Bus Station

I just returned from a 6 day trip to visit my parents downstate, and to attend the Michigan Maple Syrup conference in Mt. Pleasant. I did the whole 1,200 mile trip by bus. I’m often struck by how different travel using mass transit is than just “jumping in the car and going.”

This trip I took the Indian Trails bus from Houghton to downtown Lansing, then rode the city bus to the Lansing mall, then the EaTran bus to Independence Village in Grand Ledge where my Mom lives. The EaTran bus was interesting to me. Apparently, there are monies available to communities from gasoline taxes to set up curb-to-curb bus systems for their citizens. The folks that seem to ride these are often either elderly and can no longer drive, working poor, or disabled. Most have a story to tell and most seem willing to share their stories. Since I’m 63, I qualify for the senior rate of $1 per ride. EaTran requires you to call and book your trip in advance.

At my pickup from the Lansing Mall, we drove to a medical facility. EaTran regulations say the driver will pull up, honk the horn, and wait for several minutes before declaring the rider a no-show. This driver did not adhere to this policy. He looked inside when he pulled up, saw no activity, so he walked in and spoke with the receptionist. When he came back to the bus, he radioed his dispatcher that the rider wouldn’t be ready for another 20 minutes, so we drove off and picked up another passenger and dropped them off. By that time, our first passenger was ready, so we swung around and picked her up… literally. The bus is equipped with a wheelchair lift, which expertly lifted our passenger and her walker up and into the vehicle.

We did a lot of picking up and dropping off, and I was struck by how accustomed these folks were to getting around this way, and how well it seemed to work for them. The downside was we couldn’t just walk out to our cars, start them up and drive off. The upside was we were a community. Stories were swapped. If I rode this bus regularly, I’d know and appreciate these fine folks.

For my $1 I got to my destination in good fettle, a bit slower than the cab, but, as I learned on my last trip when I rode the cab, with about $24 more in my pocket.

On the way back home I spent a couple of hours at the Lansing CATA bus station. I like to get there early so I have some slack time in case I need it. The CATA center is a gathering of people riding the extensive Lansing city bus system, and those that ride the Greyhound and Indian Trails buses. It is a long narrow building with parking spots along the outside. There is a slot for bus #3… if the slot is empty, then bus 3 is not there yet. Inside most of the length of this building is two rows of bench seats. These seats are not bun friendly.

The benches are bolted to the floor, and are back-to-back. The seat and back parts of them are made of vinyl coated expanded metal. I’m sure they can be cleaned easily by just hosing them down. That must be the attraction to this design, because long term comfort seems to have been unimportant to the selection committee. As I’ve sat there shifting my weight from side to side, I wondered if perhaps discomfort wasn’t a criteria in their selection. Perhaps they were aware that making these seats too comfortable would encourage folks to become too comfortable there. An announcement occasionally comes on the PA system reminding folks that they should not hang out here; that they should use the facility as a place to wait for a ride. Their rule appears to be followed poorly by some.

The south end of the building seems to be where people hang out and loudly tell their stories to each other. It is my favorite part of the building. There seems to me to be an excess of people that want to talk, and a need for people willing to listen. Lots of the loud talk seems to involve how the storyteller was not respected to the extent they were entitled, and how they used their skills to encourage more respect at the end. There is quite a bit of talking in this place, which encourages the storytellers to up the volume.

My favorite story this trip involved a heavy set young woman. She’d managed to lose her wallet, and was yelling from one end of the room to the other so we’d all be aware of it. Some minutes into the disaster, someone called her name from across the room, and tossed her wallet to her. It traveled about half the distance between her and the thrower before it hit the ground. It was a fluffy knitted sort of thing. When it hit the ground, the contents did not go flying all over the place.

Later on this young woman was walking and talking with someone. I hear her say, “I had 6 seizures yesterday.” I sat there and pondered this as I was reading my kindle. Six seizures? I’ve been around people having these electrical storms in their brains, and they are not pretty. Six! In one day! Good grief.

One Response to “Bus Station”

  1. Tom Heider says:

    Nice story Ted ! Makes me want to go for a buss ride ..

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