Too Broke To Be A Driver

by Michelle F. Sullermin

I’ve only been a pedestrian four of my 40-plus years as a commuter. I now understand why I always drove my car instead of waiting at bus stops.

It’s hard when you have to go to the bathroom and you’re afraid to miss the bus; or there’s no bus bench and you’re exhausted; or there’s no shade and the sun is beating into your eyes — especially if you don’t have sunglasses with you. Also, when you have no change with you, you have to rely on the grace and understanding of an L.A. city bus driver.

It gets really scary sometimes after dark; especially when you don’t know the neighborhood or are far away from your destination and worried about making the connection bus to get home safely. One has to rely on the good hearts of gnarly people knowing you’re a fish out of water and a good girl / lady with no malcontent towards them or anyone — just too broke to drive and own a car!

In the past, not often, I’ve ridden a bicycle from A to B in the bike lane in Santa Monica on San Vicente and one time from Sunland-Tujunga to a friend’s place in North Hollywood, very early in the morning. When I got scared, although theoretically you’re not supposed to, I have ridden a bicycle on the sidewalks of city streets, overtaking pedestrians and people with canes; sometimes having been late for an underground to Downtown Los Angeles.

As my knees only have 10% cartilage and I didn’t choose many years ago to have a double kneecap replacement, I rarely, unless totally stuck and not having groceries with me or a backpack with a few clothes and shoes for a weekend out of town, which because I have limited arm strength enhances the possibility of my falling off a bicycle. Bottom line: I get very jittery with cars and big trucks driving past me.

Being too broke to pay the $135 per month car insurance fee and to pay for tune-ups and repairs and smog clearance yearly, I have walked everywhere — unless it’s a long distance, in which case I wait for and take the bus.

For the last three years, being a non-car owner at this point, I’ve encountered many sticky situations. I’ve missed the final bus back home and if broke and unable to pay for a motel room for the night, had to camp out. On the occasions someone has been kind enough to drive me home, and I’ve had the reimbursement gasoline money to give them, I’ve gotten a ride home.

On the whole, I’ve been blessed when I’ve camped out alone overnight and no one has bothered me. But it’s nerve wracking.

Sometimes, at bus stops, one or more people — often men — are flirty and it’s scary when no one else is around, especially when they might be a little high on cocaine or speed and / or just revved up. Being just 5’6” and not ever having carried a weapon, nor knowing any self-defense moves or techniques, waiting at bus stops can sometimes be very intimidating.

Often when I get where I’m going, I’m so drained emotionally that I have very little energy to get done whatever my goal was or so wiped if it’s night time when I finally get home, I am so wiped I go to sleep hard.

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