SEPTA struggles: My strike commute

SEPTA strike

Workers of SEPTA's largest union, TWU Local 234, have been on strike since early Tuesday.

In case you haven’t heard, SEPTA is on strike.

I am one of those affected commuters who relies on SEPTA to get to and from work. I began my day open-minded, even after oversleeping and knowing of the possible trials and tribulations ahead of me.

Thus, here was my day:

8:31 a.m. – I arrive at Temple’s shuttle stop, conveniently a half-block from my apartment. The gated, locked Broad Street Line entrance stares at my face, laughing. I tear up a little, but that may be the cold since I failed to check the weather prior to leaving my apartment.

8:51 a.m. – I now realize I could’ve gone back to my apartment, grabbed some gloves, checked the weather and perhaps baked some cookies since I’m still waiting for the shuttle.

8:53 a.m. – As the crowd waiting for the shuttle grows, I begin to wonder if everyone will fit on the shuttle. I also realize people just walking up now will probably be able to board while I’ll be waiting for the next shuttle.

9:04 a.m. – Shuttle No. 1 arrives. My prediction was correct. I wait for Shuttle No. 2.

9:22 a.m. – Shuttle No. 2 arrives. I surprisingly board and find a seat. It’s the first time in six years I’m taking a school bus to school. But it’s a cool looking school bus.

9:29 a.m. – We make the long trek four blocks to City Hall. I think about how this series of events could be a mildly entertaining blog post.

9:30 a.m. – “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel comes on my iPod. My mood improves ever so slightly.

9:34 a.m. – My mother calls me as a girl shoves her red backpack in my face. Clearly, we have decided to disregard the rule plastered at the front of the bus, “Absolutely no standees permitted.” My mom, a SEPTA employee, informs me that my TransPass is, in fact, valid on SEPTA Regional Rail (conveniently not on strike) even during peak hours. My next commute will be different.

Temple shuttle

Photo: Chris Stover | The shuttle bus that took me from Center City to Temple's campus is decked out in a wrap designed by Tyler students.

9:36 a.m. – Our bus gets into a duel a la 2 Fast 2 Furious with a normal-looking school bus. It’s somewhat terrifying yet equally exhilarating. I never knew bus drivers had it in them.

9:37 a.m. – “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” comes on my iPod. I find it appropriate, as it inspires me to be the arbitrator between SEPTA and the TWU and settle this strike once and for all. And then reality sets in when “We Didn’t Start the Fire” comes on next.

Read more of this exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat tale after the jump.

9:42 a.m. – I pass the University Services Building, my former place of employment until recently. It will be torn down by the end of the year to make way for a dorm. I tear up a little. Since I’m not outside, I don’t have the weather to blame.

9:43 a.m. – I arrive at my first pit stop, Broad and Berks streets, to wait for another shuttle. Upon getting off the bus, the bus driver says, “Don’t let the evil things get on your nerves,” in a very motherly way. Another passenger responded, “Can you be our bus driver every time?”

Come on. You can’t make that sappy stuff up.

9:46 a.m. – I cross Broad Street and wait for the Hunting Park shuttle. It leaves every half hour, so I figure I’ll catch the 10 a.m. one. It got a little colder. There are Temple students wearing shorts, and watching them makes me even colder. Idiots.

9:53 a.m. – A school bus drives by. The sign in the window calls it a UPS Workers’ shuttle. I recall four years ago when I covered the SEPTA strike for The Temple News, a similar shuttle drove down Broad Street to get workers to its South Philly location. I was conveniently wearing a brown shirt and brown jacket. I should’ve posed as a worker, although I’m not sure what I would’ve done in South Philly. But I do love whiteboards.

10:01 a.m. – A southbound Temple shuttle arrives. Jealousy ensues.

10:02 a.m. – Another UPS shuttle goes by. Temple should follow UPS’s example.

10:03 a.m. – I begin to question if the shuttle is actually going to come. I contemplate giving up and going home.

10:05 a.m. – The shuttle I took to Main Campus is now heading southbound back toward my apartment. I’m tempted to jump on, mostly to sit closer to the front so I could talk to the bus driver. I enjoy people telling me to have a good day.

10:07 a.m. – My lower lip begins to quiver. It’s chilly.

10:14 a.m. – I sent an e-mail to my boss earlier in the day, but I follow this up with a phone call to ensure that shuttles are still running. In the scenario I made up in my mind, Temple discontinued all other inter-campus shuttles to pay for the Broad Street service. I needed reassurance this was not the case. I didn’t get it.

10:15 a.m. – I received an e-mail from my mother outlining everything she told me in the phone call. It must be a slow day at SEPTA.

10:23 a.m. – I had almost given up, but alas, the shuttle magically arrives. I board. Other people assume it’s the southbound Broad Street shuttle, and the bus driver turns them away. The driver is typically a nice guy, but I feel like he resents me a bit today.

10:32 a.m. – My shuttle leaves. I’m the only one aboard. Now I really think the driver resents me.

10:47 a.m. – The shuttle passes a SEPTA garage on Allegheny Avenue. The usually opened doors are closed and picketers are waving their cheaply made signs. I snarl.

10:51 a.m. – I arrive at Hunting Park, alone, and the bus driver wishes me a good day. I still feel as though he resents me, but I return the sentiments with a smile. We’re both just doing what we need to do. I think we bonded a bit in the silent shuttle ride.

Alas, here I am. My six-mile journey that typically takes me 35 minutes (and only 20 minutes on the way home) lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours.

Can’t wait to get home. Just not sure how I’m doing that yet.

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One thought on “SEPTA struggles: My strike commute

  1. Pingback: On the SEPTA strike beat. Again. | CHRIS STOVER

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