In honor of the beginning of the new school year and a return to “normalcy”:
It’s no new thing, me getting the kids where they need to be each morning. I’ve had a year to get used to it and we’ve all institutionalized our respective roles for the daily exodus out the door. So the issue wasn’t me being in charge of getting the kids to camp, on time, on my own, without a car. The problem was that the new route was insufficiently convenient for me.
School days, we’d take the 38 west about 20 blocks and we’d wind up one block from our destination. One shot, a surgical transit strike. The bus usually runs every three minutes. Most gratifyingly convenient.
Some other days, the boys needed to get to the Early Education Center in the Presidio. It’s right off one of the two shuttlebus lines that run around that 1500-acre park all day, so we’d walk four blocks up to the Presidio where a shuttle swung by every 30 minutes. From the pickup we’d get a lovely tour of the coastal bluffs and cypress woods on our way to a stop across the street from our ultimate destination. One bus, but a bit of a shlep and a decent chance at a long wait. Not optimal, but within acceptable levels of convenience.
But this summer we’ve had a new destination, way out in the Letterman Complex, and my transit options seemed very restricted. We needed to get to the far side of the Presidio, the side my local shuttle doesn’t reach. I checked maps, I checked the little planning app on the official transit site, I honestly did my homework, and this is what I figured out: From our home we’d need to travel north-east. The 28 would get us north to the GGB Plaza, where we could catch the Crissey Field Shuttle heading east. If we timed it right we’d only need to wait a few minutes at the bridge for the shuttle to come, and it would drop us right at camp. Two buses, a moderate chance at a moderate wait, but almost no walking and a nice set of views. Could be worse. Figured I’d find out how much worse soon enough.
It was our second day on this commute when we arrived at the stop with three minutes to spare for our scheduled ride on the 28, to find ourselves with an 18 minutes wait instead. Infamous, infuriating! The boys did well entertaining themselves for 30% of an hour, but I could see that, though this new commute worked fine when it worked, it wasn’t going to work as an everyday thing. There were just too many variables.
We stumbled along like this for a week or two, always arriving at the bus stop on time and finding the bus off schedule as often as not. When the 28 was late we’d stand and wait and watch the 28Ls roll past us mockingly. It was tempting to take those rides but I knew better. The L doesn’t roll north like the regular 28 – it hauls east on California and doesn’t course-correct till way out on Presidio Street, where it goes up and then down the big hill, right into the Presidio itself, right past the Letterman Complex, right out of the Presidio again and another five blocks or so into Cow Hollow – without a stop. That’s an overshot, son, and I don’t stand for that. We don’t ride past our destination. That 28L was a pig in a poke.
But under the right conditions, a pig in a poke can be surprisingly alluring. Thus it was when we arrived at our bus stop one morning, on time and under budget, to see that the 28 was a solid 28 minutes away. We’d miss our connection to the shuttle and would have to wait nearly an hour in total for two bus rides amounting to 15 minutes on the road. A black mood settled over me. I glanced to the boys. They looked up at me, eyes shining with innocent trust. I couldn’t make them spend all that time at bus stops. I had to be a dad and fix this. And in true Dad fashion, I acted impulsively but wound up doing the right thing anyway.
The L was coming right up. I just told the kids to get on it. We’d walk back those five insulting blocks. They would still get to camp earlier than if we’d waited. Our bus made its right turn onto CA and then started motoring past the quiet broad avenues of Jordan Park, out past Laurel Village’s boutiques, all the way to the JCC where we hung a louie and went up past some Presidio Heights mansions and then between the sandstone pillars and down into the forest past the long straight trail of Lover’s Lane and a Galsworthy serpent curled expansively amid the euke litter, the coach rocking into the banked corners under the forest canopy, down past some tidy mission revival residences with palms and oaks and emerald lawns, right to the front of the Letterman Complex, where there’s a bus stop, where our bus… stopped.
We disembarked and I looked around, blinking in the platinum light. The ride had taken ten minutes. There was no overshot. We’d been let off exactly where we wanted to be. We started to walk – to the first path between the big office barracks, where robins and goldfinches accompanied us past a convenient Starbucks and a bronze statue of Edward Muybridge, and then down a series of smooth swooping paths descending gently among hillocks to a clear stone pond where tiny ducklings were just learning to swim. Beyond all this, the dome of the PFA rose like a dreamer’s sigh; beyond that, the bay glinted and the islands and hills lounged like cats. The boys took off running and laughing and in moments we were at the gym where camp was held. Fifteen minutes prior I’d been stewing about a missed bus. And now all I could think about is how easy everything just got.
Then a couple of weeks later things got easier still. After I dropped the kids off I took a shuttle right to my building downtown. From camp I’d walk three blocks up the hill right across the street, to wait for the shuttle at the Lombard Gate – its last stop before heading directly downtown. But by then all the seats were usually taken and I was forced to stand and that’s all too difficult and irritating for a delicate freaking flower like myself. I like to sit on the bus. That’s my “me” time, dammit. And then I realized that I could take a slightly different path from camp, turning right instead of left, leading in a slightly shorter distance to an earlier and rather nicer stop for the downtown shuttle, where seats were plentiful and flocks of wild parrots circled overhead to entertain me. From that day forward I rode to work every day in the comfort of my own upholstered shuttle seat. And that’s when I realized my commute was spoiling me. I feel ruined for the school year, but that’s not going to stop it from starting. Like, now.
(Speaking of which, I did ride out Iselle in a black-out in Kapoho at the east tip of the Big Island, where most of the damage happened. Let me know if you’re interested in reading about any of that sort of thing.)