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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Impressions from a bus ride

Busy week so far. Tuesday night, Daughter Dearest and her high school chorus got to go to downtown Atlanta to sing the national anthem at a Hawks game. I went along to videotape it, but they wouldn’t let me bring the camcorder in. Grr. But I got to see what turned out to be a pretty good game, and the home team won it for a change.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. We spent a pretty good while on a yellow school bus getting into town, and there were a few thoughts that impressed themselves on me during the ride (there and back).

I’ve always known there’s some kind of barrier between the freeway and the not-freeway, but perhaps since I was reading The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (good book if you haven’t read it — things haven’t changed much in 65 years) I saw that barrier in a different way. Instead of a safety measure, I saw a boundary between two worlds, mobile and fixed. In some places the boundary was little more than a token: a guard rail or “portable” concrete barrier, something easy to step over. In other places, the guard rail was backed by a high chain-link fence, sometimes topped with barbed wire; sometimes the fence stood alone without the guard rail. The most extreme cases were the metal or concrete sound barriers that loomed 10 feet or more above the roadside.

I still have the ability to read a book and shut out the hubbub around me. The tap on the shoulder I can’t ignore, and never was able to. Daughter Dearest was impressed that I could ignore the noise and read. The kids double-up on an iPod: one earbud in each head.

Bus seats aren’t nearly as comfortable as they were when I was 17 and weighed 140 pounds.

The height of school bus hijinks these days seems to be boys parading shirtless up the aisle. The “freeze-out” I remember from my high school days, and it was much more effective in a real winter.

The security people were very pleasant, in stark contrast to the job they’re doing. I had to ask the guy about his twisted locks; he said he’d been working on it for seven years. Amazing.

Trying to read email on a cell phone is a pain under any circumstance, and twice as much on a jouncy bus.

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