Archive for March, 2005

First Stop: Chicago

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

[Chicago skyline]

Playing the Fool on Mass Transit

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Shortly after arriving in Chicago my old friend Stevie and I jumped on a bus to the city center. But in all the bustle of arriving and heading out, I neglected to think about how I was going to pay for my ride. Stevie got on and quickly put two dollars into the machine, while I looked in my wallet and found only a ten dollar bill.

“Can I put a ten into this thing?” I asked the bus driver sheepishly.

“Won’t give change.”

I stood at the front of the bus for the next several minutes embarassed and rumaging through my pockets for forgotten quarters. No luck, I spent it all on tolls. The bus stopped and I had to move out of the way, and moved further up the aisle onto the bus, with my hands still frantically shoved into my pockets. I found one dollar and fifteen cents, still not enough for a ride.

“How much you got?” The bus driver asked.

“Buck fifteen… then a ten.”

“How did you think you were going to pay for your ride?”

Interesting question. “I wasn’t thinking… I just came in from out of town.”

“The buses in your town give change?”

“We don’t really have buses where I come from.”

“I see,” and he trailed off, still leaving me there embarassed clutching a handful of change. He wasn’t throwing me off the bus, which seemed a good sign that I might make it to my destination. I was a little worried that he would demand ten dollars for my ride.

“Maybe somebody else on the bus’s got change,” the driver suggested.

I turned to the rest of the bus, “anybody got change for a ten? Anybody? Please?” Most people just stared at me like I was crazy, the others quietly shook their heads.

I stood there a few more minutes.

“Weed’s gotta cost more in this city than where you come from, huh?” This was kind of a frightening question. Stevie and I were freshly stoned, and either he was mad that I was high and acting stupid or he didn’t care and was just calling me out on my obvious intoxication.

“I’m not sure,” I said. Honestly, I wasn’t.

“Whattya mean you’re not sure?”

“Well, like I said, I just got here.”

“Oh, so you bring yours in with you?”

I did. “Well, you know…” I laughed nervously as I said it, but it seemed clear that he didn’t care.

He laughed too. “It’s not a crime,” he said, “they make it one.”

“Absolutely.” This guy didn’t stress any small infractions and I liked where this was going. If “they” make smoking grass a crime, “they” also make getting a free ride on the bus a crime. And if that’s the way he was thinking, not only did it work out to my advantage, but I agreed wholeheartedly with him.

“Everything’s a crime,” he muttered as he smiled and shook his head. Crime and punishment was just a big joke on the world. I nodded in agreement, which I later realized was rude and must have seemed like no response at all, since I was standing behind him.

He seemed like he’d been driving the route for years, as passenger after passenger came on board and gave him a friendly greeting. He was popular along his route and seemed just and fair. A few people may have not paid and discussed it with him beforehand. Still, this was the South Side of Chicago and I wasn’t sure if he was into giving free rides to idiot stoned white boys.

A few minutes later we came to our stop. From behind him I asked, “so… how does a dollar fifteen sound?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he answered. “Just pay for your next ride.”

“I will,” I said, ecstatic that I lucked out with such a friendly bus driver. “To be honest I feel pretty foolish about the whole thing.”

He chuckled, “not at all. It happens all the time.”

“Thank you, take care!” I told him while I walked off the bus.

There’s good people in Chicago.

Scott vs. The Weather, Part I

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

It can be your sworn enemy or your best friend. It can add hours to a drive, brighten or ruin your mood, or ensure a good night’s sleep.

The first stretch of my planned cross-country venture gave me a taste of just how unpredictable and unforgiving the weather can be. Just as the time arrived and my car was packed sufficiently the snow began, with reports calling for a foot or more. I understood it was coming from the south, and not likely to hit as high north in New York as Albany. Since I was heading to Rochester, I thought maybe I could outrun it.

But to outrun the storm, I had to get through it, and this proved more difficult than I could have imagined. Through Rhinebeck and Kingston it only got more and more intense, until I could barely see the road and was limited to following the taillights of the care in front of me, and struggling to catch a glimpse of the road’s lines. I feared that my trip may begin trapped 30 miles from my house, with winter’s revenge coming down all around me. My fear was solidified when I entered the New York Thruway, and could not break a speed of 30 mph.

Thankfully, I was correct, and the storm broke before I entered Albany. But it left me with an important message: weather is not a thing to be trifled with. It has the power to destroy my vacation, or to give me the best six weeks of my life.

I should find a way to appease it. Sacrifice perhaps.

I certainly should never declare war on it.