"We're from out of town. We're not interested," cut in the tourist lady, her voice cracking with panic. The young man seemed not to sense her anxiety. "Are you from Ohio?" he asked hopefully.
"New Jersey," she said, which surprised me because their look didn't say "New Jersey" to me. "Near Philadelphia," she amended, and that made more sense.
"Do you like it here so far?" asked the young man.
"I don't know, we just got here," said the lady but she seemed to be regretting her vacation choice.
I saw the young man look at me, but he evidently decided I wasn't to be bothered. I must put up a good show of being unapproachable because people hardly ever talk to me. Even the gypsies in Rome left me alone. The gypsy woman who ruled our piazza--a truly scary person--would stroll about asking people to give her their chewed-up pizza crusts because she was so hungry. Once, I was sitting on the steps of the fountain. She paused in front of me and I sensed her appraising me, and then she moved on to find a different victim.
The trolley got underway and the young man switched seats so he could go through his spiel with the other passengers. His speech in its entirety: "Hello. I'm a volunteer with the Virginia Organizing Project. Did you know that many banks received trillions of dollars in federal bailout money and now they are refusing loans to small businesses? There's going to be a protest in Columbus, Ohio and we're organizing transportation. Would you like to come?" He repeated this speech to every single person he talked to, despite the fact that the trolley's small size meant that we could all hear it every time. Everybody listened politely, but nobody was willing to go to Columbus, Ohio to protest a bank. Would you agree to go off to Ohio because some guy on a bus--no matter how bumbling and adorably earnest he was--asked you to? He got off the trolley at 9th St. and immediately approached the group of people at the bus stop and began his speech again.
At the stop on JPA, at the hospital, were standing several down-and-out looking men, all carrying identical rice cookers in boxes. They all got on the trolley and dispersed to separate seats. Was it FREE RICE COOKERS FOR THE POOR day at UVA? Meanwhile, the tourists were anxiously twittering and wondering if this sudden left turn past a hospital and crowd of rice cooker-carrying men meant that they were perhaps on the wrong trolley. I exited at JPA near Maury Ave. and left them to their fate.
So, the number 9, some of which covers what used to be part of the old route 3. A few years ago, I crossly commented that there ought to be a bus that went to Charlottesville High School, and all of a sudden there was a bus that went to Charlottesville High School. From downtown, we headed down Water St. We turned right on McIntire and left onto Preston Ave, covering the same territory as the number 8, only we turned left onto 10th St. I like the 10th and Page St. neighborhood. There's an element of danger to it and there are some interesting houses and it has a jumbled, treeless, urban feel that I like. Friends of ours lived in a great old house on 9th St. NW but eventually gave up and moved to the country.
Newer houses have been built in the neighborhood that mimic the style of the original houses. A friend of mine calls this project "Miami Beach in Charlottesville" because of its tropical color palate but I think the houses are pretty.
Anyway, as you get closer to Greenleaf Park, the houses get more expensive looking--mostly cape cods from the 1940s and '50s. They weren't built to be grand, but over time some have acquired high class additions and almost every house is beautifully landscaped. We passed Walker Upper Elementary and crossed the bypass into the Meadowbrook Heights neighborhood. Here, the houses are larger and newer, but have still had many years to settle into the land. The Charlottesville High School stop is in front of the Performing Arts Center. We had picked up several genuine high school students along the way and they all got off here. It was mid-morning, but seniors have off-campus privileges. CHS students all get free bus passes. It's great that some of them are actually taking public transportation to school. Oh sure, if they had cars they'd be driving themselves to school but at least they have learned to function without cars. Some people haven't, and it may become a useful skill, considering the volatile nature of the oil market. My daughters are both at CHS and they take the number 9 sometimes to get home after activities although since it only runs once an hour, it's not always convenient.
From there we retraced our path back to the transit center, with a slight deviation down a couple little side streets near Greenleaf Park. There's a stop at Walker School, in front of the Central Office building only it's right at the corner where people turn from the bypass ramp and there's no sidewalk and poor visibility. Anyone standing at that stop is really at risk of being hit by a car and I would never allow Seamus, who goes to Walker, to wait there. I realize the stop was meant to serve Central Office employees, and not students, but it's not a safe stop for adults either and to get to the building you have to cross a street where people are driving fast and can't see you.
The day of my number 9 adventure was Clean Commute Day. All bus travel was free that day and there was an event on the downtown mall. After I got off the bus downtown, I went to check it out. There were a few booths run by JAUNT, UVA parking and transportation, and others. One booth was devoted to the "Clean Commute Pledge." I felt it might be dishonest to pledge to do something that I already do anyway, but they said I could just pledge to continue my clean commute. There's a drawing to win a free pair of Amtrak tickets to Boston, or any city on the way, which is pretty sweet.
I have only one route left to cover, the mysterious number 10, about which I know nothing except that it goes toward Pantops. I'm not going to cover the night routes--I think they're numbers 21, 22, and 23--because they are just abbreviated versions of the day routes. It's pretty lame that "night" coverage begins after 6:30pm because--how many times must I say this and when will the city realize it--people who work at UVA Health System get out of work at 7:30pm (or start night shift at 7:00pm) and the night routes aren't adequate. The regular routes should run until 9:00pm and night coverage should extend until 1:00am--when, HELLO!! the bars close --instead of stopping at 11:30.