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It's 5:15 am in Alabama. I'm on I-65 headed to Montgomery for a day spent with my cousin that I never get to see because she lives in Virginia, and is only in town for one more day. The blessings that have come my way this day are all due to a blue light under a seat in front of me. I am blogging while riding on a Greyhound Bus from Mobile to Montgomery.

Going by bus wasn't my first choice. I called rental places and was all set to rent a midsize car when I found out that I'd need a credit card and proof of income (oops, neither) or a utility bill in my name (oops, not that either, as I live in a house that is owned by an elderly woman and I don't have anything in my name).

 If that young man had not turned in front of me in October or whenever it was, I'd still be driving my son's Volvo as I really loved that S70. But it's scrap metal now. No one was injured, and no one went to jail, I hope. The young man who was driving uninsured had his own problems living in this state as a young black father of two, trying to do the right thing, trying to get his little girl in a good school, and trying to get his job back after having cancer.

I felt sorry for him. Believe me I know how many shitty tickets life can hand you. And he did me a favor.

I don't have a car. I live near a bus stop in a city in Alabama that has pretty miserable public transportation, and I ride a 1972 Western Flyer around town, to Walmart, Michaels, and sometimes to the downtown market ( I missed the Tour de Koop yesterday sadly.)  I'm a member of MOB, Mobilians on Bikes. We have a facebook page. Check it out.

Next week there is a bike tour of some towntown gardens. I'm planning to go.

Today, however, I'm travelling to Montgomery, for the day. For $44 plus cab fare. I don't see how that could be any better. I'm spending the day with my cousins, going to the church where my uncle was the preacher for 35 years, and then returning home in time to feed the cats and let them all know I didn't leave forever.

Not that they'd suffer. They are pampered. But they knew something was up when I went to bed at 8 last night. And I've got a friend that will check on them if I start worrying, but I don't think they'll even miss me all that much.

And having my internet access while I'm traveling is wonderful.

Traveling this road, from Mobile to Montgomery, is a part of my life that I've written about in my stories. I can recall trips to Granny's house from Fairhope when I was seven or eight, and there was no interstate.

And I can recall train rides from Mobile to Montgomery. I never took the bus to Opelika, where my mother's mother lived, but I did take the bus to Columbia, Mississippi often, starting when I was very young. My parents would put my sister and me on the bus, and my grandmother would get us on the other end. We were watched over by the bus driver and I have never forgotten that. I can recall bus rides I've taken that were not as pleasant, and other transit rides in my younger years, but the fact is that the only time I ride a bus now is to the USA football games. And that's got to change.

I'm going to become public transportation savvy. I can see this.

I didn't know how much my life would change when I learned how wonderful it would be to live carless.

I really can't see myself owning a car again. The yellow cab company is two blocks away, (I actually called them twice to move my stuff to the house I'm in now, and by some clever horsetrading I didn't have to rent a truck at all)

And this bus is pretty damn comfortable. I'm probably keeping someone awake by my laptop screen lights but I hope not. It sounds pretty peaceful and even the little two year old seems to have calmed down for a nap. Maybe when she gets up she'll come sit with me and I'll show her something online.

How cool is this? I could be driving up the highway by myself, spending gas money, (round trip to Montgomery usually would take about a tank) as I recall. And with a ten year old car there are other things to worry about. My sons both work in Birmingham and I really would love to be able to see them both but the cost has been prohibitive. Well, guess what, guys. This is my new favorite thing.

I'll be checking out rates, routes, and making trip plans now. And I can do that as I travel. I bought my tickets online and saved money. The staff in the station were great, friendly, polite, and interesting. The cab company that picked me up is going to have to learn the meaning of promptness even at 3 am, and that won't be hard to do.

Hell, maybe I'll even start driving a cab for them. Nah, I am still more interested in living my live the way I like living it.

I am focused on one idea for the next few decades of my life. Autonomy. That's it. That's all I have ever wanted. It's been tough, until now. I had always depended on someone else for security. Now, thanks to social security, I may be able to find that autonomy.

I can't live on social security alone. I know that. But I can, if the world will ever catch up to the visions I've had for a long time, earn a living doing what I do best.

Here's something I noticed this morning. I walked into that waiting area in the bus station and I thought it was my stage. Seriously, I felt like everyone in there was someone I might talk to, even though many seemed to be hispanic or some other nationality. I couldn't tell by looking at them but I could hear different languages spoken. And I recalled my father's third wife, a hispanic woman herself, saying that my father talked to everyone no matter where they were. That's true, and I have always been like that as well.

