In my new life as a city dweller and city worker (as opposed to my old life as a city dweller and suburban worker) I have noticed a few surprising fringe benefits.
(Not all of the fringe benefits are surprising, since I worked downtown in an earlier life.)
But here's one I didn't expect: I have started running into people I work with on the street, in city neighborhoods besides downtown. Last night, on the way to dinner, I ran into a library clerk that works at our branch, and this morning, on the way to the Busway, I ran into a woman who works at the offices in the East Liberty branch. She was presumably walking to work. It was just fun to see these folks on the street, and just say hi. That glimmer of recognition--you are someone of my tribe--was delightful.
And last night, after dinner, at the bus stop? I met an opera singer from Central Europe. We started talking about European cities we had in common and didn't stop talking until our buses came. These are connections that do not occur when you are sitting in your car in traffic.
Other fringe benefits include more built-in exercise, as running for the bus is now a part of my daily life. Some days I take the neighborhood bus to the Busway, some days I park closer to the Busway and walk. I never take the neighborhood bus all the way downtown, as it takes 45 minutes as opposed to a variable 33 minutes to take the neighborhood bus and the Busway. It's not just the time factor: the buses are old and uncomfortable. I prefer to walk for five minutes, sit for 10 minutes, walk for three, and sit for 10 more minutes. I think once spring comes, I might try walking to the Busway from my house, approximately 2 miles, but I need to purchase better walking shoes first. I am potentially looking at the bike angle. (Although I don't bike or currently own a bike.)
I am purchasing less gas for my car, but since a Zone One bus pass costs $97, I'm not really ahead on commuting costs. Once my bus pass is taken out of my paycheck pre-tax, I will recoup some additional monies, but I'm not sure how much. Every paycheck is a surprise--the first paycheck just had the normal deductions, Social Security, Medicare, City tax, State tax, Federal tax. The second paycheck, I started getting my Flexible Spending monies deducted. The third paycheck, I'll start paying for my health care. I think the fourth paycheck, I'll be starting to pay for my pre-tax bus pass.
Unexpectedly, I miss driving my car. I miss catching up on NPR news, listening to my music, and just driving. This weekend I drove home to see my nephew Max (not his real name) and to celebrate my mother's birthday. Being out on the open road was a thrill. Yes, I was thrilled to be on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, who knew? And last night, driving home from a surprise trip to Wilkinsburg, I got to listen to Jian Ghomeshi, who is one of my favorite radio personalities. Last night he proved he can get out of a hot spot quickly with an interview with singer and British celebrity Boy George. Who would have thought that Boy George is now 52?
Reading right now: The Help by Katherine Stockett (umpteenth time); Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins; Calling me Home by Julie Kibler; and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn. All but the last title are fiction.
5 days ago