#MultiModalTrial Perspective (Embrace the Suck)

So here I am, half way through my day, waiting for my bus with a soaking wet butt and grey skies overhead. The rain has stopped, thankfully, and I’ve had a chance to dry off. I told the women at the nursing home where my first client lived that I guess today’s the day I put one of my favourite “momisms” to the test: “You aren’t made of sugar – you won’t melt.”

I’ve had a few times this past week or two when my perspective was challenged. Today is one of them. As I zipped down the road on my bike in the steady but fairly light rain, I reflected on the fact that I COULD be standing in the rain at a bus stop. But I’d still be wet. And waiting for the bus meant that my day would be set back an extra hour or two (in addition to being wet) and I’d miss the opportunity for some activity (which my brain and body desperately need). 

Funny that, as I was having this epiphany, I crossed paths with another cyclist at the crosswalk who must have been 30-40yrs my senior (at least). She grinned and zipped by me saying “we get a free shower!” šŸ˜ƒ Her energy was contagious even as she kept riding by. In that moment I smiled from my liver (bonus points if you know the reference). šŸ˜‰

That woman’s response reminded me of the choice I had – to mumble and complain about the situation, or to be glad that at least I was moving from point A to point B with some efficiency, rather than spending my day an hour behind. Of course, that also led me to the wisdom of a friend who was my trainer at the gym for a while. When the members would fuss and moan about the latest excruciating workout, Merritt used to smile and just say: “embrace the suck”. She’d explain that even seasoned athletes who had been working out their whole life knew that the secret to pushing through is expecting the inevitable (but temporary) pain and learning to embrace it. 

Likewise, I’ve chosen to “embrace the suck” today. Knowing that today’s rain is not a constant downpour, but a manageable “here and there” wetting. Plus… I’ve gotta make it to Rita’s this afternoon to get groceries with my lovely new basket on my bike! I used to feel like I didn’t want to ride my bike if it was raining. But now I’ve decided that I’d much rather be caught in the rain on my bike so that I can get OUT of the rain faster! šŸ˜œ (It’s all about perspective).

New Basket for #MultiModalTrialĀ 

So, here I am sporting my new basket for my #multimodaltrial. This should make buying and transporting clients’ groceries way easier now! I even took the bike on the bus tonight and the basket unclips from the front to allow better visibility for driver and better safety of the items I’m carrying. I am very pleased with this new addition! 

I am also very pleased with the education and customer service at the London Bike Cafe. The bike guys Giancarlo & Ben were excellent in guiding my basket choice and installing it, while Barista Jenn made me a coffee (at the same time educating Gavin and I on the finer points of the process). Such a great morning!

#MultiModalTrial with Bad Weather SurprisesĀ 

One of the biggest complaints about taking transit is that of dealing with inclement weather. In a car, at least there is the comfort of staying mostly dry and warm. There are also privileges with higher levels of accessibility and public services prioritizing automotive traffic. 

In bad weather cars are forced to slow down for better visibility and more control of handling. Buses are the same. However, the bus riders must also factor in extra time to arrive at their stop (and they MUST be early as drivers are known to leave before their scheduled times), as well as extra time to travel between transfer points. All in all, the planning for a transit trip is possibly tripled with inclement weather. 

Today I checked the weather while drinking my coffee and it reported only a partially cloudy day – no rain (although a couple days ago I did see rain in the forecast for today). So I went about my morning getting ready and just as I was rolling my bike out the front door (I live in a townhouse, so storage options are limited), I was met with rain. Ugh! Have you ever tried to hold an umbrella and ride a bike? I personally find rain and biking a bit incompatible. 

So, I mumbled a few frustrating comments, grabbed my hat and pulled out the umbrella, and fired up the walking to lightning-speed. I made it to the corner bus stop in the same amount of time as with a bike (and that’s even with dropping my water bottle mid-street as I was crossing at one point). I breathed a sigh of relief as I gathered myself, took a deep breath and looked at my watch after boarding the bus. We pulled away at 10:07am and the schedule reports a 10:08am departure. That might seem insignificant to most and “not a big deal”, but for a #multimodaltrial transit rider without her bike that one minute can mean the difference between making the connection and being 20-30mins late for an appointment. 

