jessica tholmer
April 06, 2017 6:01 pm
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Here’s the thing. I love taking the bus. I have always been a bus rider. I come from a single parent home, which means I didn’t have one of those moms who was always (or ever?) around to pick me up from the mall or take me to a friend’s house, nonetheless school. I started riding public transportation at a pretty young age. I have fond memories of misreading bus schedules and standing outside in the freezing cold near the library, singing Christmas carols for an hour to my brother who probably wanted to pull a Jack Torrance and just stay there forever. (Spoiler alert.)

In high school and college, I didn’t have a car for 99% of my days. I purchased my first car the last semester of my senior year for $1,000 cash, and that little guy lasted me for nine whole months before he left me on the side of the road, like all of my best relationships! Before that, and for five years after that, I relied solely on my feet, my friends, my partner(s), and the lovely bus system to get me around.

Last summer, I moved back to a bigger city after living in my smaller hometown for 10 years. Luckily, my transition was easy due to my familiarity with the city, having lived here once or twice before. Though the bus system was not new to me (and I now have a car), I was ever-so-grateful for finding an apartment right off a bus line so I would not have to rely on my car (sorry, Jeff Goldblum, which is my car’s name) to get me to and from work.

As soon as I figured out my bus route to and from my new job, I renewed my library card.

The library I used in high school, now just a few miles from my apartment, is once again my favorite place. A place where I once was #100,000,000 on a waiting list for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is now the place where I wait to receive copies of highly anticipated books, stories recommended by our former POTUS, and every book that my friend Dave reviews. When I moved to this bigger city, it was important to me to be more frugal than I had in the earlier years of my 20s — not only because my rent is insanely expensive (hi, Seattle), but because it’s good to stop spending your money on tequila and coffee, and start spending it on paying bills on time. The library helps immensely with my bad habit of buying books literally based on their cover, and never reading them. Do I still buy books? Of course. But nowadays, I know for a fact that I love that book and will read it again.

I read 12 books between September and the beginning of the year, and I have read 16 books since 2017 began.

I learned in depth about Joan Rivers, a person I knew nothing about, thanks to Last Girl Before Freeway by Leslie Bennett. I have learned about cultures I admittedly know (or knew) little about because of books like The Dance Boots by Linda Legarde Grover and Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique. I read every single book Carrie Fisher ever wrote after her passing — I laughed a lot and cried a little. I read one of the best books I have ever read — A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (I bought that one!) and I have read a few that I am happy to have returned to the library. (Whispers gently and pretentiously into the wind that I have not read a book written by a white man in a long time.)

The bus saved me, in every way a woman can be saved.

Sure, I have to sit next to men who try to hit on me by asking me what I’m reading — oh, you’re very interested in Joan Rivers, sir? But I have also sat next to people who actually strike up a conversation that doesn’t annoy me. I sat next to a lovely woman who asked me about Diane Guerrero’s In the Country We Love because she works in immigration and is always interested in books about it. I sat next to a few people who opened about the grief they experienced when Carrie died. I had one young man ask me about Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me because he had read the page I was open to, and it made him choke up. He  told me those words meant a lot to him, and he had only been sitting next to me for 20 minutes.

These connections actually meant something. Ask me about my book because you care, not because you want my phone number.

The bus has not only saved me a ton of money and time and patience (man, I cannot handle traffic in the slightest), but it has reopened my world. I was a bookworm growing up, but could not rightfully claim to still be one as an adult. Until now.

Thank you, bus, and thank you library, the little glimmers of happiness in my morning.

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