Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Escape From My House

Lately (the past month or so) I’ve been starting to meet new people. Meeting people means introducing myself. [Hi! I’m so-and-so.] The traditional introduction usually either includes or leads to a description of oneself. [I do this for a living, I do that for recreation, I listen to this type of music, watch this type of television, and man-oh-man, do I ever hate dogs!] Which in my case (thanks to how my obsessive-compulsive brain works) oftentimes means having to justify myself. [This now, is the long and involved story behind why I’m in the current shape that I’m in – physically, socially, occupationally, financially, etc.]

Anyway . . . one of the self-referential snippets I keep dropping into these description/justifications is: “I’ve been practically a shut-in for the past 22 years”.

Chronic illness, and a lack of things like a vehicle and/or driver’s license have kept me house-bound much of the time.

In the beginning, I had friends that made sure I got to where I really needed to go. They’d take me to the odd social function. I’d go to the occasional movie. A concert, now and then. The yearly science-fiction convention. And so on.

But these people have all long since moved on. They’ve either developed their own lives and moved away. Or things like weird tumors or self-inflicted gunshot wounds had them move on in a completely different way.

Suffice to say, the more time passed, the more isolated I became. And the more isolated I became, the more excited I got by the occasional opportunity to flee my house.

The Bus

My crappy little home town is one of the stops on the route for something called the CARTS bus. (Chemeketa Area Regional Transportation System). An arm of Cherriots (the transit system serving Salem), the stated purpose of the CARTS bus is getting students from outside its city to and from Chemeketa Community College. But it’s available to anyone with bus fare, so it’s become much more than just a glorified school bus.

Sadly, my crappy little home town doesn’t offer enough traffic to justify anything more than the bare basics – a start-of-day pick up at 6:30 am, and end-of-day drop off at 6:45 pm.

Several years ago, it had been a different story. I can remember looking at the schedule for the bus and seeing stops several times throughout the day. Way back when, I even rode the bus, once. Went to Salem. Almost had a seizure on the bus during the ride to Salem. Then nearly panicked when the bus was five minutes late that evening, thinking I’d missed my ride home.

I pretty much decided that a trip to Salem wasn’t worth that much hassle.

Yeah, I’ve got reasons to be in Salem, but for most of them, the bus isn’t of any use to me anyway. The Salem Munch, for example. This is something I really need to start attending, but it runs from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. And the last bus home leaves town at 5:55 pm. Helpful? No.

And, of course, it only runs Monday through Friday. So anything going on over the weekend is out. Very limited usefulness.

Multiple Transit Systems

Several months ago, I started looking into bus travel again. Not so much to get to Salem, but using the CARTS bus as a springboard to elsewhere. Once the CARTS bus gets you to Salem, you can use the Cherriots system to get you all over Salem and Kaiser. As well as two other places.

Cherriots does a run to Spirit Mountain Casino at Grande Round. Which would be great if I had a stake – either a renewable stake, or luck with things like cards and dice. But I don’t so I chose to focus on the other non-Salem/Kaiser destination. Cherriots collaborates on a Salem-to-Wilsonville (and vice/verse) run with SMART (South Metro Area Regional Transport).

SMART – in addition to servicing the mass transit needs of Wilsonville – also does a run to the Barbur Blvd Transit Center in Portland. A once you’re in Portland, the legendary Tri-Met system can take you all over the place.

A trip to Salem might not be worth the hassle of a bus trip. But a trip to Portland? That’s a whole different story.

Parties at Darklady’s

So there I am, talking to Darklady during the 2010 Portland Masturbate-a-Thon, when she says to me, “I wish you lived in Portland. We’d hang out.”

Well, as soon as I got my brain started again, I told her that I’d recently discovered that by getting up at the crack of dawn, I could take a series of busses up to Portland. The only problem being that while I could also take a series of busses home from Portland, I couldn’t really do both in one day the way the schedules were set up.

This is when she tells me that I should take the bus up for some of her mid-week events, and just crash overnight on one of the beds or couches down in the Wonderground (there’s a forthcoming post about Darklady’s Wonderground in the works) for the night.

So since mid-July, that’s what I’ve been doing. About once a week, heading up for whatever the event-of-the-week is. I’ve been to a couple of ‘Potluck and Porn’ events, a Game Night/Social, the beta-test for Naughty Karaoke (which I wasn’t supposed to be at, but – well, long story), and most recently, Darklady’s birthday party.

I’m taking this week off (the actual premiere of Naughty Karaoke, which I hate to miss, but it’s taking place on a Friday, and the lack of weekend busses would strand me in the Wonderground until Monday.)

Killing Time in Shopping Malls

Last year, I did nearly all of my Christmas shopping online from the internet terminal up at the library. This year, I suspect that the bulk of my Christmas shopping will be done at Lloyd Center. (And Clackamas Town Center. And possibly Washington Square, home of Oregon’s LEGO store.)

Yes, I’ve been hanging out in Portland area shopping malls.

