a greater ratio of houses to apartment buildings.
I suddenly recognized the building in front of me. Flynn used to live there. I doubt he still does. That was over fifteen years ago. That was a fun party until the neo-nazis from upstairs crashed it (literally). They shoved some guy’s head through the kitchen window and made off down the alley with our keg. I don’t see many nazi skinheads around here anymore. Broadway is always changing.
Then I found a pea patch I never knew existed. It stopped me in mid-step. I have no special interest in pea patches, except that I enjoy good design and this one had excellent stone and woodwork, and there was no reason it shouldn’t be there. It was just rather shocking to discover something that big so close to home. It was a realization that my random commutes haven’t been so random after all.
Just before I turned to cross Broadway, I passed two SUVs at a standoff – both drivers apparent baffled by the mechanisms of a traffic circle. Some people aren’t meant for private transportation. An articulated trolley was pulling away from Broadway Market – probably the 7/9 I would have been on if I’d waited a few more minutes in front of Schmitz Hall.
I love this neighborhood. I’m going to miss it when we move away.