A few weekends ago, Bus Nerd traveled to Chicago to attend a wedding. Some couples drop each other off at the airport when one goes away on a trip, but our car-free custom is a little different. In our case, the spouse remaining in Seattle accompanies the traveler on the bus ride to SeaTac, usually saying a final goodbye at the entrance to the security line.
Unfortunately, for this particular trip, Bus Nerd's departing flight left at 11:30 PM. This meant that I'd miss the last 194 (the express airport bus) back to downtown and would be returning home--after dark, no less--on its ugly steproute, the 174. (A word about the 174: It's not on my list of favorite routes. For those of you who haven't ridden the 174 before, think of it as the 358's southern cousin: slow, crowded, occasionally plagued with illegal behavior, and seasoned with a generally unpleasant vibe.)
It's not like me to be skittish about riding at night -- I happen to love it, as long as I don't have to wait at isolated stops or walk long distances -- or, for that matter, about any particular route. Sure, there are some routes I like less than others, but I have yet to encounter one that inspires fear. And yet, for some reason I can't name, on the Thursday of Bus Nerd's departure, I was feeling nervous about riding the 174 late at night, alone. (I choose to blame it on the Bus Baby I'm incubating. My current condition makes me conspicuous, messes with my state of mind, prevents me from running--at least from running fast--and generally makes me feel like a big, waddling target.)
I decided to go, despite my misgivings. (What's a minor case of nerves compared to a lovely, romantic bus tradition?) After I said goodbye to Bus Nerd, I joined the crowd of airport workers, returning travelers, smokers, and assorted other folks waiting at the SeaTac bus stop. Within minutes, I spotted a familiar face: none other than Mr. Clato Barnes, an elder at my church who also happens to work for the Transportation Security Administration. Mr. Barnes lives in my neighborhood and was waiting for the 174, too. I didn't say hi because he was reading the paper after a long day at work, and I didn't want to interrupt him, but his presence helped me relax -- and remember why I don't fear buses, no matter what time of night I ride:
The folks riding with me may be strangers, but one of those strangers is an elder at someone's church. Another is someone's grandmother, neighbor, or best friend. Yes, there are occasionally troublemakers who make it less-than-pleasant to ride, but among my community of fellow passengers, I always feel safe.
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