Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I don't think there's anyone on this planet who hates driving more than I do. I'm nearly twenty-three years old, but have only had my license for a little over three years. I only sucked it up and got one because my inability (or unwillingness, really) to drive angered my dad to the point where our relationship suffered; he just could not understand why the hell his sixteen-year-old daughter would shy away from something that he had always considered to be a teenage rite of passage.

At nineteen, I finally took (and passed!) my road test. As a reward, my dad bought me an old Kia Spectra to drive around Saginaw, where I was living at the time. But when I moved back to Grosse Pointe a year and a half ago, I sold it. Why own something that I don't need? There's a bus stop a block and a half from my house, and a bus to Wayne State passes through once every half hour. I work within walking distance of my house, and on the rare occasion that I need a car, I can just borrow my mom's.

(If I may be perfectly honest, when I was weighing the pros and cons of transferring, I said to myself, "If I moved to Detroit, I could sell my car and never drive again. That would be AWESOME.")

Within the past few months, though, there's been a lot of talk about making cuts to the SMART bus service in metro Detroit. Even when I was voting absentee from Saginaw, I paid attention to what was going on with the bus system; public transit has always been really important t me. So this time, I really did my homework. And I discovered that my own route to and from school would be eliminated.

Actually no, I should rephrase that. The route itself won't be eliminated. But it will end before the Detroit city limit. And I use it to get to downtown Detroit. Isn't that mainly what everyone else uses it for, too? The route passes through the financial district before continuing on to Wayne State.

These changes will officially go into effect on Monday, December 12.

I can't blame myself for this. I spoke the fuck up: posted about it on Facebook, answered surveys put together both by SMART and Wayne State, signed petitions, and wrote letters. There was a rally organized by students at WSU, too; I missed it because I had to work. But the fact that they had one tells me that I'm not the only person affected by this.

What they're telling us to do is transfer to DDOT, the bus system that runs solely within the city of Detroit. But that will be a huge hassle, especially given that my previous route went straight to Wayne State. I'd not only be transferring buses, but bus systems. That would undoubtedly make the commute even longer than it already is. And don't even get me started on the issue of overcrowding. DDOT is facing its own set of cutbacks, and won't easily be able to accomodate all the SMART riders from the 'burbs who would need to transfer over.

So now I'm just really bummed out. And I'm not sure where to go from here. I guess I could find myself a cheap car, but, as I've said, I hate driving and have no desire to own a car: maintenance, gas, and parking at Wayne are all expensive.

But what choice do I have? Society makes me feel shitty enough for being in my 20s and living with my parents; I don't want to rely on them for transportation, too. And besides, they've got their own places to be and won't have time to drive me to and from school each day.

My friends keep telling me to move to Detroit; they know how much I dislike living in Grosse Pointe. But even though it's a bit of a commute (twenty minutes by car; more like thirty-five by bus), I don't have to pay rent here. And I have a job here, too. So I have a number of decent reasons to stay.

Please correct me (and help me raise hell) if I'm wrong about this, but I get the vibe that people around here are way more complacent than they should be about bus cuts. Detroit is notorious for its inadequate public transit. But one of the things that I think makes a big city thrive is access to these services. And we've clearly got the foundation already; I've proven that by managing to get around pretty much solely via bus. By making these cuts, we're destroying something that we should only be building upon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Greyhound adventure

Yesterday I woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning, rode a Greyhound bus for fourteen hours, and almost got stranded in Cincinnati.

It's the type of adventure I've wanted to take for a long time. Many of my friends (especially the ones who are writers) think it's one of the best ways to find something to write about.

Sarah was in Michigan for Thanksgiving and her birthday (which was that week as well). Then she planned to drive to Bowling Green, KY to visit her boyfriend. So she invited me to come with her, and picked me up along the way. She's driving back to Oklahoma today, so I had to find a way to get myself back to Michigan.

Amtrak was out because there aren't very many Amtrak stations in Kentucky, and the ones I did find were nowhere near Bowling Green. So I decided to take a Greyhound bus.

