I cried when a medical crisis forced me to hand over my car keys. But time on the bus ended up being more valuable than I expected.
Dancing was my adult passion. I grew up in a dance studio, and I practiced dance both as a performer and choreographer as an adult.
At age 34, I was shocked when a neurologist explained that my recent episodes of mental confusion were the symptoms of a chronic illness called epilepsy. The diagnosis changed my identity from a woman in deep control of her body and mind, to one walking with a disease that includes regularly losing control of her body and mind.
Not only would it make it impossible for me to dance as I once did, the disease would require me to make other big changes in my life, like giving up my car keys. Although no law mandated that I stop driving, continuing to do so would have been irresponsible. I cried when I handed my husband my keys because it made me realize the scope of my disease.
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I had always believed in the value of public transportation, but I’d never been dependent on it. I began moving through life inside the boundaries of “bus time,” and I initially experienced it as a limitation. Over time, however, I adapted to its rhythms and my perspective changed. I prepared for extended trips by packing my bag in the morning and taking along a book to read, my diary to write in or music to listen to. Bus time became something I looked forward to as a chance to relax. In this day and age of overstimulation, the gratifying experience of reflection re-entered my life as I indulged in the activity of sitting at a bus stop, simply thinking.
Whether on the bus or at a bus stop, bus time also gives me a place in my life for safe, public interactions with fellow humans — something a public square provided for many ages. Simply receiving a wave hello from another human reminds me of our shared humanity and it brightens my day. These interactions can blossom into deeper friendships when you regularly share routes and conversations with people. Bus time is better than Facebook.
As time went on, I realized public transportation provides economic benefits as well. Between the costs of gas, parking, car insurance and car maintenance, driving a car costs a lot of money. Riding the bus a few times a week downtown from West Seattle, my weekly transportation costs are usually less than $10.
Everyone benefits from public transportation. It reduces pollution and eliminates traffic in our cities. When more people hop on the bus or train more often, it justifies spending the money to make improvements to these systems. I encourage everyone to try putting a book in their bags and leave their car keys at home.
Correction: Information in this guest column, originally published Jan. 29, was corrected on Feb. 1. Due to an editing error, a previous version of this column incorrectly listed the call letters for 91.3 KBCS.