Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Riding the Max

Riding the Max, Portland’s rapid transit train, from a nearby Transit Center to City Center every day has put me in mind of the Muni commute in San Francisco. This is not the full body contact sport that The City offered, but the trip is still redolent with scents of hygiene products and non-hygiene emissions. Trains are crowded and no room to really work a crossword or knit. Same protocol as flying…keep your elbows in and your chin down and don’t make eye contact with anyone and don’t expect anyone to be courteous.

The biggest change since 1995-1997 when I was living at Ocean Beach and riding an hour to downtown SF is the proliferation of cell phones. Twenty plus conversations going on around me as I try to read my book. I knew raising four noisy kids would prepare me for something!

For the first time I am riding public transportation as an “Honored Citizen” which gives me the legal right (although not always the courage) to boot out the surly teenager or clueless yuppie from the Priority Seating Area. Fare is $.80 each way and it is best to have exact change as the ticket dispensers sometimes eat the paper money without releasing a ticket.

Tri-Met riders are a microcosm of the metro population: young, old, in-between, frail, hearty, earthy people, bike riders, mamas and strollers, school kids, homeless, punks, gang bangers, office workers, blue collar workers, students…I could go on and on. Great people watching and occasionally an interesting conversation.

It feels good to be out in the world again although most people look stressed and hurried and too many are frowning or looking sad. There is street construction everywhere. Eateries are putting tables on the sidewalk and flowers are blooming in the front yards of every house. Intimate views of back yards as well, not always so neatly tended. Absolutely the best way to see a city.


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