LJWorld.com weblogs Eco-challenge
On someone else's timetable
Trains don't wait. It was among my grandmother's favorite sayings and a line her father - a conductor for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Line - had passed down to her.The words ran through my head as I was running toward the bus stop at 6th and Maine streets.I wasn't late, exactly. I had a good five minutes between the time I left my house and when The T was scheduled to arrive a block and half away. Call it neurotic, but when it comes to public transportation I have this deeply rooted fear that the very thing I am headed toward will start pulling away from the curb just seconds before my arrival.And I can attest to the hard-learned truth that along with trains - buses, planes and ferries don't wait either.This time, it turned out, I had allowed plenty of cushion. It was Wednesday evening, day three of my no-car week; and I was taking the bus to do some much needed grocery shopping at Hy-Vee. That morning, I met with Emily Lubliner, a public relations specialist at Lawrence Transit System. (I might add, I walked 13 blocks in the rain to do so). We sat down with the bus schedule laid out before us and mapped out my routes.It's a service that is available to anyone. And, for those who are particularly public-transportation challenged, a T official will even go on a trial bus run.The two of us determined that I would have plenty of time to do the weekly grocery getting if I picked up the 6:48 p.m. bus at 6th and Maine. With my return trip starting at 7:50 p.m., I would get home just minutes before The T shut down for the evening.But the funny thing about grocery shopping is that it's one of those things I really don't have any concept of how long it takes. And, with my car typically waiting patiently outside in the parking lot, timing such an excursion has never been much of an issue. On someone else's timetable, it's a different story.Which is how I found myself sitting at the bus stop at the corner of 6th Street and Kasold Drive with 30 minutes to spare. Having nothing to do but wait, I scarfed down my dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes and did my best to avoid eye contact from passing motorists for fear I might know one of them. Beside me was my bag of groceries and inside it a carton of melting ice cream. Boy, had I timed this wrong.Luckily I came somewhat prepared, purchasing the latest celebrity gossip magazine on the way through the checkout line (a mindless luxury I typically only avail myself of while traveling through airports). After about a million impatient glances down 6th Street, the bus arrived and made an uneventful journey back to 6th and Maine.When I got home, I checked my voice mail on a slightly damp cell phone that had been stashed at the bottom of my grocery bag.It turns out, I had been spotted. Among the calls was one from a co-worker who had caught sight of me outside of Hy-Vee. As he drove by, he wanted to know if it would be cheating if he gave me a lift home. Since I wasn't answering the cell phone, he proceeded to wonder if I had decided to give up electronic communication as well.For a second, I was tempted to call back to inform him I was trying to go green, not Amish. And, for the record - just in case he caught me chowing down fried chicken at Kasold and 6th - I wasn't completely nuts.But, I thought it would be more fun to leave him guessing. And, for the record, yes it would be cheating.