Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bus

One of my greatest Gainesville fears is having to cross University Avenue, particularly at one of the city's busiest intersections with 34th Street. I dread having to do it, I avoid it if I can. This was where I was hit by a bus a little over nine years ago. Even with all the time that has passed, I still tend to tense  up and freeze when I have to the other side. And that's even in the crossing. The street is wide, the cars go fast and it's often not well lit. Being in a wheelchair I'm often not that visible to incoming cars. I had to get to the other side a lot of times through my years in law school often with no pedestrian crossing in sight for blocks and blocks. This is how the bus taking me to law school would go. At least until this semester. In went on University Avenue coming from Downtown where I live. On its way back it took 2nd avenue, a tiny street that splits from it and then merges back into it soon after. That's where the Law School is. For years the bus stop would drop us off on University Avenue, and we had to cross that street and then 2nd Ave to get to school. With  no way to safely get through students like me got in the road waiting for the cars to stop so they can proceed further. And the cars would rarely stop. A lot of people would just force themselves into the next lane, forcing the traffic to halt. I didn't have the nerves to do that, so I'd tell the driver to just take me around. And the way that stop was located, it had a lot of vehicles coming fast from around the corner after the sharp turn. For many years I wondered, why didn't anybody put a crossing there. Or lights. Or a sign. People after all did it every day. I spoke to the Dean's office. I expressed my concerns to the professors. It was an accident waiting to happen. But you kind of accept it as part of life- This is how the bus goes, what are they going to do? I need to get to school regardless, being it that I have to allow additional 30-50 minutes for travel or risking my life by attempting to cross and then thanking my lucky stars that this time I have made it. Going shopping at Publix also involved crossing that road to get to stop, a task particularly difficult if you have plastic bags with groceries hanging from every bar in the back of my wheelchair. So why am I sharing all these fears with you? Turns out they did do something. No lights, no signs, no crossing. They just changed how the bus goes. There was never much of the reason for it to take the turn to West University for that small distance anyway when you think about it. All you have there is a bunch of houses. Imagine my surprise when I've learnt that the bus system decided to ditch the route split all together. It goes up and down 2nd Avenue, by the law school. No more planning, strategizing how to get across, no more worrying about it all morning. On Sunday I can even go shopping and get home safely. It's funny what things you accept as part of your reality because that's the way it has always been. I guess that's a lesson every day.

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