I ride the city bus. Hold your applause!
No autographs, please! I’ve ridden the bus in Birmingham all my life. “Unnatural,” you say? “Unheard of,” you say? Well, wait for this shocker. Hold onto your hat, assuming you’re wearing a hat while reading this. I’ve never owned a car. In fact, I don’t drive. Well, I can drive somewhat. I’ve been taught a few times over the years by friends. My last driving lesson was given to me by my friend Kathy. It was on a Sunday at a cemetery. Very little chance of running someone over in that environment. The only two dangers were either scratching Kathy’s bumper with the business end of a tombstone or g-g-g ghosts!
It’s always been an ongoing battle to describe my car-lessness to people without a long winded tale and secret shame. I’d say “I don’t drive,” but I’m sure what they heard was “I like to kick puppies in my spare time when I’m not giving orphans paper cuts with fresh Mother’s Day cards.” It was rarely a good reaction, so I’ll try to fast track you through the story I’ve had to rehash for years. Missed drivers ed in high school, never had money for a car anyway, went to college in Savannah, Ga. where they suggest you don’t bring a car due to limited city parking and good public transportation, never had money for a car anyway, public transit and cabs got me where I needed to go during college and after graduation, never had money for a car anyway, eventually got enough money for car, still comfortable with public transit, decided to get a car, got laid off, blah blah blah, cry me a river, yakkity yakkity.
For whatever reason or all those reasons, I’ve chosen to ride the bus. I know I could have easily bought a $300-dollar car and got around quite fine. The odds weren’t really against me. I just didn’t really think much about driving or getting a vehicle other than my bicycle. It wasn’t laziness, and I’m not going to cry and say, to quote Curly of the Three Stooges, “I was a victim of circumstance! Nyuck nyuck!” I wasn’t always a victim of circumstance, nor was I a victim of nyuck nyuck. I’ve made the bus work for me. That being said, I shouldn’t make the bus work for me. It should just work for me and everyone else. I frequently ride MAX, which is short for Metro Area Express. Did you think it meant Metro Area Xenophobes? Of course that’s not what it stands for, you big silly. We love foreigners here! Well, not all foreigners.
I’m looking at you French-Canadians.
When I was a kid, the bus ran about every 30 minutes, now it’s about every hour. In the summer, some are prone to overheat and stall. The Highway 31 bus (#31) has huge 3-hour gaps in the schedule. If I want to take the #31 to the Galleria between the hours of 1:40 and 4:45 so I can get knee deep in some Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, I’m outta luck! Of course, that’s not really all MAX’s doing. Highway 31 goes through the cities of Hoover and Vestavia. They have to pay to have MAX coming through their towns, but for whatever reason, they would rather not foot the bill for full bus service. Maybe if they spent less money camouflaging cell phone towers. I’ve heard those things can run up to $100,000 each. While I’m on the subject, who do you think you’re foolin? You can’t sneak a cell tower in drag past me! There are no 100 year old Sequoias near Waffle House! But I digress. What I’m saying in my own round-about, rambling way is, the system isn’t perfect. It needs a lot of improvement and expansion. All the cities involved could do a little more to increase the efficiency and efficacy of public transportation in the metropolitan area. Not just for my benefit. Mostly mine of course, but for everyone. For that poor college student trying to make her way to UAB or that guy in tears, driving Highway 280 traffic during rush hour. I’ve never seen a grown man cry so hard outside of a severe groin injury or an Iron Bowl loss.
As a grizzled toothless gold miner once told me, “It’s gonna take some GUMPTION!” Let’s invest more money! A bake sale perhaps? Let’s get rid of the stigma! In New York City, doctors, lawyers, chefs and teachers take public transportation. Here, people think it’s just the poor, minorities, vagrants and crazy people. Whether I fit in two or more of those categories, I won’t say here. Like I said, I make it work for me. For me, it’s actually pretty darn convenient most times, for where I live and work and hang out. And having things convenient for me, your old pal Christopher Davis...well, isn’t that what it’s all about folks?
Christopher Davis is professionally hilarious and will write things that tickle his funny place. Please send your comments to email@example.com