Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I have diagnosed myself with a disorder I call public transportation anxiety, P.T.A. for short. Anyone can suffer from this, but I am especially predisposed for reasons including:

:: I have ridden public transportation about 6 times in my whole life, always while visiting friends/family, and always with a guide.

:: I operate from a belief that I owe it to people to know what I'm doing (in just about any situation). Therefore, I am extremely embarrassed when it becomes clear that I am clueless. Let's not get into how ridiculous of an idea this is...that I'm human...etc. I'm fully aware of my issues.

:: When I get flustered and am in the middle of a situation where I clearly do not know what I'm doing, I tend to loose all logic and common sense. It's like I'm in situation overload, and I now longer have the brain capacity to be logical.

The one very positive thing I have going for me is that deep down I really want to learn how to use public transportation, especially the bus. So, I'm actually a good person to have P.T.A. because I am willing to overcome!

In the first month we were here I only rode on a bus 3 times and a tram 1 time, all of which had been experienced with Steve. Steve's presence cancels out the effects of P.T.A. because he suffers from the opposite disorder. It doesn't have a good acronym (and it's too bad, because he is in the business of acronyms "I sent the S.O.W. to the C.I.O and he sent back a P.O.S." that's what I sometimes wake up to, since his office is in our bedroom.) but it's called something like 'uber-confident-in-every-possible-situation so much so that he never appears to be clueless.

During my mom's visit, she, Jackson and I took a walk to a coffee shop one morning. It was a normal day, meaning that it was kind of grey and there were a few rainy clouds out, but I knew we wouldn't be gone long, so we left our raincoats behind. (I have since learned that to ensure dryness, one must always carry a raincoat.) After the coffee shop, we decided to walk up to Fred Mejer, aka Freddy's, aka the grocery store we like to frequent.

On the way to Freddy's it began t0 gently rain. Nothing we couldn't handle though. So we were a tad soggy by the time we got there. While we were in the store, for all of 10 minutes, a torrential downpour ensued. The type of downpour which a certain northwest-bred friend of whom I will not mention here (you know who you are, and you should be ashamed!) assured me I would not experience here in the northwest.

There happens to be a bus stop right in front of Freddy's. And Freddy's is roughly 10 blocks from our house (about .8 miles give or take). I had taken the 14 bus two times already, and I knew exactly where we could get off about 3 blocks from our house, and I also knew that if you were staying in the same zone (which we were) the cost was $1. So we decided to take the bus for about 6 blocks to avoid the rain.

I'm sure I looked cool and composed, and really what could go wrong? I mean, we did almost get on going the wrong way, and it was my mom who realized that maybe we needed to cross the street and get on the bus that was actually heading the direction we needed to head. But once we got that minor detail figured out I thought we were golden. I had my two one-dollar bills out and facing the correct way to slide into the machine, and there was even enough room for us to all huddle under the bus stop to avoid that rain that was coming down sideways and from underneath us. I felt so Portland!

So as much as I seemed to have all my ducks in a row, what happened next seems to be classic. It's classic in the sense that I am unable to avoid awkwardness, especially in situations where I am the most anxious. (Which perhaps contributes in bringing them about.)

The bus stops and we rush to get on, at the same time realizing that no one else under the bus stop is rushing to get on (hmm? that's strange) to then realize that they are politely waiting to first let people get off the bus (clearly I've already lost my common sense at this point). When we do get on I send my mom and Jackson to the back and begin to insert my two dollars. I tell the woman I'm paying for me and my mom (Jacks is free). She says "it's four dollars then" (might I say she didn't say it very kindly. I think she added a silent "you silly, white, suburban moron" at the end of it).

Of course, I didn't have any more dollars on me, because who carries cash when you're with your mom? So now I'm yelling to the back of the bus for my mom to give me more money, at the same time trying to explain to the ever-so-kind bus driver that I've ridden this bus before, and isn't it only one dollar if you're staying in the same only going 6 blocks?! Did the rule just change. Or are you just trying to mess with me?

She wasn't having it. She wouldn't address my questions and just kept insisting that it was FOUR DOLLARS!

In the end, we only rode 4 blocks because I accidently got us off too early. So we paid a dollar a block. And we obviously got soaking wet on the 5 blocks that we had left to walk home.

So to work out my p.t.a. angst Jackson and I went puddle jumping when we got to our street.


  1. So funny Margaret! I love that you went puddle jumping after!

  2. that was a fun day in my memory....hey have your shoes dried out yet????

  3. Thank you for giving it a name and so artfully describing it! P.T.A. I I have the same anxiety with public transportation. Are cabs considered public transportation because I'm awkward with those too.

  4. Oh,you made me laugh! With a little practice you will do just fine. I always have a few different routes to my destination, mapped out in my head so that in case the bus breaks down, I will know what to do, but that all came with practice and walking places first, paying attention to what bus goes where and links with what other line. Cabs on the other hand creep me out and I have no patience for street cars.

  5. It's MeYer. With a Y. And it rained like that for less than an hour, am I right? Love, your NW-bred friend