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On Becoming a Bus Rider

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
June 25, 2008

I finally did it.

I left my car home and rode the bus to work.

I’d been talking about it even before gas prices tripped over the $4 mark. I wanted to reduce my carbon foot print. Help save the planet. Do my part for the team.

But I really didn’t want to give up the security, the independence that comes with having your car right there within starting-up-and-driving-wherever-you-want-to-go reach. Not really. Not enough to push after work meetings later than 5 p.m. or 5:30 so I could take the bus and make the meeting, too.

Until Tuesday. (Monday I had a meeting in Portsmouth that I –conveniently??—forgot was at 6 o’clock and not 5:30 so I had to drive. Didn’t I?)

Taking the bus for me means getting up earlier. I know it shouldn’t but I’m not a morning person. I’m a burn-it-as-late-in-the-evening-as-I-can-get-away-with-and-still-function-the-next-day kind of person.

Or always have been.

But that’s going to change. Monday night I adjusted my turn-in time by an hour so there’d be no excuse about getting up and making it out of the house at exactly 7:20 so I could be certain to catch the 7:40 bus at The Pic (Portsmouth lingo for the Hannaford Supermarket on Islington Street that will forever be known to the townies as the Pic-n-Pay or, for true locals, as The Pic.)

As I pulled into a parking space, I spotted a few people sitting on a bench up against the building while another two or three stood nearby. Pulling out my book, which I’d put near my gym bag so I wouldn’t forget either in my morning rush, I joined the bench folks and got in about five minutes of reading before the Wildcat bus arrived. Right on time.

Then I got on, settled into a seat and read the whole way to work. Read. In the morning. For 20 to 25 minutes. Unheard of. There was a brief pause when a woman whose office is in a building near mine got on at the mall. A tried-and-true buser, she knew I’d been working my way up to riding the bus for months.

“Welcome to the bus,” she said, telling me she is so enamored with UNH’s public transportation she juggles her schedule to make it work as close to 100 percent of the time as possible.

The ride passed quickly. I looked up when we turned in near McDonalds. Then again on the General Sullivan Bridge. And then when we rounded the corner onto Madbury Road. I put my book away in front of Stoke, got off at Sawyer Hall and walked down to my office in Schofield House feeling all proud and accomplished for doing what hundreds of people do everyday/have been doing for years.

To that I say better late than never.

The only blip in an otherwise successful first bus trip came when it was time to take it home. Around 4 o’clock the sky turned black. By 4:15 it was raining. I’d actually thought to get my umbrella and had stuck it in my gym bag.

Which was in my car. In the Hannaford parking lot.

So I got soaked walking to the bus stop in front of Hetzel on Main Street. A small price to pay for the satisfaction of feeling like I’d done something I should have.

It feels like I’m joining a club. A good club. One with conscientious people. Is that too much of an assumption? Are there more people taking the bus simply because they can’t afford the gas rather than because they want to help save the planet? Or, because they don’t own a car? Or hate driving? And does the why even matter if the goal set by the Transportation Policy Committee more than two years ago to have fewer cars on campus is being met?

Either way, I’m determined to stick with this. Umbrella or no umbrella. It feels too good not to.


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