Transportation Blues

I lived in Atlanta in the 1980’s and for thirty years after that, in a medium sized city. Several months ago I relocated to Seattle. I don’t live smack dab in the middle of the city and not in suburbia either, but about twenty minutes north of the city’s center. Freeway traffic can be pretty miserable if it’s a busy time of day and parking places at certain destinations can be limited. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived within reach of good public transportation and I was determined when we moved here, to take advantage of it. My husband and I zipped off to one of the transportation hubs to get ourselves an “Orca Pass”. This magic card enables us as retired people, to ride any of the modes of public transportation for a dollar. This includes the bus, the light rail system, another train called “The Sounder”, the ferries, and the water taxi services. The first time we decided to take the bus, we confidently boarded a bus with the right number on it…………….going in the wrong direction. The bus driver was a friendly dude who alerted us to our situation before the bus got moving and we got off, crossed the street and re-boarded, Yesterday we decided to use the light rail. The train doesn’t come right to our neighborhood, though that leg should be completed in a year or two, so we drove a few miles and left the car at a park-and-ride. Luckily, that parking garage is the end of the north-bound line for now and we didn’t have to figure out the correct direction. Lots of passengers. Lots of age levels. Lots of different ethnicities. We all went along together, some chatting with other people, some reading actual books in hard copy, some looking at phones or plugged into head sets. At some point my husband and I opted to get off and stopped in the International District to wander around. The street signs are in Chinese and the light posts adorned with dragons, which never fails to delight me. Partway back on the train and heading home, an apparently displaced person got on. It looked like any luck he might have once possessed, had totally run out. Shabbily dressed and wearing two dirty, frayed blankets in lieu of a coat, he sat across from us and stared blankly. After a while, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small piece of foil and then a lighter. He rolled a piece of thrown-away paper into a thin tube.Those of us near him looked at one another with concern and probably more than a little alarm but nothing further happened and I’m pretty sure I heard an audible and collective sigh of relief when he left the train. I had to remind myself he was once someone’s baby.


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