I purchased a ticket less than a week prior to the trip, and because of the Thanksgiving holiday, decided against having it mailed to me; I wanted to make sure it arrived on time. So I opted for a "will call" ticket; I'd show up at the bus station half an hour before departure and pick it up at the ticket counter.

Except when we got to the bus station in Bowling Green, it was closed. I assume that's because it was five o'clock in the morning. So Sarah and Kevin waited with me for the bus to show up, which was nice of them. It was dark and rainy.

My lack of a physical ticket turned out not to be a problem, so I hopped on the bus and rode it to Elizabethtown, then Louisville. In Louisville, they made everyone get off the bus and then get back on. And my internal monologue was like, "Oh shit, I should probably go to the ticket counter and get a ticket." But there really wasn't any time to do that, so I tried to re-board without one, and didn't have any problems.

So then we rode to Cincinnati and repeated the process of getting on and off the bus. I was slightly irritated by this policy, because for one thing, I'd been riding the bus for about six hours by that point, and was tired of accounting for all of my things. And secondly, we were only expected to get off the bus at the big, busy stations. I've posted before about my spatial impairment; because of it, I get really overwhelmed by crowds and signage and whatnot. And it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so everyone was out and trying to get themselves home after the holiday.

But whatever. When I got off the bus, I took my purse with me, but left everything else near my seat (duffel bag, coat, library book). But then I wasn't allowed to re-board the bus as I had been in Louisville. I knew that lack of a ticket would catch up with me sooner or later. But why did it have to happen at a busy, crowded bus station right when everyone was boarding?

[Insert headache here.] I was pissed off and upset (if the station in Bowling Green had been open when I arrived, this wouldn't have happened). But I maintained my composure and trudged over to the ticket counter. Except I was right behind a cranky alpha mom who was trying to get a ticket for her teenage daughter. And the lady at the counter wasn't too pleased about having to deal with her. And let's face it: I look like a teenager myself. So she snapped at me about how I should have gotten my ticket in Bowling Green and then muttered something about having to work at the Greyhound station during the busiest travel day of the year.

And then I looked out the window and saw my bus pull away. With most of my shit aboard with it.

At that moment, I sort of wished that I had a pushy alpha mom to stick up for me; I saw the teenage girl line to board a bus to Chicago and shot her a dirty look. And then I started crying and called my mom to let her know what was going on. The conversation went something like, "People are assholes and my stuff is on its way to Detroit but I'm not. Instead, I'm stranded in a city hours from home where I know no one. Fuck, fuck, fuck."

She told me not to start any fights with anyone (lulz?) and to maintain my composure and if worse came to worse, she and Dad would drive down and get me.

It was kind of comforting to know that there are people in my life who love me enough to offer to drive all the way to Cincinnati from Detroit to pick me up on the busiest travel day of the year. Since I knew my bus was gone anyway, I took my sweet time calming down. I went pee and found some coffee and got myself into another long ticket line to see if I could get onto another bus to Detroit.

As I was waiting in line, I received a text message from my Dad asking if I knew yet whether I needed him to come get me; he was looking at maps online to figure out the fastest route to Cincinnati.

For the record, I hadn't planned on taking my parents up on their offer. I was exhausted anyway; I figured that if I was indeed stranded, I'd get a hotel and take the earliest bus the next day. But I have to hand it to my dad. I complain a lot about how he's the family patriarch; he's protective as fuck, and I'm pretty independent. But he'd do anything for me.

I got to the ticket counter and tried to stay calm as I explained what had happened. The woman took my debit card and ID and once she realized that I wasn't some kind of blubbering incompetent teenager and that it was Greyhound's fault I was trapped, she apologized and got me a ticket for the next bus to Detroit (which turned out to be not too far behind the previous bus I'd been on). Then she called the bus station in Detroit to tell them to hold my stuff for me when I got there. I was happy to know that the problem had been fixed, but still irritated by the fact that people only treat you kindly if they know that you've given them money.

