Just another liberal on the bus

One day last summer

I wanted to take my infant son to a festival and

Since my husband had the car that day,

I decided we would ride the city bus.

My son was in his stroller–

The kind where you clip the car seat in–

And his huge diaper bag was stuffed into the undercarriage,

And my purse was swinging from the handlebar.

Like any infant/parent duo out for an afternoon,

We had as much

Equipment as we had

Pounds in our two bodies.

Now,

My experience with public transportation is

Informed by the five years I lived in

Scandinavia

Where parents and kids in strollers

Ride for free,

Where if you’re getting on a train or tram with stairs,

Strangers will pick up the front of your pram without a word

And help you and your kid on board,

Where other riders will

Uncomplainingly

Make way for you and your stroller.

It felt like

We were all in this together.

Everyone invested in raising these kids–

Even those who didn’t have kids–

A value exemplified by the

Public transportation system:

Institutionally, with the free fare;

And culturally, with the unspoken agreement that

Someone will help you

Get your pram

On the damn bus.

So as I was pushing my

Stroller system to the bus stop,

I got a sinking feeling:

I’d ridden the bus plenty as a commuter,

And I’d seen that

Wheelchair elevator thing they have,

But I’d never seen a stroller on one…

Sure enough,

The bus pulled up to the stop and the doors opened,

And the bus driver looked down at me and my

Grapes of Wrath-esque stroller system and said,

Skeptically,

“You’re gonna have to fold up that

Stroller to get it on here.”

I looked up at her,

Starting to panic as I

Envisioned how I would

Sherpa a

Folded-up stroller,

Car seat,

Diaper bag,

Purse, and

Oh yeah,

The baby

Onto the bus

In one load

With no help.

Reader,

I lied.

“My son has a head injury and the

Doctor said

We can’t move him.

He has to stay in his stroller.

I can’t take him out.”

The bus driver looked at us for a minute,

Then pushed the button, and the

Elevator contraption

Beeped its way down to the ground for us.

I crammed us onto the thing

Diagonally–

It’s not meant to have someone standing behind the

Wheelchair–

And we got on the bus.

Not only did people

Not make way for us,

But they glared at me.

Annoyed that I was making the bus run behind schedule,

And probably seeing through my bullshit line.

The whole bus ride,

I fumed.

How is it

Safer to have a

Folded up stroller and a

Loose infant rolling around the

Inside of a

Moving bus than a

Stroller locked in place with a brake system

And the infant buckled inside?

It seemed designed to actually

Discourage

Parents from using public transportation.

As I steamed,

I made this into an

Example in my mind

Of everything that’s wrong with our country,

Of an individualism that borders on

Absurdity.

It’s your kid.

You decided to have him.

You decided to ride the bus.

You get him on board yourself.

You don’t want to ride the bus with  your kid?

Then get a job

And get a car.

Oh, and by the way,

Same goes for his health insurance.

But all of a sudden–

Maybe it was the evil eyes boring into the back of my head

From the ridership sitting behind me–

I could see myself like I think

The

Other side

Might see me.

The assumptions I was making,

The language I was using in my mind.

Wow.

I did sound entitled.

(I even lied to get my way,

Which is another whole issue.)

I’ve been given the gift

In recent years,

Of having

Politically conservative

Friends.

And though we don’t talk much about politics,

I can see from the way they live their lives

What they mean about

Personal responsibility.

They see a problem,

And I see the same problem

And we see different

Reasons for that problem,

And we have different ideas for

Solutions to the problem.

I can look into their eyes and

See that they’re not

Evil or

Mean or

Vindictive.

My problem–

And it is

My problem–

Is when it’s a whole

Half a country of them,

And they become faceless,

And I don’t get to look into their eyes

And see that their motivations are true.

It hurts.

It hurts me to feel so

Disconnected from seemingly

Half my countrymen and women.

(It felt like

The bus was

Full of them

That day.)

But all I can look at is myself.

My assumptions.

My senses of entitlement.

My distrust of

The other side.

Where does it come from?

It doesn’t even matter.

I’m pretty sure that

Any of my conservative friends would’ve helped me

Carry my stroller off the bus–

Though they might not have thought I should have

Free fare–

And maybe that’s a start.

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