Everyone needs self-esteem, and a feeling of autonomy. People don't need to feel that they are under suspicion, they don't need to fear that they will be misjudged, and they sure as hell don't need to be stereotyped.

I had never been on one of these new buses before. I immediately saw the big wide seat near the exit, thought of my airplane days and gravitated to that seat. Then I started thinking that something was wrong with what I had done. I looked around, and noticed that the seat had a handicapped marker on the window next to it. I looked across the aisle and realized that there were designated handicapped seats and about the same time, a very large woman came down the aisle and stopped at the row where I was sitting. I looked at her, and said,  "Would you like to sit here?"

That would be nice, she said quietly. I moved back to another seat, and when I did, I also got my bearings a bit more, and realized that these buses are well designed for the modern traveler. There are two outlet plugs in front of me, pockets for my book or a smaller laptop, and a pocket for my drink, an armrest and comfortable seats and a seatbelt.

I looked at that outlet. I stared at it. Wow, I thought, I didn't need to run around today trying to find a place to buy a new battery for this laptop (an old one I bought at a yard sale after my newer one was stolen by a neighborhood kid).

I had no idea there would be plugs in the back of the seats. What other wonders await me as I discover a different way to travel? I would love to hear from you guys about traveling via train, bus, etc.  

I am working with a man next door who is 93, and has seriously impaired hearing. He's so intelligent that I have been trying to find ways to make his world more accessible as his knees give out and his diabetes makes his feet hurt. He has some great doctors and I'm pleased that the younger dermatologist he's seeing now sends him home with all sorts of information on what they are doing. My concern is that he could be getting so much better treatment if he could interact with the medical profession instead of being seen as an elderly person who doesn't understand technology. This man is a working engineer. At 93. He still gets called in to work because he is the only one who can do certain things. He would benefit from a Telikiin if I could get him to part with the money, but he wants to SEE one first.

I'm working on him. Text has to be large enough to see, and he needs speech recognition for sure. But the thing I like best about the Telikin is their tech buddy concept. I've had so many people who have struggled with computers and they just expect me to show up and fix things, but the tech buddy is even better. You can actually log in through their site and access their computer remotely which I'm sure lots of you guys know how to do. But with Tech Buddy, any nephew, sister, son or daughter can do that for an older person. This is a cool idea.

Anyway, the sun is coming up, and I can see the trees. I'm gonna post this, and see what the day brings.

Originally posted to alabamaliberal on Sun May 06, 2012 at 04:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A nice read to start my day (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks!

    The test of whether we're willing to stand up to the thugs that wrote voter suppression laws is this: Are you willing to hold hands with someone that needs hand holding in order to qualify to vote?

    by Richard Cranium on Sun May 06, 2012 at 05:09:51 AM PDT

  •  We Live Minutes From a Historic Scenic Railway (5+ / 0-)

    that runs back & forth alongside the remnants of the Erie & Ohio Canal that first made Cleveland and Akron vital a national port in one case and manufacturing centers for both of them, connected across the Great Lakes and to two oceans, over a century & a half ago.

    But the only practical use of it is their bike car which lets you ride up to it for cheap, check your bike and get off again anywhere up or down the line. The Akron-Cleveland area is riddled with some aging and many now-torn-up rail lines that were the first superhighways replacing the canals for both shipping and travel.

    We never make it a full year without taking another scenic train ride, especially when we hear that a visiting steam locomotive is in town to give it a pull. If we had any kind of practical passenger service we'd make use of it.

    I love the experience of riding in a train. The Cleveland area has its "Rapid Transit" electric trains that were first built to take management types from the upper middle class suburbs into the city daily. As late as the 70's when I last lived in the region, I rode it often to work and for crosstown visiting & dating. But it's only one dimensional, one route.

    I'm also the nation's sole advocate for restoring the electric trolley bus service all the cities around here and practically every major city used to have.

    Here's one in 1960's Rome from the movies.
    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

    No track to mess with so you can change routes as fast and cheap as stringing wire, no hauling heavy fuel or batteries around with the passengers, and no recharging power loss.

    Thanks for this diary!

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun May 06, 2012 at 05:44:50 AM PDT

  •  What a lovely diary! (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you for writing.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Sun May 06, 2012 at 07:55:58 AM PDT

  •  Your friendliness comes shining through (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, hazey

    in your writing. I'm so glad the CS folks spotlighted your work.

