The Unshakable World Traveler


I’ve never considered myself less car-dependent than I have in the past year—living as I am in the city, within walking distance of my office and being an avid (er, fair-weather) road biker—I like to think of myself as rather self-sufficient. So when in January I got the idea that I should forego my car altogether in favor of a sexy little scooter, I really didn’t see how it would impact my life in any negative way at all.

Sure, it rains in Seattle a full twelve months of the year and my parents, grandparents, and Donald Dog are a 45-minute scooter ride away. And sure, I should probably have put my tax return into my retirement fund. One could even argue that I should have left my savings right where it was, all safe and warm in the bank.

But, look at her—she’s so cute!

2007 Honda Metropolitan

Her name is Ruby.

Donald Dog

And look! Donald is so cute, too. (Although, granted, that’s basically irrelevant to this story.)

It was a lifestyle change I was willing to take on, clouded as I was by my love for Ruby and the chance to be, well, awesome.

It only took a month for disaster to strike. Let’s begin with last Monday. While attending a superb lecture on gender issues downtown, I lost my Orca card. When I got off the bus in the U District, I had no way to pay my fare, as I’d lost the card along the way. Thank you, Lord for gracious bus drivers. I reported my card lost and received a replacement in the mail on Thursday.

On Friday, I planned a trip to Bellevue for the following day. Since Ruby can’t go on freeways, I could a) drive her around the end of Lake Washington and arrive at my destination in approximately 47 minutes. Option b) I could take two buses and be there in an hour. With this unspeakable weather we’ve been having, I planned a bus route there.

Saturday morning I boarded the bus and tapped my new Orca card. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS, the card reader said. Drat. Evidently, my balance had not been transferred as I’d been led to believe it would. Fortunately, unlike on Monday, I had cash reserves with me in the form of precisely nine one-dollar bills. Less fortunately, I didn’t think to bring quarters. I paid three dollars for my $2.25 fare and took a seat.

Once we got downtown, my next problem became evident as my connecting bus to Bellevue pulled away in front of my bus as we arrived at the stop. After exhausting all my options, poring over a map with a friendly security guard, I perched on a bench with my book and waited thirty minutes for the next number 550 to come by.

I hopped on and away we went over the bridge. As I prepared to disembark at my stop, I showed my transfer slip to the bus driver, who was noticeably unkind. “Those are only for Metro buses.” Well isn’t that just the epitome of unfair. I owed $2.50, and being as I was without any quarters, I handed him another three of my nine dollars, stalked off the bus, and immediately started sniffling as I trudged the half mile to my destination.

It was absolutely pouring rain. I mean, buckets. I wanted to call my mom and dad. On the upside, my purpose in risking my life, health, and happiness to be in Bellevue was to attend a retreat. Also in attendance would be at least three people I could ask for a ride home, and so instead of giving up completely, I forged ahead, livid as all get-out about how difficult my life is.

In my mind, I reviewed all the things that had gone wrong in the past week. My memory of each one was bigger and worse in my mind than it had been in reality and I was fuming as I walked in the door of the retreat center. I was fifteen minutes late so I poured myself a big cup of coffee and settled into a seat in the back.

That’s exactly where I was when, two minutes later, my stomach sank with a horrifying realization.

Earlier in the week my dad had loaned me his car. I used it for a day to take care of my grandparents, and then parked it on my street where he could come get it later. And as I sat in that seat, soaking wet and at my wit’s end, I realized: it was still parked on the street outside my front door.

Oh yes, on the day when my hour-and-a-half bus adventure could not have gone less as planned, I could have just driven myself there in precisely 25 minutes.

Initially, I was furious with and embarrassed for myself. That lasted about 90 seconds, until I really had to admit that, truly, this is probably the funniest thing that has ever happened to me.

With only three dollars to my name and finding myself a six-dollar horror show away from home, I was thankful for a friend who was happy to give me a ride at the end of the day.

You know how the saying goes—there’s nothing like taking a bus to the Eastside to learn some valuable life lessons! From now on, I’ll be sure to grab a handful of quarters on my way out the door. I’ll also be sure to take a glance around to see if I’m forgetting about any vehicles I might have access to.

Author’s note: somewhere in the midst of this, I actually thought to myself, “I wish I had more to write about, but living in the US is just so uninteresting.” Shoot me.

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