September 2011

Summer’s End at the Park-n-Ride

I have a long commute. Every weekday I walk out the door at a time I’d rather be sleeping and walk in the door at a time I’d rather be wiping down the counters and putting the leftovers in the fridge. A usual day involves four buses and a park and ride. Some mornings, though, if I’m running late or want to pick up milk or bread between work and home, I will skip the first bus and drive to the parking lot. It feels a little decadent to waste that gas, a little indulgent to live ever-so-slightly more on my own schedule rather than a bus driver’s. On those days, after work, I get off the bus and walk out to the middle of the dusty parking lot which is not much more than a large, flat rectangle of dirt with streetlamps. Something about that, this summer, has seemed familiar and comforting. I would pause next to row E or F, take my earbuds out, and listen to the muffled traffic on the distant highway and think, what is it? What does this feel like?

My park and ride is part of a development that used to be an airport. The city is expanding and growing around it, and the airport grounds themselves are being filled in with new construction—houses and apartments, shops and parks, sidewalks next to young fast-growing trees. My parking lot is not far from the air traffic control tower that still stands. On one side a prairie dog town and a one-story heap of dirt serve as a buffer between me and the back of a Wal-Mart. On another, thigh-high grasses and yellow wildflowers hide rabbits who sometimes come out and explore under cars.

One day it finally struck me, as I watched a train in the distance and was hit with the hot wind that comes across wide open spaces in the summertime: this feels like Oklahoma. Specifically, it feels like the field behind my grandparents’ trailer home on the edge of their small town. My brothers and I would cross that stretch of land and climb the wooden fence, where we’d sit, watching the cars a few miles away on the highway out of town. We were within sight of the porch, but not within its hearing. If one was on the fence with her back to the trailer park, her brothers behind her riding bikes on the wheelchair ramp, one might as well have been alone. If one sat just right, not angled towards the traffic, but looking over the prairie instead, one might as well have been Laura Ingalls taking a break from her chores.

three kids on a wooden fence

There’s a bit of that pleasant aloneness at the park and ride sometimes. In the mornings it is busy, but in the evenings my first bus is late more than it’s on time. If the timing is just right wrong right, I miss the second bus by thirty seconds and have to wait fourteen minutes and thirty seconds for the next. Everyone else gets on a bus or in a car and leaves at once, and then there’s just me on a bench with an iphone.

sky, buses, building

The weather shifted a couple of weeks ago, suddenly dropping twenty or thirty degrees, right about the time school started. My first morning bus is now full of sleepy high schoolers, and my second morning bus is full of sleepy college students. Sometimes I have to share my seat.

The light is changing too—quickly, it seems, after a summer of long, hot weeks. The sun is closing in on me from both ends of the day. The construction is closing in on the parking lot, as well. In the few days it took me to put this post together, one of the bordering fields went from sea of native vegetation to bulldozed and leveled, packed dirt. I’ve been worrying about the prairie critters and wondering what the place will be like next summer.

sunrise over parking lot