On my 16th birthday, my mother took me to the local office of the Texas Department of Public Safety so that I could get my driver’s license. While I was taking my driving test, she sat in the waiting room next to the mother of Bryan Dishman, a high school classmate of mine who also turned 16 that day. Since she and Mrs. Dishman had labored in adjacent rooms at Beaumont’s Baptist Hospital 16 years prior while waiting for Bryan and me to be born, there was a certain symmetry going on at the DPS that day. In any event, Bryan and I both passed our tests, received our licenses, and once again started a new phase of life for our moms and for us. And, of course, I’ve been driving ever since. Until now!
Mark and I have elected not to have a car here in Torrevieja, at least for the time being. In a city where parking is at a premium and in a country where gasoline is expensive, we just can’t get the numbers to outweigh the inconvenience, at least not yet. So mostly we’re walking or, for longer trips, taking the bus.
The bus system in Torrevieja is actually quite good. Several routes cover the city and reach the local hospital, shopping center, and church that we’re attending. Once we registered as residents (no mean feat, but that’s another blog post), we became eligible for bus passes that cost only €7 a year each. You do have to make an appointment to get your bus card; ours are scheduled for this Thursday and apparently last a grand total of six minutes for the two of us. Until then, we’ve been paying €1,35 per person per ride, which is quite reasonable.
It’s been a long time since I haven’t routinely driven, though, and that’s an adjustment. And there are some downsides to bus travel. Going by bus limits what you can carry. This may be an advantage in that circumstance forces you to shop selectively, but there’s no denying the convenience of being able to toss bags in a trunk and move on to the next errand. And we have had a couple of rather cold waits at bus stops; it is January, even in Spain. So I admit to the occasional bout of car envy when drivers whiz by.
It’s funny, though, because there are actually some really nice parts about our bus rides. For example, Mark and I are not focused on driving or navigating (and, in his case, arguing with the GPS, which mulishly refuses him so much as the courtesy of a reply). As a result, we can point out sights to each other and talk about places we should visit or at least look up on the internet. Too, bus riding makes for great people watching. Passengers can be great fun. On Sunday mornings when we go to church, the same three elderly women board the bus and get off at the city cemetery. I imagine them off to visit the graves of their husbands, standing by the plots and telling their departed about the weeks they had. Last Sunday, though, it was the driver who put on a show. This fellow obviously wanted to drive race cars on the Formula One circuit and had to settle for a municipal bus in Torrevieja. Time, tide, and our driver waited for no man, and any potential Sunday laying on of hands was displaced by our guy’s laying on of horns when the vehicles in front of him were going too slowly for his taste. Seriously, I saw one Mercedes pull into a side street just to let the bus pass before venturing out again at a sedate pace onto our mutual route. You can’t help but chuckle and wish for a seat belt.
By far the best part of riding the bus, though, is talking with your fellow riders. It’s remarkable how often somebody strikes up a conversation while we’re waiting, especially when they can tell from our accents that we’re from the US. Mostly people ask us what we think of Trump. FYI, we haven’t run into any Trump fans here. People are very open about their opinions and seem to want us to be as well. I even got a fist bump during a political conversation with a Finnish guy well into his 80s during a discussion of Brexit. We also had an interesting discussion about immigration with a mother and son who moved from Kazakhstan to Canada and a man originally from Ukraine but now living in the Netherlands. Actually, the only bus conversationalist who didn’t want to talk politics was a Russian woman who lives in Canada and is super bored in Torrevieja. She just wanted to talk about how bored she is. I felt sorry for her, but honestly the chat was, well, boring.
So that’s life on mass transit. We may rethink our no car decision at some point, but so far, so good. I wonder if Bryan Dishman would make the same choice if he were here?