There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Irony and hypocrisy

When I failed to write a blog post last week about Sacramento Regional Transit's decision to raid its workers' comp self-insurance pool in order to avoid service cuts in 2010, I knew the end of this blog had arrived.

Maybe so many things will happen with me and buses and trains that I'll have to rush back here and blog and blog and blog. But the reality is that I'm no longer "a suburban commuter [who] decides to give up the car and instead rely on Sacramento Regional Transit to get around."

When I was laid off a year ago, the daily commute disappeared too. For a few months I took the bus in the morning to get to Amtrak for a job in Oakland, but I had to rely on The Wife to take me home when I returned to town at night. Trying to rely on RT during non-peak hours was just too inconvenient. Then that job turned into part-time work I do from home and my bus riding stopped entirely.

Between June, when classes at American River College ended, and this month I've been without my "free" ride on the bus, which made me weigh the choice between a $6 daily pass or getting into the car and driving to get errands accomplished.

When I turned 18 I registered for the draft and applied for a conscientious objector deferment to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. I filled out forms and went around gathering witnesses who could testify to the sincerity of my beliefs. While I was waiting for the response from the draft board a friend told me about a job opening where he worked. Starting pay was twice the minimum wage. So I joined my friend on an assembly line in the San Fernando Valley, and each day I considered the irony of the conscientious objector earning his daily bread manufacturing the warhead for the M72 LAW anti-tank weapon. A year later, when my draft number came in so low I was certain to be drafted before the end of the year, I realized it wasn't irony but hypocrisy I was demonstrating at work. I dropped the conscientious objector claim and instead avoided the Army by enlisting in the Navy.

I'm reminded of that story each day as I drive around Sacramento. While I may oppose the war driving when a bus is available, I'm just not willing to give up the job the convenience.

Now that the new school year is about to start at American River College I have my "free" ride again. I'll take the bus when time isn't a factor. I can ride with The Wife, who continues to commute daily on the bus and light rail.

I just can't claim to be a conscientious objector transitarian.

Here's RT's press release: RT Avoids Service Reductions Proposed for January 2010 - Additional Internal Savings Cover $2.4 Million Budget Shortfall