As I mentioned at Get Rich Slowly the other day, I’ve discovered the bus.

I can recall riding the bus when I was just a boy (so before the age of two — right, Mom?), and I rode it once in high school to visit Paul Carlile when he was in foster care, but I’ve never ridden it as an adult. I’ve been on buses in other cities — just not in Portland.

What took me so long?

I was sort of in a panic Wednesday when I learned that the routine service on my new (used) Mini would keep the car in the shop overnight. How would I get home? Eventually I realized I could take the bus.

And I rode the bus back into the city on Thursday. A fifteen minute walk to the bus stop at Oak Grove and McLoughlin, a twenty minute ride, and bam! There I was at 4th and Washington.

I love it.

I had a sense of exhilarating freedom as I sat in O’Bryant Square just killing time. I know this probably sounds lame, but it’s liberating to not have a car downtown. I didn’t have to worry about parking. I could wlak where I wanted and take as long as I wanted. I could watch the skateboarders, and the mounted police (and the bicycle police), and the businessmen eating Chinese takeout on the park benches. I could sit there and write.

Sure, I could do all of those things if I’d driven downtown, too. But I wouldn’t. I’d be in a completely different mindset. It’s as if when I stepped on that bus I entered a different world — a parallel universe.

Later in the day, I met my friend Ramit for lunch at Kenny and Zuke’s. He was in town from San Francisco to promote his new book. I lingered a long time, chatting with our readers (especially Davy and Kinley), and then walked up to the Mini dealer to get my car.

The whole time, I felt like I was in a strange and wonderful alternate universe. All because of public transportation.

(I’ll admit, though, that it felt good to drive home!)

2 Replies to “Parallel Universe”

  1. Mom says:

    It was probably around the age of 2 that I took you on the buses, J.D. I can’t remember exactly how old you were. It wasn’t much later than that because we moved to Canby when you were 2 3/4 and I doubt that I took both you and younger Jeff on the bus when he was old enough to walk. (J.D. and Jeff are just 16 months apart.) I may have taken you both when you were younger — Jeff had surgery on his nose to create the tear duct when he was 9 months old and I had to get to the doctor and back by bus. I doubt I had a babysitter so likely you were traveling with us at that point. You have a good memory, to recall that you had been on the Portland buses when so young.

  2. I started taking the bus to work every day about 2 years ago. This has completely revitalized my ‘downtown experience’ as well.

    Where I work they pay a portion of your parking OR, if you ride the bus, a majority of your monthly bus pass. It was costing me about $40/month for parking, and roughly double that in just gas. Add in normal maintenance cost per mile and I realized I was spending a boat-load on just getting to and from work.

    After switching, I spend $18/month out of pocket for a 31 day bus pass. Since that time I’ve spent numerous Saturdays downtown just because I can get there for free.

    I have also experienced the liberating feeling you mention, of being downtown without a car. It’s nice not to worry about parking.

    My favorite thing to do is to take my bike with me. It’s amazing how easy it is to get around downtown with a bike.

    Hopefully my wife and I will be moving to Portland soon and when we do we plan to all but abandon our cars in favor of the public transportation system there. Glad to hear it’s a pleasant experience!

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