My freshman commute

So this morning I was scheduled to start my first day of work at let’s-call-it-GiantSoft at 10:00. I had no cash on me for lunch, so I left home a few minutes early and stopped at the ATM. Then I caught the bus that would take me down to the freeway stop, where the regional bus stops on the way to the eastside and the GiantSoft campus. The city bus out of my neighborhood always contains a smorgasbord of whoever is out taking the bus in the middle of the day—some of them hollering at their kids, some talking on the phone, some boasting to a captive audience of fellow-passengers about their martial-arts prowess. Today was no exception. But why weren’t all those teenagers in school, I wondered.

The regional bus, on the other hand—and Tom had told me this before—contained quiet sporty-brainy types, every one of whom had his face turned down to a book while waiting and during the entire ride. It was as quiet as libraries used to be, before they started bending over so far backwards for children. I was one of only two women on the bus, and I get seasick really easily, so I didn’t read, but stared out the window. I’ve ordered a portable CD player/radio so that future commutes can have a little entertainment and I won’t look quite so much like a tourist.

When I arrived at the transit center on the eastside, I wasn’t even sure I was at the right transit center (the trip seemed too short) and I almost didn’t get off the bus. The transit center is in a very bland location right off of the exit ramp. But when every other passenger got up to leave, I realized this was indeed the main stop for the biggest company in that suburb. I saw the line of about five shuttle buses, which were not marked with a company name that I could see right away, so I asked a guy if they were the ones. He showed me which bus was going to my campus (there are four or five big campuses served by shuttles), and I sat near him in the back row.

“I feel like a freshman,” I said. “I’m a temp, and it’s my first day!”

He laughed. “Yeah, it really takes a while to get your bearings,” he said. “I started in July and I used to walk from the transit center to my building, but now that it’s kind of dark and rainy, I take the shuttle.”

I had planned to walk instead of taking the shuttle, but when I got off the bus, I wasn’t even sure which street was which. I took the shuttle to make sure I didn’t get pathetically lost, like I used to when I was a teenager and took the bus to the suburbs (of Chicago) with my friend to go discount shopping. The roads are so big, and the sidewalks so small, that walking in the suburbs often makes me imagine I’m wandering in the desert like Moses, looking for some destination that is always just a little farther away, or beyond just one more huge intersection. I am just not made for suburban navigation. But I’ll be able to walk to work from the bus next week, I think. The shuttle made me nauseous, whipping around parking lots and curvy campus roads and over speed bumps. A walk would have been perfect.

I was so excited to have arrived and ready to start my job. “Good morning!” I said to the receptionist. “I’m starting temp work today for you. My name is Fran.”

“Oh!” he said. “You’re Frankie! I’m supposed to tell you, he is out sick today. She said if you came in, I should let you know you can go home.”

That was that. I called Tom, who works there, but on another campus, and we got together for coffee before I left (walking) for the transit center and the return bus to Seattle. The corporate campus is beautiful, with trees, soccer fields, shrubby Northwest-style landscaping, and birds. Tom even saw a pair of coyotes on campus the other day. It’s really a long walk to and from the transit center, just like it used to be walking around the car-centric suburbs of Chicago, but I appreciate the nice environment they’ve established.

I soon found out that my recruiter had left me a phone message at home telling me not to come in, but because I’d left home early, I missed her call. I arrived at home after the double-reverse bus ride feeling worn out from all the walking and busing. I’m supposed to go back in on Tuesday.