I’m directionally challenged. This probably seems odd considering I’m from New York City but I am clueless when it comes to getting around by myself. I started riding the public bus to school when I was in the third grade. I used to live around the corner from my elementary school but then my dad and I moved to the neighborhood over and, at the tender age of eight, was forced to navigate the bus system. Needless to say, I got completely lost on my first attempt to get to school. Thankfully there was a nice man who I always happened to see at the bus stop who helped me out (now that I think about it, he was a little too nice and was probably a pedophile).
By the sixth grade, I was already riding the train by myself. My middle school was only 3 train stops away but, at the time, this felt like the longest journey of my life. Once again, I got utterly lost on my first attempt to get to school. I called my dad hysterical but he simply mumbled some street names, that sounded like jargon, and told me he had to go.
I somehow managed to find my way to school although I was extremely late for my chorus audition (you had to audition for talents at my middle school, the NYC school system over complicates everything). I remember walking into an empty room. The teacher looked puzzled by how late I was but I explained what happened and he agreed to audition me. Still feeling overwhelmed by my traumatic train experience, I sang Happy Birthday through gasps of breath. I probably sounded like a pigeon chirping over a discovered bagel crumb. (Surprisingly, I got accepted and still love singing to this day. Although I don’t think my chorus teacher loved me because I accidentally hit him in the face one time when we were practicing a dance routine).
And as I’ve gotten older, life has taken me on several trains to several places and exposed me to several kinds of people. Lets put it this way, the 2 am train crowd is certainly not a tourist attraction. Also if a train car is empty, there’s a good reason why it’s empty. But even with my various adventures and misadventures on public transportation, I still get nervous when commuting somewhere new. This morning, I had an interview at 11:30 am in downtown Milwaukee. And assuming I would get lost, I gave myself an hour to get there. I got to the bus stop with plenty of time but unlike the bus in New York, the one here doesn’t have a time schedule posted at every stop. After about three minutes of waiting, I started to become very anxious. I’m sure it was apparent that I’m not a native mid-westerner because while I’m lingering in the street, tapping my foot like a mad woman, another girl calmly sits on a bench nearby and waits patiently until the bus comes.
Riding the bus in Milwaukee was more pleasant than I had anticipated ( I hate the bus because it reminds me of the terrible commute I had to Staten Island last year). But anyway, I got to the interview with plenty of time to spare because I shockingly did not get lost. I sat on the steps to a church while I waited, however, I got a lot of dirty looks. Back in Brooklyn, me and my best friend used to sit on church steps all the time. We’d go to the Mexican restaurant and get burritos and then go across the street eat them on the church steps. No one thought anything of it. Except for this one time when a transvestite called us sluts because our ankles were showing (that doesn’t count though).
After the interview, I wanted to explore the area and take advantage of venturing without my grandparents. I found the nearest coffeehouse and made that my first stop. It was a cool little space. I made my way to the counter and asked if they had ice coffee. The guy behind the counter was like “Not only do we have ice coffee, we have THE ice coffee” “Yeah? Because I’m from Brooklyn and I’m looking for some coffee that can actually compare” I said teasingly. He smiled. “Well maybe this will make you feel less homesick” and handed me my coffee (Note to self: potential coffeehouse soul mate #1).
I took my coffee to go and made my way back to the bus stop. I was planning on exploring the area more but it was really warm and I was dressed like a frumpy grandma for my interview so I decided to head back early. I saw a guy standing next to the bus stop and asked him if it was heading the direction I needed, he said it was. I explained to him that I was new to the area and he asked where I was from. I told him that I was from New York and was now living with my grandparents in Milwaukee and naturally, he asked why I came out here. The easiest thing to say when people ask me this is “I needed a change of scenery”, this is partially true but obviously there is more of an underlying story that I don’t always feel like getting in to.
We rode the bus together and talked for a while. He told me that he currently goes to UW -Milwaukee but had taken a few semesters off here and there to travel in South America and is now majoring in philosophy. I admitted that I don’t really know what I want to pursue with my studies yet and then we both laughed at how lame my grandparents neighborhood is. When he got off the bus, I couldn’t help but smile. You need to understand, that was literally the most social interaction I’ve had with someone close in age for about two weeks now. So yes, I consider conversing with a stranger on the bus a very exciting experience.
Overall, today was really great– I’m looking forward to the many adventures, and misadventures, that await on the Milwaukee, public bus.