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My Tucson: First city bus ride can be scary thing

A crowded Sun Tran bus in August 2008. Like the columnist, thousands of Tucsonans use the mass-transit system and live to tell about it.

A crowded Sun Tran bus in August 2008. Like the columnist, thousands of Tucsonans use the mass-transit system and live to tell about it.

Some years ago, as my 30s were coming to an end, I was contemplating a couple of things I would like to accomplish before I turned 40.

I had decided I was going to live to see my 101st birthday, and No. 1 on the list to tip the scales in my favor was to quit smoking.

It took me about 18 months to be done with nicotine. That is truly one of my greatest accomplishments to date and the most difficult.

Next on my list, but not nearly as difficult, was overcoming my fear of riding the city bus.

I didn’t know where to put my money, or do I give it to the driver? What if I miss my bus or, of all things, get lost?

Wanting to overcome this fear or ignorance, I asked a daughter to ride the bus with me, for fun.

Each of my daughters learned to ride the city bus as teenagers to get to school or other excursions with their friends. But apparently, teenage girls don’t ride buses with their moms because that is not fun.

My son Erik said he would. He may have felt sorry for me or just was up for an adventure. So we made a plan.

We picked a destination and studied the routes. We procrastinated a few more weeks and then we actually did it!

My daughter Katie drove us to the bus stop; I was too nervous to walk. I asked her to explain to me, step by step, how to board the bus.

She talked to me as if I were a 6-year-old. She said to ask for a day pass, put your money in the machine, take your ticket and go sit down. We did as she said, and it worked perfectly.

We settled in. and I felt like we were on a tour bus. It was very comfortable, we were very excited and I think I had a smile stuck on my face for miles.

I took pictures of Erik and the back of the bus driver’s head. I leaned over to Erik and said, “Look at me! I’m 41 years old and riding a city bus for the first time!”

He said, “Mom, I’m 12 and riding the city bus for the first time!” I took his picture again.

Then panic hit! I forgot to ask how we get off this bus. I was watching other passengers touch a “rib” of the bus; a mechanical voice said, “Stop requested” and the driver would stop at the next bus stop.

I figured this part out; we were going to be fine. I did have to pay attention, though, if we were going to get to where we were going.

I realized when the panic hit that my fear all along was having to give up the control I feel I have when I’m driving.

All along I thought there was something complicated about riding the bus, and when the truth hit, it made the trip that much more enjoyable.

I don’t need to be in control all the time. We were on an adventure, and we still are but we don’t always have to be in the driver’s seat to enjoy the ride!

I have a bit less than 60 years left on the planet and, with my cleaner lungs, I’m going to strive for less control and more adventures even if it takes me a year to get the courage up!

Nancy McKinney is a mother of four swell children, grandmother to a swell granddaughter and one more on the way! She works for the state and is a student at Pima College. E-mail: n_k_saint@hotmail.com



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