So, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah…taking the bus. Because I am bike-less, I am definitely learning the ins and outs of the bus system. I have to say, I find bus schedules and maps very confusing; in fact, I remember thinking about taking the bus in Toledo and giving up after trying to untangle their web of routes and times. Fortunately, Blacksburg’s system is much smaller, so it’s a little easier to figure out. Plus, the existence of Google Transit makes life easier; once I think I’ve figured out my route, I use Google Maps and click the “transit” button (bus icon) to check to see if I’m right. Sort of a double-redundancy system. I think I’m inordinately scared of getting stuck on the bus and taken somewhere far out of my way, which is sort of ridiculous in a bus system that covers about 16 square miles total. At the worst, I’d probably be stuck somewhere for a half hour.
Anyway. So, yesterday I decided to take the bus to combine errand-running with studying. There is a Starbucks directly across the street from the Kroger, and there is a quick bus change on campus that basically gets me from my apartment to Starbucks rather quickly (the return ride is another story). So I did the two-bus ride that dropped me right in front of the store, sat for a while and read, then went to gather my groceries. The stop I got off at to go to Starbucks is also the closest to Kroger; however, I decided that after I got done shopping, I would walk 1/2 mile to a different stop because I would only be on the bus for 10 minutes instead of 30. The problem with that plan was that I decided to take a “short” detour into the University Bookstore, which was fine until I couldn’t figure out how to politely exit a very long conversation with the cashier. It’s a weird “problem” down here with how friendly people are: you often get stuck in long conversations when you’re on a schedule. So, eventually I found an opening and said I needed to leave, but that gave me only 10 minutes to do the grocery shopping unless I wanted to extend my time and delay another 1/2 hour for the next bus. With dark clouds rolling in, I decided I did not want to do that, so I executed the quickest shopping trip known to (wo)man, and busted my butt hustling to the bus stop.
Now, the one thing you need to keep in mind about grocery shopping without a car is that you have to carry your bags; no tossing those suckers in the trunk or back seat. (This was not even a problem on my bike, as I could hook the bags on to my pannier rack and ride away!) Not so on the bus; you have to carry what you buy whatever distance you need to walk – in this case, a 1/2 mile to that other bus stop. I had one bag slung over my shoulders, another (somewhat light) bag in my one hand, and a freaking ton of bricks in the other. Holy cow! I had brought my insulated bag with me because I needed to pick up some milk, so of course I also had an ice pack in there. And 4 yogurts. And some bags of frozen fruit. And butter. And two containers of salsa. And a ton of other things the bag boy stuffed in there until it was ready to be used for weight training.
So, I exited the store and looked at the time; I estimated I had maybe five minutes until the bus reached that stop. Those of you who know me, picture this: me, fast-walking with this heavy bag, with my sorry lack of stamina and horrible carpal tunnel syndrome, switching the bag back and forth between my right hand and my left hand, and sometimes using both, panting like a ridiculous idiot and sweating like…a ridiculous idiot. Trying to sort of run-walk to the stop while balancing all of these bags. My only comfort was that most of the undergraduates haven’t come to town yet, so the audience for my sorry walk-trot-run-whimper to the bus stop was witnessed by very few.
So, I got to the stop and set my bags down and checked the time: 11:53. The bus time-checked on campus at 11:45 and was supposed to time-check in front of our apartment at Noon. Certainly, I had missed the bus, because my stop was only the second one after the campus time-check. I was feeling utterly defeated when I felt it: one single, solitary rain drop. NOOOOOO! Now I was going to have to wait a 1/2 hour until the next bus came…IN THE RAIN? I swear I nearly started crying. Then: a light on the horizon. A choir of angels. Could it be? It was my bus! It must have been delayed! Oh joy of joys; I was saved! I lugged my bags onto the bus and settled in for a quick 7 minutes to the apartment. Home!
So, that little adventure was completed, and brought with it a good lesson. If I could advocate for anything it would be this: if you are going to start running errands via bus, be sure to find a bag in advance that is advantageous. A bag that converts into a backpack would be most advisable, as you could pack your groceries and then carry it with the weight evenly distributed (you will certainly find this is to your advantage). I just purchased such a bag and will review it shortly following the advent of its use, so stay tuned for that blog post (which, if the bag is as good as I think it will be, will prove to simply be free advertising for this bag company).
P.S. I miss my bike, and find its absence is adversely affecting my joy.