In theory, I’m looking for other things to do in Portland between my pre-noon arrival at the Barbur Transit Center and 6:30 ‘doors open’ time at Darklady’s Wonderground. But it’s summertime, and I don’t take well to things like heat or light, so I tend more toward indoor stuff. Shopping malls are simple. I can window shop. I can refuel at the food court. I can sit and read a book. I can sit and watch women going by in flip-flops, with various shades of toenail polish and toe rings, and other forms of social contract that say, “Hey, I WANT you to look at my feet!”

Untapped Potential

So, I’ve been riding on CARTS, SMART, and Tri-Met.

But there are other transit systems that connect up with this network at points along the line. I know that both CAT (Canby Area Transit) and SCTD (South Clackamas Transportation District) share some bus stops or transit centers with some of the rides I’ve been on. Meaning that I could expand my travels to Canby and Molalla.

CAT covers Canby, but also does a run from Woodburn through Canby to Oregon City and back again. Woodburn has it’s own transit system. I haven’t checked on Oregon City, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t. (The Oregon City Transit Center is also a Tri-Met stop.)

One of the things that’s kept me from making another attempt at using the Craigslist personals has been my basic housebound-ness. That, and having to limit myself to a small regional area.

But Silverton, Salem/Kaiser, Wilsonville, Portland, Oregon City, Molalla, Canby, Woodburn, etc.? And me now theoretically able to hit any bus stop in that range? Hmm. The prospects are far more encouraging.

Sitting at home masturbating, hoping an appropriate woman falls from the sky vs. taking some action and traveling beyond my four walls to search for appropriate women? Even if it’s just a one-afternoon-stand with a woman from the casual encounters section of the Ctaigslist personals, it’s infinitely better than I’ve been doing.

Bad (Bus) Trips

Of course, there’s a slight problem with the bus schedules. They never seem to take into account my tendency to get on the wrong bus. (Usually the same number/destination as the bus I’m supposed to get on, but the one on the other half of its run, heading in the direction opposite the one I need to be going in.)

Because of this, I’ve started asking a question when I get on board. “Will this bus take me to such-and-such?”

So, my last trip up to Portland, I get onto a Tri-Met bus, and ask the driver, “Does this bus go to the Lake Oswego Transit Center?” He tells me it does. And while he’s not exactly lying, he doesn’t volunteer the info that it won’t get there for hours and hours, and that the bus I want is the one going the other way, that’ll only be something like 40 minutes away from the LOTC.

To make matters more annoying, before I can figure out that I’m going the wrong way, he gets off the bus, switching out for a new driver.

So when we hit the last stop and it’s Portland College, I’m justifiably confused. I have to wait through the (new) bus driver’s 20 minute break before we get back on the bus headed to where I’m going. I update my internet-supplied travel itinerary in my head, and realize that I’m now three hours behind schedule. By time I arrive at Washington Square (to finish shopping for Darklady’s birthday present) it will be about the time I planned to leave the mall, heading for her place.


And then, as if to properly cap off the trip where the busses all hated me . . .

Going back home the next day, there’s heavy traffic from Portland to Wilsonville. The bus driver warns that we might not make the bus from Wilsonville to Salem. Which has me rightfully nervous. But we do indeed make it in time, and all looks well. Then the bus from Wilsonville pulls into Salem five minutes AFTER the bus heading for my crappy little home town has left. Aaaaarrrggghh!

Stranded in Salem. Without a celphone. In a world where the fact that everyone has a celphone means that payphones no longer exist. And I apparently don’t look like the kind of guy you want to lend your celphone to.

So I started walking. After about fifteen blocks in what turned out to be the wrong direction I heard rumors that there was still a bank of payphones at the Salem Center mall. Another twenty-plus blocks and I still hadn’t found/reached the mall . . . but I had located the Salem Grand Hotel and Convention Center.

I figured if there were pay phones anywhere in the city, a convention center was a good bet to locate them.

It was a bet I would have lost. No pay phones. They did, however, have something even better over in the hotel. Right next to a big soft cushy leather chair. The legendary white courtesy phone. Dial 9 for an outside line.

I knew that my sister was working until 10:00 pm. I knew that Dad (and his girlfriend) were at the coast, having been given a pair of tickets to an Oak Ridge Boys concert. That left the rest of my social circle unaccounted for.

My brother-in-law, apparently, doesn’t answer his phone if he doesn’t recognize the number. Nor does he place any importance on listening to any voicemail anyone calling from an unfamiliar number may have left. (Sigh.)

My brother was unable to answer his phone when I called. And Zorch (not his real name) also opts not to answer his phone if he doesn’t recognize the number. But unlike my brother-in-law, he does listen to the resulting voicemail right away. So when I called back five minutes later, he answered (huzzah!) and informed me that he was actually in Salem at the moment, and about twenty minutes from getting ready to head back to our crappy little home town. Forty minutes later (and the realization that Zorch either can’t count or can’t tell time), and we were heading home in his Dad’s convertible. Which was a much more stylish ride than the bus, anyway.


So, anyway . . . I’m on the loose. LOOK OUT! Hee hee hee!

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