    Mr. Romney, if you move to the White House will you add on a car elevator?

    by Red Bean on Sun May 06, 2012 at 08:02:44 AM PDT

    •  Umm, I've been a bit busy today (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hazey, ladybug53

      and just got back on the bus an hour ago to head back home. What CS folks? I'm just now getting around to checking in, but I can tell you that the day was spent in the most wonderful way, and I have pics...so you'll get to see it when I get to a place where I can upload my images, which probably means some time tonight. Right now I am hoping for a clean restroom somewhere (some things never change....)

      Thanks though. I really appreciate your comment more than you can imagine.

      I can do everything but earn a living.

      by alabamaliberal on Sun May 06, 2012 at 04:05:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Austin to Seattle by bus (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Damnit Janet, foresterbob, hazey

    I don't think I would do it again, but I once took a bus ride from Austin TX. to Seattle WA. There is something about being trapped on a bus for two days that builds camaraderie with your fellow travelers. Maybe it is the sleep deprivation combined with boredom, but by the time we were in Nevada I had developed a close friend ship with five of the other travelers.  For some reason we just couldn't stop giggling about the fact that it is specifically post that you are prohibited from transporting bull semen on a Greyhound bus. I hadn't know that and fortunately for me, I was not transporting bull semen on this trip (OK the truth is the closes I have ever been to bull semen was reading Zola).

    I woke up in Northern California to a view of a heard antelope grazing in a fenceless landscape.

    Here is a Johnathan Richman song for your consideration.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sun May 06, 2012 at 09:25:03 AM PDT

  •  hmm, 93 and something only he can do/fix? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alabamaliberal, hazey

    I hope for the company's sake (?) that part of what he's doing is training a replacement, OR helping them figure out how to upgrade whatever system he's nursing along? do you have any idea what it is?

    other thing, just googled the Telikin. looks interesting. any idea how long it's been around (so I can beat myself up about not having it while parents were still here...)

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Sun May 06, 2012 at 02:03:56 PM PDT

    •  He's an engineer - (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hazey, ladybug53

      and there are buildings all over town that he's worked on. He does do some training, but he also works with a few men that he hired many, many years ago.

      Telikin is a pretty good company out of Pennsylvania, and they have a  product that deserves more exposure. The problem I have is with the idea of it being for seniors...I am 62, and most of my friends have no idea how to use a computer for anything much - they would love it. But to my knowledge there isn't anyone stocking them locally -- I'm probably going to have to buy one first and then let them sell themselves - I get so frustrated with people who say "Bah, I use a computer at work, and I'm so busy, yada yada ...." or what I heard today from cousins - Facebook? Not me. No way - I don't have time for all that.

      I guess I have all the time in the world. Glad you guys are there to share it with me.

      Thanks.

      I can do everything but earn a living.

      by alabamaliberal on Sun May 06, 2012 at 04:20:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I took the Greyhound (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    foresterbob, hazey, ladybug53

    a couple weeks ago to go and pick up a car. It was fine, good seats, lights and as you say, electrical outlets, also friendly passengers.

    If I need to take a long trip again I'll weigh the bus against driving for sure.

  •  Travel Blog (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alabamaliberal, hazey, ladybug53

    I enjoyed this.  Well done.

    I've been blogging while travelling for several years.  Feel free to drop by at www.aroundtheworldineightyyears.com

    Its a travel blog!

  •  I'm sure there are other diaries coming (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hazey, ladybug53

    from this one trip yesterday, but the amazing thing is I'm not tired, and I can't remember when I felt this way after a trip.

    One thing I definitely would recommend to novice passengers is that leaving your iPhone on a charger in the bathroom while you step into the stall might be a bad idea. Apparently someone did that in Montgomery, and that iPhone has disappeared.

    As one of my friends likes to say, "I don't think I'd have told that!"

    I can do everything but earn a living.

    by alabamaliberal on Mon May 07, 2012 at 05:47:02 AM PDT

  •  Nice thoughtful read at beginning of day (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    Thanks for sharing this.

    I took the plunge and decided to go carless a few weeks ago. So far, I can't tell the difference because I already was primarily using public transportation anyway. Living in the Bay Area makes it much easier, I'm sure, than trying it in Alabama. I look forward to hearing more about your experience in the future.

  •  Depending on what he'd use the Telikiin for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    An iPad might be a better option. It would probably be easier to go look at one, anyway.

    He might be interested in the Kindle as well, for reading; it lets you blow up text pretty big and has a text to speech option.

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