Sunday, April 25, 2010
The No. 5 bus
The 7:17 run of the number 5 bus from Mondawmin to Federal Street or Johns Hopkins/Cedonia takes me downtown to my office. It usually takes about 25 minutes to arrive at Charles Street where I alight compared to the 7 minutes or so that the subway takes. But I stick with the 5 for a number of reasons.
The bus is seldom crowded and I am usually able to get a seat. It is a good time to take a nap or meditate while the bus meanders towards downtown. I am usually the only passenger who is not African American but after a couple of years, I am no longer self-conscious about it. However in the past year, an Anglo woman is usually on the bus when I board it. Her demeanor suggests that she has had a hard life.
The ride is relaxing and I find pleasure in the predictability of the 5. MTA drivers work on their routes for a few months at stretch before they switch and so I enjoy greeting the same driver each morning. When I am late to arrive at the bus stop, they will even stop for me when they see me dash from the house to the bus stop. When I take the 7:17 run of the 5, I also see the regular riders get on and off. On most mornings, the same middle aged couple gets on two stops further down the route and greets everyone as they amble down the aisle. I wonder what their stories are as they do not appear to be headed for work. Then there is the sullen high school student who tries to have the seat to himself by placing his pack next to him and only removes it when asked by newly alighted passengers. Perhaps he is sleepy and needs his space. When it is lacrosse season, he usually has his stick with him. I wonder what his story is. A couple of Latino guys get on the second stop on North Avenue and it seems they are on their way to some kind of construction work although they do not carry any tools or equipment. They usually get off after a short ride about 5 stops on Druid Hill Avenue and I wonder why they do not walk. It would have taken them ten or fifteen minutes. I also wonder where they work since they have been riding this route the last couple of years. In the past year, a former colleague of mine at LIRS who now works for the State Education Department has started getting on the 5 and it was good to reconnect with him.
When I ride the 5 gives I get a sense I am part of a neighborhood that has its own rhythm. I probably won't feel if I drove to work. (Automobiles, like houses, can isolate us from our surroundings This is especially true for us since we live in a stand alone house with its own parking area.) Sure, Reservoir Hill is not Mr Roger's Neighborhood. Nonetheless I am re-assured that Reservoir Hill is not all boarded up homes and drug dealers. It becomes clear to me that this is a community where people live purposeful and productive lives.