Thursday, January 14, 2010

Going Home

It's getting on quitting time, which I notice mostly because my coworkers are packing up and saying good night. I find that I'm at a good stopping point, myself, so I save my work and shut down the computer. I pack my bag, adding a book I've been reading off and on at work, pull on my hat and coat, and say good bye to Eric and Marlen who're still working on something. Across the hall some folks are still standing around and chatting. Outside looks stormy for a moment, before I realize it's just some quality of the evening light.

My stomach is griping me a little. I blame the soda I've been drinking, especially the Dr. Pepper. For some reason that brand always gives me an acid stomach. I dig a piece of chewing gum from my pocket, hoping that'll help a little.

I manage to cross Wakara Way once again without getting run over. There's no orange flag to wave at cars, since a storm early this winter managed to blow them all into the gutter, and heaven only knows where they are now, but the setting sun is blocked by clouds, so drivers have no trouble seeing me in the cross walk and stop. Another coworker, Jim, is already waiting at the bus stop, looking all GQ in his cardigan pullover. The bus won't show up for another ten or fifteen minutes, by which time I can already be at the Trax stop on South Campus. I give Jim a smile and a "See you tomorrow," and lengthen my stride.

My arm bounces a little painfully at my side. My shoulder is doing better all the time, but today it's been kind of sore. I've taken Tylenol in the morning as well as at noon. I think I better take it easy with the exercises tonight.

The snow on the lawn by the Orthopedic Center has melted to a thin remainder. It is tattooed with the tunnels of small animals who have been living under there all winter. The weather reports had predicted a slight chance of snow or rain yesterday and today, but it doesn't look like it'll happen at all. However, as I look across the valley I see downtown is blanketed by a low hanging cloud. Well, at least it's not smog. What pathetic weather we're having seems to have cleaned up the air a little.

I make good time to the corner of Mario Capecci Drive, where I cross the street and climb across the Madsen Clinic's front lawn, walk through the Boy Scouts' parking lot, and end up at the Trax stop at about eighteen minutes past five. Now I can only cross my fingers. In the morning I can get from home to work in less than an hour, using public transit, but going home in the evening is an entirely different matter. Maybe today things will work out a little better. The timing needs to be just right.

The Sandy - University line shows up just as I make it to the platform, heading up to the hospital. I scan my pass at the RFID reader and make my way down to the shelter for the line headed downtown. All the seats are already occupied. As the Sandy - University train continues on its way I turn around and see a train headed our way from the hospital. When it gets close enough to read the destination, I'm pleased to see this is my train. I get on, find a seat, and settle down to read my book. It's a collection of short stories by Gordon R. Dickson, titled The Star Road.

From time to time I look out the window to make sure I don't miss my stop. When the train is passing Trolley Square I remember to text Elysa to let her know I'm on my way home. Once the train leaves the Temple Square station I put away the book and make my way to the door. I have to be careful, since the train's ride is not terribly smooth, and I can't use my right arm to catch myself. That would be bad. But I can't just wait in my seat, because sometimes the stop is too short, and by the time I'm at the door the conductor has already shut the doors. That happened just yesterday, in fact, when I waited to long to get going.

The clock at the Arena station shows forty-one minutes past five when I get off the train. Now I need to hurry to the RFID reader to scan my card again. Luckily the cross walk light says walk for me just as I get there. I hurry along Third West past the Triad Center where KSL has their broadcast facilities, and get to North Temple just in time to push the "Walk" button. Seconds later I'm on the other side of the street, waiting for the light to let me cross to the next corner where the bus stop is.

When I get there I remember that I should get this week's issue of City Weekly, for which there is a dispenser right there. I get a copy out of the graffiti covered box, and when I look up the 520 just pulls up to the stop. I join the line of people getting on. The woman in front of me wants to know if that bus will get her to Redwood Road. The driver tells her she should wait for 517. When she gets out of my way I get on, and as I swipe my card past the reader I tell the driver, "I'm too impatient to wait for 517."

Instead of reading more of The Star Road I now read the City Weekly. Tom Morrow's cartoon often is funny, but this time it's some bit about Obama and Lieberman. It reminds me of when three decades ago I would hear people in Utah complain about Tip O'Neal, who was speaker of the House at the time. There is also an editorial about cigarette smoking, riffing on how people used to think it was cool, but not so much now. The writing is OK, but the subject isn't very interesting.

All the while the bus makes its way along the Ninth West corridor towards the north end of Rosepark. As it bounces across the streets I'm trying hard not to get tossed out of my seat, holding on to the newspaper with my right hand, and onto the bar over the seatback in front of me with my left. Reading always makes the time pass quickly, and I almost miss the place where I need to signal for my stop. However, I'm not the only one getting off, as a young fellow in a bicycle helmet retrieves his bike from the rack on the front of the bus. As I walk up 1000 North past the Day Riverside library, he passes me.

I'm now noticing the air. It has a kind of soupy smell to it, and I wonder if something is going on. It wouldn't be the first time that bad smells had been released into the neighborhood. If it isn't the water treatment plant a mile north from there, then it's one of the refineries a bit further along. But this time the smell isn't like any of those.

I reach Redwood Road, again with perfect timing. A few seconds after I push the button to cross, the light turns. I head south along Redwood Road. The air is cold, and the moisture is freezing out in tiny crystals of ice. They tickle my face, and at one point they are thick enough in the air that I can see them swirling and sparkling in the light of a street lamp. Very pretty!

As I pass Escalante Elementary School I text Elysa again that I'll be home soon. I think about how not so very long ago I would never have considered texting a trivial piece of information like that, but my current cell phone plan has unlimited texting, so why not?

The marquee in front of the school says it's just nine minutes past six. That is pretty much the fastest I've ever gotten home by bus!

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