Taking the bus

I know that this is strange but I like taking the bus.

When I was a kid we lived at the end of the trail, it was about 1/4 mile uphill to the nearest road and 1/2 mile, relatively flat, to the ferry dock, our mail box was at the point where we popped out of the trail on to the road 150 or so feet from the foot of the dock.

My mom didn’t drive until I was 9 or 10 so we walked, Grandma drove us, or took the bus and ferry except on weekends when Dad brought the car home for grocery shopping etc. In those days Vashon had one bus, Harlan’s bus. I think Harlan took three or four round trips to Seattle weekdays: early morning, late morning and evening. I don’t know how far south on the island he went, we only ever took the bus uptown (to Vashon, it was literally uphill to the town on the crest of the island) or downtown  (to downtown Seattle).

I was well into adulthood before I understood that there were cultural references from New York City in the use of “uptown” and “downtown”.  To me they were a literal description of where we went: up to Vashon, and while Seattle wasn’t down from where we lived (nothing was), it did have a waterfront and was lower than the town of Vashon.

This time of year I think about going shopping, which almost always makes me think about Harlan’s bus. We would walk down to the ferry dock and board the bus on the ferry.  A half mile doesn’t sound like much but my memories are from being 3-5 years old, and my legs were a lot shorter then. We rode in on the late morning bus and went to the elegant shops that aren’t there any more: Frederick and Nelson was a favorite, the Bon Marche was up there also. Nordstrom’s was a store that specialized in shoes, not yet whatever it is now (I really am not sure, it is pretty trendy, it no longer carries every shoe size like it used to, and, worst of all, its cafe is very, very noisy).

The beautiful Christmas decorations, a nice lunch, a visit to Santa and shopping. I hate shopping. It sucks the energy out of me.

So we trundled back to Second Avenue and got on Harlan’s bus to go home, loaded down with packages. It was dark when we got off the bus on the ferry and walked up the dock to the road, then the trail carrying more than was comfortable. We would sing songs on the way home. One that I remember was

“Show me the way to go home, wherever I may wander, wherever I may roam, you will always hear me singing this song, Show me the way to go home.”

(If you actually know this song please be gentle with my memory I was only a little girl and we only sang it a few times a year, when we went shopping downtown.)

On Harlan’s bus there was a sense of community. Only islanders took it. You were all from the same place going into town and going home to the same place at the end of the day. If there was a shortage of seats people squeezed together to make room. People on the bus gave me candy or coins sometimes. It was after we got off the bus that things got hard.

This started out to be about traveling on buses. I was going to tell you about taking buses in Weifang, but I wanted to start by explaining why I like buses. Maybe I will try again tomorrow.


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