By Sheridan Kowta
It’s been a long day, and the search for my keys at the bottom of my bag is the last hurdle until my trek home is over. I should be used to the two hours it takes me to get home: take the North Ely from Casa to the G&G plaza, wait 45 minutes, and transfer onto the 44 Sonoma County Transit that takes me to Rohnert Park. It should be second nature. But it’s not, especially this year, my junior year.
This year the North Ely seems crowded with Casa’s younger brothers and sisters: shouting at passersby, slamming the windows, and kicking the seats in front of them. The bus gets smaller as each student piles in, sucking out the oxygen and drowning us as they do. The air conditioning cannot even slice its way through us on those hot, unforgiving days.
As the bus slowly moves forward, I am suspended in time. Caught in the current of shouts, I try to find an ebb and flow in the chaos, or perhaps a companion to wade with as we wait to be let up for air. My stop is at the later part of the route.
I’m swept along long enough to watch most of my fellow riders find home before I do. But as they leave they are replaced with fresh oxygen, some wiggle room, and an ounce more of comfort in my journey. The worst part is over.
I surface at the bus stop next to Leghorn Park, where the insufficient shelter lets the afternoon sun bake my legs as I wait. I used to tell myself that I would use those forty five minutes in between buses to catch up on my homework, but I stopped kidding myself at the end of sophomore year. That time is better spent watching the tall maple across the street change with the seasons.
I try not to watch the cars as they drive by. When I do, I become acutely aware of how many are watching me sitting here in this glass box on the side of the road. It is a little discomforting when I give it enough thought.
All these cars are passing me by while I am frozen here, waiting for a giant whale-of-a-car to bring me home. My place to go has become an abstraction and lost its importance through unreliable bus schedules.
Just when I think the bus has failed me for the last time, I see its headlights in the distance. The ear-shattering sound of the brakes gives me hope that I will reach home someday. I am brought to my feet as the doors swing open. It’s an intercity bus with bigger seats, cleaner floors, and even free Wi-Fi. It’s my Lazy Susan.
The bus drivers are able to handle the beast with ease, bringing it around wide turns and to easy stops. On a particularly calm day, I might even slip into a light sleep, waking up in just enough time to ring the bell for my stop.
The 44 always leaves me tired, whether it is because I have already spent two hours getting home or because the tide of the bus lulls me to sleep, I’m not sure, but that last half mile to my house is always in a sleep walk.
Public transportation lost its excitement long ago, and in extreme weather the trip can be grueling. But it is my responsibility to do it. It has certainly opened my eyes to other means of travel and I welcome the independence that comes with swimming on my own.