Saturday, July 30, 2011

31 the Opposite Way

My love-hate relationship with the 31 bus has been well chronicled in this space. And yet I go to the well again. Feel free to skip today's post if you're not in the mood for hackneyed prose about a boring subject.

The drill when I have to pick up both kids (which is about half the time) is that I take one of two buses to Aaron's school, and then walk Aaron four blocks to the closes 31 bus stop, where we will get on for about a half-mile, walk two more blocks, and then transfer to either the 21 or the 42, both of which make stops just a block away from Jada's school. If I time it right, and everything is reasonably on schedule, I can leave the office a hair before 5 and be home with both kids safely a hair before 6.

Alas, sometimes the 31 bus decides to just not show up when it is supposed to. This actually happened twice this week. Fortunately, both days were days Amy was home. And while I was loath to have to make her hobble down the street (she has a bum leg) to get Jada, I didn't have much choice, since the 31 not showing up essentially meant we would not be getting to Jada's school in time.

On both days, Aaron and I would wait until the last possible minute, hoping that maybe the 31 bus was just a little late, and if it would just show up now, we could get on to our next stop and still get Jada. What made me decide to give up and call Amy was that the 31 bus would come in the opposite direction. Strangely enough, if we take the 31 one way, it takes us to our next stop, from which we can go get Jada, but if we take the 31 the other way, it takes us to near our house, from which we can walk home. And so the 31 bus coming in the opposite direction, with the 31 bus we were waiting still not in sight, signaled to me that we were better off calling Amy, getting on the 31 bus coming in the opposite direction, and just going straight home.

The 31 bus we are supposed to board is headed for Center City. At that time of the day, it's pretty empty, since it's coming from residential neighborhoods and heading into the city's employment center. Conversely, the 31 bus coming in the opposite direction, which is the one Aaron and I took to go straight home twice this week, is pretty crowded. And, because it winds its way through some pretty rough neighborhoods north of where we live, it's a pretty low-income crowd.

I wonder what is registering in young Aaron's head as he sits on my lap or as we both stand, winding our way through some pretty bombed out parts of West Philadelphia, shoulder to shoulder with saggy pants and hoop earrings. I often wish the right 31 would have come, so we could be back on our normal route, with plenty of space to stretch out, en route to getting Jada so Amy doesn't have to aggravate her leg. But twice this week we had to go a different way, and that way, while different and a little more rugged, serves its purpose as well.
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