2.14.2007

Transit Takes You to the Unexpected

One of my bosses is a huge transit user and advocate, both here in
town and when he goes elsewhere for business or pleasure. He's fond
of saying that what's fun about work or vacation is usually related to
something that wasn't planned, and exploring transit is a sure-fire
way to experience the unexpected.

While his remarks are usually in the context of trying out transit
systems in other cities, I had two such moments today right here in my
own city. First, I had a meeting downtown that was a good six blocks
away from the closest subway stop - an easy walk in normal
circumstances, but complicated by the fact that there was about four
inches of slushy snow everywhere and it was frigidly cold. (And I was
feeling a little under the weather.)

I knew when I got off at the City Hall stop that there was a maze of
underground passageways that connected various entrances and exits
back to the ground level, but I wasn't sure how close they'd get me to
my destination. But I figured I'd do a little exploring. I kept
heading in the general direction of my meeting, hoping the corridor
would extend further so I could minimize my time above ground. I kept
going and going, and going some more, until I finally reached the end
of the underground tunnels - less than a block away from my meeting!
I took the same route home, cutting my time above ground from twelve
blocks to barely one.

That evening, I told my wife I'd pick up our daughter from day care,
reasoning that it was an ordeal for me to get our daughter to day care
that morning in the snow and so I didn't want to subject my wife to
such an arduous journey. Plus, since day care is past home from work,
I figured I could either trudge home for twenty minutes and let my
wife trudge ten minutes to day care and ten minutes back to home, or I
could take an easy transit ride to day care and trudge ten minutes
back to home, and my wife could stay home and not have to bear the
nasty weather.

There are four trolley lines that pass my workplace, and one of them
goes right past our day care. Unfortunately, that line pulled out
just as I got to the trolley stop. Not wanting to wait for four more
trolleys to come by, I decided to take the next one because it took me
only slightly further away from day care. This line happens to cut
right through the big park in our neighborhood, which has a huge
grassy area that is sunk down a good twenty feet below the street
level. So as we passed through this park, I saw countless kids
sledding down the slopes in a variety of contraptions. With the
gently falling sleet and the snow-tipped trees, the whole scene was
gloriously beautiful.

This actually wasn't that great of a day for me: I'm not feeling good,
being outside even for a few minutes was tortuous, and the cumbersome
trek to and from day care I'd like to forget. But, because of
transit, I had two unexpected moments here in the city. And that made
today kind of special.

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