Buses and Automobiles

Thirty years ago, I was introduced to a guy at a party who said he was a writer.  Reader, I married him. His non-fiction sketch, Bus Portraits, got published this morning by X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. The physicality  of this piece knocks me out. And yes, it does belong on a blog about disability.

Tom Grogan, a writer in my Tuesday workshop, recently wrote an eloquent essay about the pain and loss he felt when he gave up driving. It was published by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

As far as I know, the two men have never shared a bus ride together.



14 thoughts on “Buses and Automobiles

  1. 🙂 I remember your taking up with this fellow. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the pleasant starkness of a small farmhouse with not enough chairs. The only other time I’ve seen a pleasant, well-proportioned starkness like that was in a little Dutch Reformed church in Morristown, NJ.

    It’s an interesting thing: I take the bus a lot, don’t use my car much, and I live where I live on purpose so I can do that. Walk to a grocery store and bank and drugstore and coffeehouse and dry cleaner; walk or run to work. The bus stops across from my house, but there are other bus stops nearby. (The ADA fight last year reminded me that there is a reason why the buses here work so well for people in wheelchairs and with walkers, which also means parents with strollers.) The bus costs a dollar but I’ve got an employee pass that only costs $15/mo.

    When I take the bus I notice an interesting thing. I’ve been noticing it for years. Except for the 5:30 bus, which goes past the hospital and ferries a lot of middle-aged doctors home, there is hardly ever a white man on the bus who isn’t old. Everyone else rides the bus. White women. People of all ages and other complexions. But not fit white men younger than retirement age. I think they still have it in their heads that if they aren’t in the driver’s seat, they’re somehow emasculated. And it makes an interesting difference, how the rest of society just goes on home without them.

    I am also struck by George’s discovery of shuttles. Apparently, even though he’s long since old enough to use these services, this is new to him, which means he had not really noticed how we organize things for old people who need help. Shuttles operated by nursing homes are usually paid for at least in part by municipal/county grants, which in turn usually come from state or federal grants. Sometimes some of the cost for providing transportation for nursing home residents is paid by Medicare/Medicaid. The bottom line is that we do not want old people to be trapped. We’ve done this for decades.

    I hope George will also notice how serious a problem transportation is for people who are not old, and who need it to survive, to make a living, to get kids to school. The biggest problem with any social program is generally transportation, because the people being served are poor. Lack of public transportation keeps poor people from getting to work, especially when they have no control over their schedules, or work Sundays, or work second or third shift. It means school integration is chronically a problem, because you can bus kids into another neighborhood, but if their parents don’t have cars, the kids can’t stay late for activities, and the parents can’t get to the school to meet with the teachers or pick up a sick kid. Around here, we see a lot of absenteeism because there’s no bus and a 1.5 mile walk, which is not a joke for a 6-year-old when it’s three below zero.

    We have money for shuttles because about 25 years ago we made a concerted effort to improve the conditions of old people who couldn’t possibly get by on their scraps of Social Security, especially with drug costs skyrocketing like they were. So the effect — and we’ve been stuck in this pattern a long time now — is that we have pretty good services for the elderly, and we’ve reduced elder poverty quite a bit. So George benefits, and I’m glad of this. The problem’s at the other end.

    I hope he looks around at these things – 93 is not too late to notice.

      1. Tom! I’m sorry – I don’t know where I got George from.

        I wonder then why he was feeling so trapped. You might want to share this with him, in case he knows other people who are feeling so trapped — it looks like the Cincinnati area’s pretty well-served:


        Maybe it was a case of “this is for other people who are in greater need”? To this day I regret not signing up for food stamps when I was living on, as an editor once put it, “bits of carpet fluff”.

    1. Our friends Kristi and Martin took over the farmhouse after we left They were so good at filling it with colorful tchotchkes! I feel a little guilty about my spartan ways. I know that most people feel more comfortable with a lot of stuff in a room. I like indoor spaces empty, and outdoor spaces full of rambunctious life.

      1. My other favorite quote was from my divorce lawyer: “But hon, you don’t make hardly any money.” It’s coming to me belatedly that this is a thing people live by. I actually wound up in civil debate with a Turning Point USA campus-recruiting guy — I forgot they’re the outfit that keeps the list of liberal professors — and he had a lot of seriously poorly-informed ideas about how universities work and can work; when we got to the part about cutting costs, I told him what I make, and it hit him like a two-by-four. And then at the end, in this beautiful and very personal moment of curiosity and trying to understand, he asks if I mind if he asks me a question, since I’d mentioned salary, and I said sure, go ahead, and he said, “Why do you do that work for that salary?” or something very like that. It was great — I think it had genuinely never occurred to him that someone who was obviously capable would do anything but income-maximize. And wouldn’t make hardly any money. It made me happy the whole rest of the day.

  2. You do realize that your blog is YOUR blog right? Share anything you want to share!….As for the two pieces you chose to share. I hope that I am as strong as Tom when I need to give up driving, I must admit at this moment I am not. The other piece written by your husband? Wow! It makes me want to take a ride on a bus to see, if I would notice half of the things he has. While I am here though, I want to tell you that I hope things are going well for you. I haven’t seen anything since your son’s send off to China I believe it was. I hope he is enjoying himself and your heart isn’t aching from his absense

    1. Am I sitting in my son’s old childhood bedroom, staring at a framed prom photo with tears welling up in my eyes? Um. No. The distance hasn’t hit me yet, and won’t, as long as we can chat every week via FaceTime. The kid is all right. He and his girlfriend are enjoying life in Beijing. One of the perks of their job is that they are forced to leave mainland China every two months for a visa run. They have already used their first set of travel stipends for a fantastic trip to Hong Kong. Nest month, they will meet a Vassar friend in Vietnam. Eventually, they will tell us which country we should meet them in, and we’ll have a chance to expand our world. Why have I not written? Too busy on projects dear to my heart. I threw myself into preparing for a new semester teaching at The Art Academy of Cincinnati. And these days I am very busy preparing a 5 minute story for a story slam at The Moth. I’ll be sure to have my faithful husband take a movie of me telling my story…if my name gets picked from a hat in Louisville next Tuesday. Wish me luck!

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