Monday, May 2, 2016

A Strumpet on a Trolley

One great advantage of living where I do is rarely having to drive (with the exception of to and from work - which is a delightful 6 minute commute against traffic). This is especially convenient when I am meeting friends for dinner or drinks. Since upper King Street with its many excellent bars and restaurants is just a few blocks away, a simple stroll will deliver me most places I need to go.

If the destination is a bit further on the peninsula, Uber is a life saver. Between the traffic downtown, parking nightmares, and my absolute refusal to enjoy adult beverages and then get behind the wheel of my car, a $4-$5 fee for a friendly driver in a clean car to pick me up just minutes after I place a request and safely deliver me home is a bargain. Often this fee is equal to what I would have paid in parking fees.

Lately I discovered another option to get around downtown - the city offers a free trolley service. There are 4 loops that run continuously covering different areas of the city from 7 in the morning to around 8 in the evening. Since I live only 6 blocks from the Visitors Center, the central location of all the routes, I can easily catch a trolley that will deliver me within blocks of anywhere I need to go. The trick is figuring out the schedule and timing.

For my reunion this weekend, while the College is a walkable distance, trucking down there on a warm evening dressed for a gala in heels was not an appealing thought. So I figured out which trolley would deliver me closest to campus. The King Street line stops at the corner of George, just one block from campus. I figured the time I needed to leave and made my plan. While looking at the chart, I realized that the closest stop to me was not at the Visitor's Center but just a block and a half away. Knowing I would be making my way in heels, this was even better.

So at the appointed time I left my apartment, actually 10 minutes early to make sure neither crossing busy Meeting street nor my clock and the trolley driver's clock not being synced did not cause me to miss my ride. As I approached the stop, I realized perhaps my plan was going to be even more interesting than I first thought. While the trolley was designed to move tourist throughout the city, locals (like me) use it to hop on and off while moving through the town. Even though this stop was beside one of the newer Upper King hotels, the patrons waiting at the stop, well let's just say they were not dressed for a semi formal gala attire. Of course this stop also serviced the city bus service that many of the city's lower income people use.

So I found myself waiting with 9 or 10 other folks, all very polite. There was a couple, extremely inebriated, oblivious to everyone else around them, a young man holding an armful the traditional roses made from palmetto strips that the tourist buy on the street, a mother with two very young children, a very dapper dressed older man who insisted on giving me his seat, and me, the only caucasian among them dressed in a summer cocktail dress wearing heels carrying a small purse.

As I sat there taking it all in, I could only imagine what thoughts were going through their heads. Naturally my luck would have it that no guests from the hotel joined me so a photograph of me sitting there could have been a Norman Rockwell painting - you know Americana always showing someone out of place.

Finally a city bus came and half the people waiting got on. In a minute or two (right on time) the trolley drove up. When I boarded, I was not surprised to see most of the passengers were obvious tourists dressed in shorts and t-shirts, many with cameras around their necks holding maps of the city. There were more than a few odd looks as I took my seat. If I were not a 56 year old middle aged woman, perhaps I may have been taken for a working lady of the evening. And, I imagine when they saw me sitting at the bus stop amidst that motley crew, dressed as I was, that thought probably crossed their minds.

I got off the trolley at my stop and my thoughts turned to thinking about the reunion I was about to join and all the angst one has walking into such an event.  Suddenly the slight idea that I may have even been taken as a strumpet, all be it an aged one, gave me a certain confidence as I walked into the Cistern. Hey, at 56 attending one's 35th college reunion, I'll gather courage from any source.

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