Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Traveling with baby

Those of you who used to read my old blog might remember my obsession with going car-free. I had no car at the time, and I managed to get all the way to Philadelphia and back more than once with no car. I had ways to get to church, to the airport, and so forth, and I was very proud of my savvy. (I had this plan of writing an article about it and publishing it in a magazine, since gas prices were at their peak and going car-free was considered very cool. But I never got around to it.)

Now I have a car, John's gigantic maroon van, and I have the ability to drive if I want to. I just have to drive John to the train station at 6 a.m., and pick him up again close to 6 p.m. But there is also a city bus which I can take as well.

Monday I decided to try it for the first time. First times often go badly, and this did -- I almost missed the bus to work and did miss the bus back. I had to wait an hour in the hot sun for the next one. But today I tried again and it worked much better.

The funny thing is that people at work keep commenting about how "adventurous" I'm being, implying that I'm slumming it somehow, or advising me to "just buy a beater!" Well, since we can't afford a second car, certainly not to pay my transport to a 5-hour-a-week job (I don't want to pay more to get to the job than I make!), it's not "slumming it." It's living within my means. True, there are few white people on the bus -- most are black or Hispanic. However, the same can be said of our apartment complex. Just because we are white doesn't mean we make any more money than our minority neighbors.

In fact, taking the bus is a bit more convenient than the alternative. My schedule when I drive:

5:30 a.m. Wake up, get baby up, feed baby, put baby in carseat
6 - 6:30 a.m. Drive John to train station.
7:45-8 a.m. Drive to work.
9:15-9:30 a.m. Drive home from work.
5:30-6 p.m. Pick up John from train station.

Total time in car: 1 1/2 hours.

My schedule when I take the bus:
6:45 a.m. Wake up and get ready.
7:25 a.m. Walk to bus stop.
7:35 a.m.- 8 a.m. Take bus.
8-8:05 a.m. Walk to school.
9:35-9:40 a.m. Walk to bus stop.
9:45-10:10 a.m. Take bus.
10:10-10:20 a.m. Walk home.

Total transit time: 1 hr. 25 min.

The time difference is negligible. The real difference is in other considerations, like comfort. One would assume that a car is more comfortable, but actually, with a baby, it isn't at all. On the days I drive, I have to get the baby in and out of the carseat six times. Often he's dozing and gets upset when I stop and get him out. Or I have to pull him asleep out of his crib to put him in the car. He used to spend all morning trying to nap, and not being able to -- after having been woken up at 5:30!

On the bus, carseats are not required. (I believe this is because of the slow speeds -- no one has seatbelts and people stand up holding onto the bars, things that they couldn't do in cars.) For safety, I keep the baby in a carrier -- the Moby wrap is my favorite, but I used a sling today. That sling goes smoothly in and out of the bus, along the walks from one stop to another, and straight into class. He fell asleep on the bus on the way in today, and didn't wake up until a kid banged his books on his desk when we got to school. (SO tempted to ding his grade for it! Baby-waking is so not allowed!) He likes the motion of the bus and the motion of me walking. And he loves the outdoors, and new things and people to look at. From baby's perspective, it's a total win!

There is a slight disadvantage to me in having to carry him all that time. He's a heavy kid, and even with the carrier redistributing the weight, I do feel it after awhile. But on the bright side, I'm building muscle and burning calories. Half an hour's walking a day, I'm sure, is just what the doctor ordered. It's so hard for me to get myself to exercise. Of course, I could bring a stroller, which is what most of the Mexicans do (I think this is funny, as wraps are part of traditional Mexican culture and I'm the only one on the bus who's got one), but I can tell how much of a hassle it is to get the baby out, fold up the stroller, and carry both on and off the bus (while wrangling a diaper bag). Not really worth the bother in my opinion.

I do definitely vote in favor of sleeping in an extra hour and not having to make a separate trip right when I'm trying to fix dinner.

When I was little, we used to take the bus sometimes. We were a one-car family for awhile, and though my mom didn't work, we sometimes did have places to go. I have vague memories of being taken out of bed in the early morning hours in my pajamas to drive my dad to work. But I have clear memories of riding the bus with my mom and my brother and seeing all the interesting people, of my mom telling us stories as we waited by the bus stop, of long walks in the cold and frost. It was an adventure every time.

I think that's a good way to raise my child -- with a love for adventure, for taking a trip in the most interesting way rather than the quickest, for the outdoors, for meeting new people. So far, taking the bus is working great.


Colin and Jenne said...

For the first few months after we moved, Colin and I had no car whatsoever. Everyone thought we were nuts, but we got around just fine. It took a decent amount of planning, but we managed. Walking the mile to work in snow storms wasn't so much fun. But we had a really good time using the bus. :) Next time someone tells you that you're slumming it, you should tell them that you're trying to reduce your carbon footprint. :P

Heather said...

It really is too bad that our nation's culture puts car-driving/riding on such a pedestal. That perceived independence as better than anything else, including cost and time-effectiveness, not to mention environment health.

Sheila said...

I actually feel way more independent when I'm carfree. I know that I'm not at the mercy of my car -- if it breaks down, I can still get to work.

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