Starting from the Downtown transit center, we rumbled down Water St. which usually has a good display of urban drama for the bus rider to observe. On this day, utility workers were mauling a tree that looked far too small to interfere with the power lines, and a fussy yuppie couple with a baby gave us a look of deep contempt as we traversed the crosswalk. Soon we were whizzing down Ridge St. and didn't stop until the Fifth St. Food Lion. Continuing on Fifth St. Extended, we crossed the I64 overpass and turned left toward the Covenant School, which has its own bus stop.
After the Covenant School, we passed through a neighborhood of modest 1950's ranch houses and then the road became narrow and devoid traffic lines, curb, shoulder, and storm drains. There were no buildings, just trees and NO DUMPING signs posted every few yards. It looked like the sort of road that gives up the asphalt altogether and reverts to dirt. There are still some unpaved streets within the city of Charlottesville--mainly in Belmont. Anyway, we passed a sign that said WELCOME TO SOUTHWOOD and then we were in a trailer park. Trailer parks are fun. There is always lots to see: children's toys and grills and old appliances and all the other detritus of living. These trailers were all very old and mostly in a state of decay but one had a perky picket fence and a yard decorated with painted cast iron animals--hens and roosters. Another had a brand-new stamped-brick path. I noticed a fake foundation innovation of pressed aluminum made to look like stone. Several trailers sported this product, tacked around their bases, but it had been bashed in one one of them, exposing the sad lack of foundation behind the metal.
A group got on the bus, the first girl on pouring a fountain of change into the machine in order to pay for everyone. They sat behind me and made loud conversation. One of their group repeatedly opened and then slammed the window. We crossed a speed bump and the bottom of the bus smacked hard against the ground. The trailer park group howled in protest. They made me a little nervous. They seemed like the sort of people who glare at you belligerently and say, "What're YEW lookin' at?"
Eventually we passed a sign that said THANK YOU FOR VISITING SOUTHWOOD and the bus turned onto a wide, divided highway. I realized I hadn't the faintest idea where we were. What was this busy highway? It turned out to be Fifth St. extended, the bus having traveled in a horseshoe pattern without my being aware of it. We turned onto Old Lynchburg Rd., then a side street, negotiated a sharp curve on a steep hill and circled uselessly in front of the Region Ten office, where no one got on or off. Then it was back to Fifth St. for the ride back into town, with a stop at the Albemarle County Office building, south. I had no idea that there were two county office buildings.
The trailer park group were having what seemed to be an argument. It was hard to tell, since they had the local accent and I could only understand one word in ten, but their tone was vehement. The man across the aisle interjected with his own observation. Stunned silence from the trailer park group. One of them said, "Beg pardon?" and the man repeated himself--his accent as unintelligible as theirs but I understood enough to know he was complaining about the quality of the concerts at the downtown pavilion. This brought a chorus of agreement from the trailer park group and the spent the rest of the ride happily trashing downtown concerts.
Back at the transit center, there was an ambulance in the bus lane, causing consternation among the trailer parkers. "What happened?" they wailed to the bus at large, as if any of the rest of us could possibly know more than they did. "I bet someone had a heart attack," one of them guessed and when a stretcher appeared, she said, "Oh shit." There's a pause at the transit center and the trailer parkers stayed on the bus, as if they thought the presence of the ambulance prevented them from getting off. Just as the bus was about to pull back out into traffic, they recollected themselves and hurriedly exited.
The "A" portion of the route turns north from downtown and travels a loop through the la-di-da neighborhood of Park St. and Locust Ave. Lots of beautiful houses to gawk at and I realized we were going to drive by our old house, the one we rented when we first moved to Charlottesville. It's a sweet house and we were extraordinarily lucky to get it.
|The house we rented when we first moved to Cville|
A little further north, we passed a yellow stucco house that resembles the one we live in now. I always liked that house, and it was the subject of angry neighborhood gossip when a "couple from California" paid over $180,000 dollars for it--an outrageous price in 1999. The anger centered on the fact that these California people, accustomed to California prices were going to change the dynamic of the neighborhood. Not too long after they moved in, our landlord put our house on the market for $185,000 and not too long after that you couldn't find a house on Locust Ave. for less than half a million dollars.
Back at the transit center, I hoped to catch the number three bus home and thus kill two bus routes on one day, but it wasn't due for over half an hour. I resigned myself to walking home, reflecting that I'd probably had enough excitement for one day. Halfway home, I heard the loudspeaker of the number 1 bus behind me, announcing "Route 1 downtown and PVCC" which had been waiting at the transit center when I got off the number 2, and as it roared past me, and toward my house, I said, "DOH!" once again.