A personal note

It is the day before this proposal is due, Sunday afternoon. I am taking my 8-year old daughter Lydia and her best friend Meggan to the downtown children’s museum, the Explorium. I rarely drive Nicholasville Road any more for it is the bus route from my home to the University of Kentucky where I am a PhD student in Communication. “Look, Mom,” says my daughter from the back seat, “Over there, it’s your bus!”  I maneuver in traffic alongside it by the next red light. I look up but can’t really see the riders, except a possible profile here or there, because I am too low, my position to the left of the bus creates a situation where my line of sight is blocked, and the bus windows are tinted.

But then I think of when I am on the bus, looking down into the cars riding next to the bus. The view is clear from there (and now I know I am anonymous up there, too!). From my vantage point on the bus, I can see what is lying on the passenger seat, the Starbucks in their cup holders, what body part they are scratching. It is a holier-than-thou position not just based on the visual but on the “ego emissions” (a term coined by the creators of South Park to explain how people driving hybrid cars for environmental reasons think they are so much better than other drivers).

There is a pity for my fellow bus travelers as well. LexTran estimates put car ownership of its riders at less than 15%. I have a freedom from the route and timetable today that they do not. The fact is, when I ride the bus, I come into contact with a lot of people that I would not likely meet in other circumstances, or I would ignore with indifference if I did encounter them somewhere else. Through their silence and their words alike I occasionally glimpsed invisible, but very personal maps.

Finally, there is a great affection on my part for my bus. I have already imbued my rides with creative memories: a warm, dry, safe way to move on a melancholy, rainy day after I had just wrecked my car; a new start to a poverty-inducing graduate career that made me opt for the $75 bus pass instead of a $300 UK parking pass in the first place; and a shared moment with a punk-kid, a student-kid, an old hippy and a sweet lady that started it all.

Special Thanks

Thanks to:

  • Dr. Daniel Makagon and Dr. Michael LeVan, who were supportive, helpful and always patient with the editorial process
  • Dr. Tom Lindlof, who taught me everything I know about qualitative research (although I still have much to learn) and without whom this project would not have happened
  • Dr. Derek Lane, the primo advisor who taught me everything I know about theory (yep, still learning...)
  • my husband, J Human, who put up with my incessant bus commentary and still encouraged me
  • my daughter Lydia, the best thing I ever created, for doing homework alongside me so I wouldn't be lonely
  • my parents, Mike and Helen Croston, for encouraging me in my career no matter what
  • the folks at LexTran
  • the people that ride the LexTran buses with me, maybe we'll talk today...