Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Wheels of the Bus

Today was one of the most ridiculous days of my entire life.  Grace was sent home from school yesterday with pink eye.  Charlottesville City public schools have a zero tolerance policy for pink eye.  If your kid is spotted with a red eye, she CAN'T COME BACK TO SCHOOL without a doctor's note.  Period.

My car has been producing a worrisome cloud of smoke every time I start it.  Today was the day I'd arranged to have it looked at.  But Jon had booked an appointment with the pediatrician for 1:40.  I know that in typical American families, mom and dad each have a car but we are not a typical American family and we make do with just one car, which is fine, 99% of the time.

My car repair people couldn't give me a loaner car, since I hadn't asked for one, since I usually don't need one.  I usually take the city bus home, but after leaving the mechanic's, I noticed that all the city bus stops on my side of the street had mysteriously disappeared.  I was able to hop on a university shuttle, but when I got off, near the UVA Grounds, with a crowd of students, I realized construction was blocking the sidewalk I needed and I was forced into a labyrinthian section of grounds and I got lost.  Lost!  Freaking lost at the university that employs me, on my way home from the car repair place.  I could see where I needed to be, but I couldn't get there because there were all these buildings and walls and hills in the way.  The University of Virginia is very beautiful and the grounds are full of inviting paths that you think will take you where you need to go, but then dead end at a locked door.

After wandering for a bit and then scuttling across a utility area full of dumpsters and trucks backing up, I got free of the maze.  Free, but not home.  I needed to catch another bus to get home.

Then it was time to decide what to do about the doctor's appointment.  Jon would have called a friend and asked for a ride or the loan of a car, but I pride myself on being self-reliant.  Our pediatrician's office is out in the suburban hinterlands, but I realized we could take a bus there.  Well, not exactly there, but to a shopping mall near there from which we could walk.  This involved walking nearly a mile to the downtown transit center to catch the right bus.  Charlottesville's public transportation network is generally slow and late, but our bus was exceptionally slow and late.  There is a stop approximately every thirty feet, downtown, and people got off (or on) at every one.  I thought things would pick up once we got out of town, but that's when we had to do the rounds of every shopping center between town and the big shopping mall.  At the edge of town, a crowd of ruffians got on the bus.  They were led by a girl who tried to get on the bus for free, and failing that, gave a little jump and planted her bottom in the luggage rack near the door, where she proceeded to eat her lunch, a smelly concoction in a take out box.  When she finished eating, she roamed the bus, asking people to give her three dollars.  I tried to compose my face into an expression that said, "If you ask me for three dollars, I will FUCKING KILL you," but I probably just looked constipated.  I decided I didn't like the Route 7 bus crowd.  My neighborhood bus is the number 3, and it is full of crazy people, but they are gentle crazy people who are so zoned out on zyprexa they can hardly stay awake to get off at their stops.  They're not rowdy and bouncing around the bus asking for three dollars.

It took forty-five minutes to get to the shopping mall on the number seven bus.  We had to walk across a vast parking lot and up a ramp with no sidewalk and then cross a busy street with no crosswalk.  The busy street was an inhospitable place occupied by low-rent apartments, a self-storage business, and a Putt Putt golf course presided over by a giant giraffe.  The pediatrician's office is back in a sort of office complex and its parking lot was loaded with lacquer-haired moms unloading their kids from Chevy Suburbans, while we came trooping across the grass like we'd been on an urban safari.  Business at the doctor's completed we had to trudge back to the shopping mall for the bus back to town.

But the day wasn't over because I still needed to retrieve my car.  The number 7 bus deposited us downtown and I called my mechanic who said my car was ready, so we had to take the trolley to pick it up.  The Charlottesville free trolley was created as a way to help tourists shuttle themselves between the university and downtown. It's all cutesy and made up to look like an old-timey trolley with wooden slatted seats and brass poles that remind me of merry-go-round horses, and a clanging bell.  In reality, it is a homeless shelter on wheels.  Sometimes there are tourists.  You can tell they are tourists because they are always wondering aloud about where to eat lunch and then asking for restaurant recommendations.  It's amusing to watch the homeless people frighten the tourists.  It was a nice day, so there weren't many homeless people on the trolley but two skateboarding dudes sat across from us and had a conversation that I suspect they were hoping we would hear.  "I gave a BAD ASS performance," the one guy said, and then, "We took a taxi back to my place but then Joel came in and was being all agro and shit so she had to leave."  I interpreted "being all agro and shit" to mean "prevented me from getting laid." 

At long last, my car was restored to me.  I know I'm less car dependent than a lot of people and while I'm pleased that I was able to meet the demands of this day without a car, it's still a bit mind boggling to realize that I spent nearly 1.5 hours in buses plus the long walks through pedestrian unfriendly territory and the harassment just to get a note that said, "Grace was seen in the office today for the treatment of pink eye and may return to school."  I hope the Charlottesville public schools are satisfied.


  1. I've never had to send in a note for pink eye. That's a new one for me. Then again, the school secretary told me this year when I called to let her know that my child would be out sick that day that I would need to send a note with my child excusing the absence when she returned. Um, hello, that's why I was calling, plus I'd even told her that I'd already emailed the teachers. As far as I'm concerned, they'd been duly informed.

  2. I found the utility area of the UGA campus Sunday night after I dropped the boy off at his dorm and then promptly got lost. I finally knew where I was when I could smell the chicken coops - they have big ag department.

  3. No one here has ever had pink eye. I hope we can always say that.
    I'm horrible with busses--I much prefer subways and trains.

  4. That was ridiculous, but you wrote it so amusingly. You're like a bus heroine.

  5. Route 7 people really are the worst. I used to have to take that bus all the time to get to friends in Mallside. Fashion Square Mall is an idiot magnet.

  6. Wow.

    (I'm sorry, but part of me loves it when you have bad days because they make for such enjoyable reading material.)