Mar 28, 2007

Ballard-Columbia City, SEATTLE –
The #18 driver – gruff and boxer-nosed – waves aboard a Hispanic worker with bags of discount food. "Take a transfer, man."

He shoos stringy teens past the pay box. "G'wan, go!"

No deep discount here, but he calls the depot to check my travel plan, a new one tonight.

The next driver cracks the code of south Seattle buses. "Take this route, not those. Avoid electric cars, they're slow. Go for express service that zips down I-5 or the busway."

He drops me at a convenient corner, far from any stop.

The Emerald City stands accused of chill – and not in a hipster sense. A classic Craigslist rant explains why it's "an angry, unwelcoming, repressed, socially backward little city".

Reason four – after technology, darkness and geography – is paralysis. "Too few roads and a lame transit system mean we all spend too much time in our cars, alone and stationary. This isolation becomes second nature."

Guilty as charged: the only thing rapid about our public transport system is the pace of international ridicule.

But for the last few believers, the bus has unexpected moments of beauty.

And even on the worst days – when I'm howling in the rain – at least I'm not pumping 17% of my income into the auto industry.


  1. Anonymous3:00 AM

    17% of the average travel writer's income would amount to roughly $54 a month. Try and run a car on that! (Ben's pampers blue rust bucket is the only vehicle that may fit this bill). But then again, we can tie the free, salvaged bath tub directly to the roof, which saves us a fortune....Which brings me to an anthology you should consider: "Me and my bathtub on public transport."

    Sascha :-)

  2. Hmmm. "Round Ireland with a fridge" was hit. Why not "Me and My Three-ton Rust-bucket: Begging and brawling in modern America"?

  3. Anonymous6:00 AM

    Hi Bella

    Public non-transport and health 'unsurance'- A modern freelancer's plight!

    Nothing has changed over the centuries. The free lancers used to fight at whatever front paid the most. To hell with morals or loyalties- they just fought.

    Soooo, the day you find yourself writing advertising copy for the Republicans in order to buy a car, you know that nothing much has changed in the world.

    But, but, but, with your dignity still intact as things stand, you better bring out that blooming anthology on public transport. It would make the perfect read on the road.