As it turns out, a call from my afternoon client that just came in reports there is no rain in Oakridge. And now that the bus is driving through south London I see this area is also dry. So now I’m kicking myself for not having my bike because it means an extra 30mins travel-time mid-day to make a connection via bus, and an extra 30mins end of day. 

I can just imagine the stories I’ll be writing come winter and the plows don’t touch the sidewalks for days at a time. I’m thankful it’s just rain I’m dealing with today.

Good People Along My #MultiModalTrial Journey

I know it seems an obvious detail in life, but it’s becoming more and more important to me that I surround myself with good people – people with generous hearts, positive energy, and genuine intentions. Today I was reminded again that I am on the right path in that regard. 

This has been a particularly rough and emotional couple of weeks for me for many reasons. I’ve had some personal set-backs and some really challenging interactions lately. To top it off, I tried for the first time getting groceries for a client on my bike – quite precariously, I might add.

Today I received an anonymous message that a nameless someone was interested in helping with my bicycle woes by adding a basket to my bike. To whoever you are, this is a very unexpected but very much appreciated surprise. I can’t tell you how much it means to me – to be reminded that, even during dark times, friends are like rays of sunshine that pierce through the clouds. 

Empathy For Bus Drivers on #TransitTrial

In the span of 20mins I watched as one driver was screamed at (with F-bombs) by a self-identified woman with schizophrenia, then the next driver is beat down by 2 passengers upset that he’s late (because traffic on Oxford is at a standstill. 

I have said it many times to many drivers, I have so much respect for them and their job. I would not want to do what they do. My dad was a truck driver for 40yrs and I know the stress he dealt with from his job. Add to that the complex component of dealing with hundreds of passengers each day and I can’t imagine the frustration.

Now the driver is talking to a passenger about the complications of BRT and “can you imagine if they go through with that – I hope they come to their senses!” I’m sure it’s been frustrating for the drivers as they deal with all the changes in routes and the congestion in the city.  I hope somehow they come to understand that the BRT system will only help them in the long run. 

I think a lot of it has to do with how we treat the drivers in the mean time. Whether it’s a situation with another passenger or a complication with traffic, we all have a choice to respond with kindness to our drivers and show them compassion and gratitude for their mostly thankless job.

It is Time…

Well, friends, as my title today says… “it is time.”  It has taken me a while to wrap my head around this, but I’ve finally come to the realization that having a car just isn’t working for me in this stage of my life right now. 

Three years ago, I foolishly – but with great intention – bought an almost brand new vehicle when I started my new business. In retrospect, I wasn’t foolish to buy a vehicle, but maybe to spend so much money on one as I was just getting my business up and running. I do have to say that I put a lot of thought into my choice of car and I chose my type of car for many good reasons. At the time, I also qualified for the car loan because I was on a government subsidized program to start my business. But at the end of my 9month program, I still wasn’t making enough money to live off of. 

So, of course, I made do – living off my loans from the bank, hoping and praying I’d eventually get enough clients and make enough money to get the loans paid off. Well, honestly, who would have guessed that I’d slip on the ice and have a minor fender bender that would eventually almost bankrupt me because I had the wrong level of insurance on my vehicle. No one could have anticipated that. And now I’ve gotten myself in so deep that, if I continue on this path, there’s absolutely no way I will get out. Of course, the banks will continue to lend me money, but that’s not exactly the wisest decision.

After much stewing and “figuring” this week, I finally made the decision to give up my car altogether. Having evaluated my finances, I’ve realized that it’s just not possible for me to afford a vehicle at this time in my life. As it is, by taking the vehicle off the road altogether, it will take me 2-3yrs to pay back my lines of credit at the bank.

It’s time for me to stop pretending.

I started taking transit because of the Great Transit Debate happening in London at the beginning of this year. I had to put the system to the test in order to honestly give an opinion. And secondly, I knew immediately that it would help me save money if I could make it work. 

