The Freedom of the Bus Stop

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I could ask my husband to drive me the half-mile to the bus stop every morning. I doubt he’d want to do it, but it’s not an unreasonable request. The walk is perfectly pleasant in nice weather, but when it’s humid, below 20 degrees or raining, it’s a fairly miserable eight minutes. Plus, that’s eight extra minutes I could be sleeping in every day.

But even when the weather sucks, or when I’m falling asleep on the bus home, or when I’ve already run three miles or lifted weights that day and my muscles just want me to flop down on the couch already, I cherish my twice-daily turn as a solo pedestrian. It’s the freedom I’ve been wanting since I was twelve — the thing that, above having a mortgage and a dog and a phone bill, often makes me feel more like an adult than anything else.

I grew up in a smallish, half-suburban-half-rural area that was very spread out – not a true city, but not your typical small town either. In all the movies and TV shows I watched as a kid, and in the books I read, my fictional peers were always crossing the street to get to their BFFs’ houses or maybe walking a couple blocks. That wasn’t my experience. I went to a magnet school that was a 15-minute drive (and a very, very long bus ride) from my neighborhood, and my classmates were scattered around the metro area. I didn’t know any of my neighbors and I certainly couldn’t go to any friend’s house without a ride from my mom, who also always insisted on calling the friend’s mom to make sure it was okay. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it made me feel like I was missing out on some quintessential childhood experience.

So when junior high was about to start, and I got a postcard in the mail explaining where I needed to go to catch the bus every morning, I was elated. The bus would no longer pick me up right in front of my house. I needed to walk all the way to the end of the block, where some other students who lived nearby would, presumably, also be meeting.

This seemed so glamorous and grown-up, I could hardly believe it. Ah, freedom! I wasn’t just getting my own locker and the chance to have eight teachers a day instead of one. Being able to put some space – physically and metaphorically – between my home and school lives seemed like the cherry on the tweenage sundae.

Unfortunately for me, my long leash was short-lived. A week or so after school started, my mom called the bus company and asked them to just pick me up at my house, since the bus drove right past it after the corner stop anyway. Of course, bless her heart, she thought she was doing me such a huge favor. Le sigh. Parents, am I right?

I am less enamored with my daily trip to the bus stop these days, but I’ll never forget what that one-block walk meant to me as a kid, for the few days that I had it: responsibility, purpose, that elusive grownup feeling. My peers can have their car commutes. Taking the bus, weirdly enough, is what really makes me feel like an adult.

Steph Barnard

Steph Barnard