the big blue bus

The Big Blue Bus sounds like it should be in a children’s song—the bus whose wheels go round and round (round and round). I took the Big Blue Bus to work today, from Santa Monica to Downtown L.A.—line 10, the freeway express—and then back again.

A few weekends ago, I took the bus to Westwood for a haircut (call it a trial run). I climbed aboard two blocks from my apartment, and hopped off a block from the Aveda teaching salon. The hair was cut and I wandered around Westwood, unanchored and un-parked. I had a leasiurely Corner Bakery lunch with a friend, got lost in a second-hand clothing store, and when it was all over and I was done with Westwood, I hopped on the bus and went home.

Wandering around Westwood, I was surprisingly aware that I hadn’t parked anywhere. There was no reference point, no meter to fret, no spot to find before coming home. I drive to Westwood twice a week through grinding traffic and stressful cars, A to B and then B to A, and nothing in between. Arriving there on the bus was arriving to a different place. Not having to park or drive (or be anywhere on time, the luxury of a Saturday) but simply walking around made Westwood feel like a charming bubble—like a town-–rather than simply part of the city’s sprawl.

Reared in car culture L.A., it was easier to drive–it’s always easier to drive, and lucky me, there was always a car, or there was always someone with a car. Perhaps because I don’t have to depend on it–I have an alternative when it’s raining–I liked the bus. I liked walking the two blocks to the bus stop, and the enforced time outside while waiting for the bus, time to look at the clouds, to wonder if it was going to rain, to watch the people walking by and waiting with me. On Saturday, I waited at Berkeley and Santa Monica Blvd., and a parade of Stanford football fans burst out of Busby’s Bar and marched down the street—one played a trumpet, I kid you not; another banged on his drums—and around the block before disappearing back into the bar.

On my inaugural trip downtown, I read the newspaper. On my inaugural trip back home, I learned that missing the bus sucks. I left work, turned up Spring, and saw the Big Blue Bus hurtle up Temple St. I resigned myself to a half-an-hour wait until the next one, relieved to know that at least I was at the right stop, that the bus was running (for a few moments at work, I had wondered what I’d do if the bus just didn’t come). So, I leaned up against the marble wall enclosing city hall, in the narrow shadow of an office building, and watched the shade fall over downtown. Line D—the downtown Dash—must have passed by 20 times before another Big Blue trundled up, but I was prepared with reading, music, and the eyes for people watching.

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