Friday, April 15, 2011

Small Town: Day 37 of 40 Days

Riding the bus is always an interesting experience, different depending on where you are, but always interesting. Today, Lucas took the car down to Redding to run some errands, and I took the bus up to Mt. Shasta to spend the day in the studio.

We are lucky that there is a bus in these parts. It runs from our little town of Dunsmuir all the way up to Yreka, the county seat, connecting all of the little towns along the way. The bus runs from around 7 in the morning until 6 at night, roughly every hour, from Monday through Friday. My experiences riding this bus are more similar to those of the country buses in Mexico around Tepoztlan than any bus I have ridden in the States, yet far different too.

The closest bus stop to our house is a 15 minute walk away. There is only 1 scheduled pick-up at this stop: 7 in the morning. If you want to be picked up at a later time, you can call the county transportation office and request a pick-up an hour in advance. When I pick the bus up again to return home from Mt. Shasta, I can stand anywhere along the route and flag down the bus to get aboard, much like in Mexico.

The bus is notoriously late, though sometimes early. Because the bus only runs through town every hour, it become necessary to get out to the bus stop early, even though it will most likely be late. The driving time door to door from my house to the studio in Mt. Shasta is about 15 minutes. This morning, by bus, it took me an hour to get to the studio and 50 minutes to get home.

While I am standing there for 20 minutes waiting for the bus to arrive, I question how much my scarce free-time is worth in money. Is it really worth it to spend this amount of time during my free day to take the bus to Mt. Shasta?? There ARE pluses and minuses to it, of course. Like today, with Lucas taking the car south to Redding, if I am going to make it to Mt. Shasta this is my only choice. It is better for the environment to take the bus. It is much more interesting to take the bus. And, with gas prices what they are, it is actually cheaper to take the bus than to drive!

Gas prices in these parts are shooting up steadily. Right now, we pay $4.37 at the pump. I heard a program on NPR today regarding national gas prices. The lowest in the country right now are apparently $3.50 or so. They quoted the highest current rates as being $4.27 in Santa Barbara and the Bay area. Well, it looks like Mt. Shasta has the rest of the nation beat! Not something to be excited about. But, definitly motivation to take the bus more often.

I can't say that I feel completely comfortable on the bus here. I feel similar to how I did when riding in Mexico. Conspicuous. I feel like I stand out. And so, I know it is a healthy kind of uncomfortable, the kind that pushes me beyond my comfort zone, that challenges me to widen my scope of compassion, and that helps me to be more accepting of others.

I shared the bus this afternoon with a man who was talking to himself behind me, a couple of teens across the aisle who were talking about huffing, and the town drunk at the back of the bus who forgot his bag when he stumbled off, among other riders. The driver was friendly with everyone, talking to and joking with them all on a first name basis. There was a general sense of ease. Everyone knew each other, chatting amongst themselves, sharing town gossip. It wasn't the quiet and solitary bus ride of the city, nor the bumpy ride filled with loud Mexican music, that I have been previously used to.

This is small town living. You tell the bus driver when you get on the bus where you need to be let out, you say "hey" to your neighbor and introduce yourself, you understand that despite our differences we all share similar struggles, and you learn the value of public transportation.

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