But now, it’s more than a cutesy “Transit Trial” for the sake of proving a point. Now it’s about survival and the Universe saying, “be grateful for the small mercies”. I am fortunate to be in a position where I can take the transit system in London – as terrible as it is – to see my clients. A) I am in the physical condition to be able to get around freely. B) Almost all of my clients live on or near a bus route (except for the one closest to my house, to whom I can walk). And C) I am grateful for the flexibility of my clients, allowing me to be a few minutes later here or there if I need to. 

I have been feeling this draw for quite a while that I need to simplify my life – hence, my interest in “minimalism”, a simpler way of eating, getting out into nature, and removing people from my life who cause me stress. The Transit Trial, though aggravating as it may be, is teaching me to slow down and to notice the world around me differently. Also, it is opening my eyes to “the state of things” for a group of people in London who have even less than I do. This experience is one in empathy and also advocacy. It enables me to more effectively and consciously use my voice for a cause that is pertinent to the very fabric of London’s being right now. 

Improving transit, is a necessary part of improving this city. People are quick to speak poorly of the system, but then in the same breath say “London isn’t big enough for this kind of thing.” It is that same small-minded thinking that keeps us in this place of lack. And it is strangling the “little guy (or girl)”, disempowering and disenfranchising them and keeping them in a place of oppression. It’s a symptom of the greater issue of power and greed in this city. Mark my words, if you want to create a better quality downtown, if you want to create a better quality of life for ALL Londoners, improve the quality of transportation and watch how that freedom opens the doors to opportunity (for industry, for social engagement, and for the overall morale of the community).

The Daily Grind of the #TransitTrial and #MultiModalTrial

Well, the summer is well under way and so is the #TransitTrial #MultiModalTrial. My mornings are now consumed with checking the weather and bus schedules. My backpack is always sitting by the door and my bike is always at-hand, sitting in its place in the living room. Living in a townhouse, I’ve learned that storage can be tricky and leaving the bike outside is not any better than inside.

As I’m preparing for my day today I realized I haven’t blogged in a while. The daily grind finally got to me. The new routine has settled in and the daily overwhelm comes with it. I have certainly been grateful for the opportunity to save some money by using transit and biking. I am also grateful for the opportunity to incorporate activity into my schedule since I haven’t been able to go to the gym. But to be honest, the added time restraints make the daily schedule a lot more complicated. 

I no longer have the extra time for mental preparation of my day or physical preparation of meals. I get home later in the evening so I am less motivated and get less done around home. I leave earlier in the morning so the same thing could be said for that time of the day. The catch 22 is that I’m saving money in travel but spending more money in pre-made meals because I have less time and energy to work with overall.
In one way, the transit trial and multimodal trial are great for mental health in that I don’t have to battle traffic from behind the wheel of a car. It gets me out into nature which produces happy chemicals in my brain. Also, the exercise I wouldn’t otherwise get produces those same endorphins. The time spent on the bus or waiting (or riding bike) can be seen as useful downtime for my brain and an opportunity to practice mindfulness exercises. These are all positives in my mind.

But, on the other hand, the extra planning needed and the extra time for travel means I have less time and mental energy for other things in my day. With my brain injury I go to bed fairly early, or I at least need a lot of sleep (no matter what time I actually hit the pillow). Then waking up and getting going in the morning often requires more time as well. 

So, here I sit, staring at the clock…realizing it’s taken me a good 30mins just to compile these thoughts and write this blog. I’m on my way downtown for a couple of stops before I see my clients in Oakridge this afternoon. Best get myself together and the day organized. I think I’ve begun to realize that although it’s possible to take transit for the job I have, it’s not practical and/or recommended if you have the choice. 

But I guess that’s the whole point of the “trial”, right? I set out to prove a point as well as save some money. And I think I’ve proven that point. Our transit system is not “good enough already” as some may have you believe. I am still an advocate for Bus Rapid Transit in the city of London and will continue to be even though I have a car and choose to transport myself in multimodal ways. 

Thank you to my followers for journeying with me in this trial. I apologize for the lack of writing about my activities recently. I’ll attempt to update more in the coming days.