Anyway, I boarded a crowded bus and called my parents to let them know that I was fine and would be home in a few hours. The guy sitting next to me overheard my end of the conversation and said, "It sounds like you've got a long way to go."

"Detroit," I said. "And I'm traveling from Bowling Green, Kentucky."

The lucky bastard got off in Dayton and a whole slew of new people boarded. We repeated this process in Lima, Findlay, and Toledo. The Toldeo-to-Detroit leg of the trip was the roughest for me. Between Findlay and Toledo, the bus had been pretty empty, and, beyond exhausted, I'd put my purse beside me and greedily took up as much space as possible. I had sort of intended to do the same between Toledo and Detroit; by that point, I'd been Greyhounding for thirteen hours and wasn't in the mood to interact with anyone. But as more and more people boarded, it became obvious that I'd have to give up the seat beside me.

"Stop being a dick, Amelia," I told myself, and cleared the seat beside me. And instantly, another passenger appeared and sat down in the seat. He was a friendly old man who wanted me to teach him how to use his very basic cell phone. I took a few deep breaths and mustered all of the patience left inside of me. Normally I would have been happy to help someone with something like that. But hours ago, my internal monologue had started whining about how it just wanted to go home and eat dinner.

An hour or so later, we finally arrived in Detroit. I picked up my things and waited outside for my mom to pick me up. I was actually glad that she was running late; it felt good to walk around in the cold air for a bit.

When I got home, I took a shower, changed into my pajamas, ate some eggs and toast, drank a cup of tea, and fell asleep with my kitten at my feet. I never thought I'd be so happy to be in Grosse Pointe.

Weird and stressful as this experience was, I'm glad I did it. And I think that my writer friends were correct; I sort of think that everyone (writer or not) should spend fourteen hours on a Greyhound at some point in their lives. The world would literally swell with interesting stories.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Life lately

It's been a really dreary fall in Detroit. I don't think I've ever suffered from seasonal depression, but I'm definitely feeling weird and apprehensive about the coming winter months. I've spent the past few months feeling hungry for sunlight; I can't seem to get enough-- not that there's much to get around here these days. It's rained a lot, and now that we've turned the clocks back an hour, it gets dark around 5 p.m.

But I'm still pretty excited about things. Namely that:
  • Sarah will be in Michigan this coming Friday, November 18.
  • A week later, on Friday, November 25, she and I are driving to Bowling Green, Kentucky (where the guy she is dating lives-- Sarah will be moving there too after she graduates next month). We'll spend a couple of days together there, and the 27th, I'll take a Greyhound to Michigan and she will fly back to Oklahoma.
  • I may visit Saginaw the first weekend in December, but this is still dependent upon my friends' schedules. We'll see, but if that works out, it'll be good, because so many people I care about live there, and I miss them.
  • On December 10, I'm going to see Tori Amos in Chicago with Lura (which is ridiculous because I've already seen Interpol and gone to Lollapalooza this year, but whatever).
So much random travel. And somehow I keep winding up in the South, of all places. More important is who you're with, though, and I'm so excited to spend time with Sarah. We haven't seen each other since January, when I flew to Oklahoma to visit her. The other day we had this weird "Internet slumber party" where we got on Skype and braided our hair pig-tail style while drinking (bourbon for Sarah, beer for me), if that tells you anything about what our friendship is like. We are ridiculous, but she means a lot to me. Everyone needs friends like that.

In other news, I'm finishing up the first edition of my zine; I'm glad that I actually made one. I was kind of afraid that I'd talk about wanting to make one, but never actually do it. But it's coming together quite nicely, actually.

I spent this weekend working more than usual (I had to babysit on both Friday evening and Saturday afternoon), so decided to treat myself to Han Nolan's newest book. I'm almost done with it; I love YA literature so unreasonably much. The stuff I have to read for my degree program gets depressing sometimes. YA lit is also kind of depressing (the book I'm reading now addresses issues such as teen pregnancy, infidelity, and suicide). But I feel like it's easier to deal with because I've been there already-- it's only been four and a halfish years since I graduated from high school.

Just trying to keep myself grounded, I guess.