Thursday, November 7, 2013

Carless Interviewing - Carless Rating #2: Elizabeth Goes To The Capitol

Yesterday, John talked about his walk to work and gave an introduction to being prepared for pedestrian excursions. Considerations like sensible footwear and proper layering are all well and good for normal walks, but most of that goes out the window when you face another monster: job interviews... carless job interviews, that is.

Currently, John is our breadwinner and I am the stay-at-home house- and cat-keeper. Because of this, I do most of the errands during the day, which I love, because it gives me many opportunities do some solo exploring of our new city. I usually explore on foot, but many times, my errands require that I take public transit. I've become fairly comfortable with the bus system here in Oklahoma City. I've heard a lot of nay-saying about its reliability, but in my experience, buses have generally arrived on-time and on-schedule. As someone who has never used much public transit, I've been pleased to find that the bus routes are fairly easy to navigate, which is great because I was pretty intimidated at first. Now I feel like an old pro! It also helps that the OKC Metro Transit Center is literally our next door neighbor.

This is the OKC Metro Transit Center. You see that white building in the top right corner? That's our apartment building. Convenient, right?

That's not to say that there aren't some considerable negatives to bus transit. 99% of the other bus patrons are kind, polite, and generally agreeable people with whom I feel very comfortable sharing my travels. The other 1% tend to be... well, crazy people. The ones who have really loud conversations with other bus riders about their crack-smoking habit. The ones who have no sense of personal boundaries, and insist on talking to you until you take your headphones out of your ears to ask, "what?" Because, you know, I didn't have my headphones in for a reason; namely, as a body language cue to keep from having to talk to strangers. There was the time a guy vomited on the bus. To be fair, he threw up in the little trash can and then immediately got off the bus, but no matter what, that is a germophobe's worst nightmare. I immediately wanted to smear hand sanitizer all over my body, which I guess would have put me right into that 1% bus rider category of "crazy people" as well.

So, to get back to my carless rating, yesterday I had a job interview. My interview took place very near the Oklahoma State Capitol, which is about 3 miles away from our apartment. Under normal circumstances, this could potentially be an on-foot trip, but seeing as it was for an interview, I decided to take the bus. No problem there; I found the best route to take (bus 18), figured out what time I would need to catch the bus in order to make it to the interview on time, and checked the map so I'd know which way to walk toward my destination once I got off the bus.

The difficult part had to do with my actual person. Since I was headed to a job interview, I needed to wear a professional outfit, so for me, that meant a dress and these shoes:

They're not 4-inch stilettos by a long shot, but considering that I was going to need to do some walking between the bus and my destination during this trip, they were an inconvenience. Under normal (i.e. "having a car") circumstances, I would have worn flats for the drive and then just put on my heels for the walk from the parking lot, but that was, of course, not an option here.

The weather was also pretty chilly yesterday, so I had to wear my big puffy coat so I wouldn't freeze while waiting for or walking to the bus. This is another item that I would usually have stashed in my car in the parking lot while interviewing, but I had to take it in with me, which felt a little awkward. It's all okay, though, because I found the building pretty easily - it wasn't very far from the bus stop, only a couple of blocks - and my interview went very well, despite having my puffy coat in tow.

After the interview, my difficulties began. According to my route schedule, I was supposed to only have to wait about 10 minutes for the next scheduled bus to come through, which turned into about 45-50 minutes. I think that a bus was missing from the route on this particular day, which usually wouldn't have bothered me, but since I was interviewing, I took my "sensible, business-like purse" instead of my usual "huge tote bag" and therefore had to forgo taking a book with me. Wah, wah, I know, but I'm a big reader, and when I have to wait around, I like reading.

While I was sitting at the bus stop waiting, my biggest problem with this excursion began: good old-fashioned street harassment! During my 45-minute wait, I was repeatedly catcalled and honked at by men in cars that were driving by. This isn't usually as much of an issue when I'm out, because on normal daily errands I'm wearing comfortable clothes like jeans and sweaters - not that that's a total deterrent, because street harassers aren't ultimately concerned with what you're wearing, they just feel the need to objectify a woman. I always experience some form of street harassment when I travel alone; that is just the sad reality of women's lives. However, there is an undeniable correlation between the amount and frequency of street harassment that happens when I'm wearing clothing that's more revealing, like a dress, which I was yesterday because of my interview; therefore, the harassment was increased from its usual level.

By the time the bus arrived, I was pretty grumpy from being hollered at by men for 45 minutes. I was happy just to sit in the warmth for the long ride back to the transit center, so imagine my confusion and disdain when, about 20 minutes later, I was told by the bus driver that I would need to "scan my pass again" for "the ride back." Um, what? For one thing, I didn't have a pass, but I was too confused to argue, so I just got out more money for another bus fare and made my way to the machine. The driver looked at my fare money questioningly, and I told him that I didn't have a pass, but I would pay again if that was what I needed to do. He then explained that I probably didn't know this, but since there were "outbound" and "inbound" routes, I was supposed to pay again to come back in. This made no sense because I thought the bus route was one big loop, and I had paid to get back on it when I got on the bus after the interview. I also didn't think I was the only person who had been on the bus since I had gotten on, so I wasn't sure why I was being (seemingly) arbitrarily chosen to pay again. Ultimately, he told me he would let me go this time without paying, but it didn't ease my confusion at all. I scoured the OKC Metro website last night for some information about this mysterious inbound fare, but I found nothing to explain it. I've never had another bus driver try to do that, so I'm chalking it up to a weird misunderstanding.

Finally, I was home, and I was able to kick off those high heels and eat a grilled cheese sandwich. It was a really, really delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

Now for the rating of this excursion:

The distance on this trip is a little convoluted because of the public transit aspect of it; the distance from our home is 3 miles (a D grade), but I didn't have to walk 3 miles. I walked more like a mile to a mile and a half once the trip was all done, which would be a B rating. I think I'll split the difference, and give it a C rating for distance.

The pedestrian infrastructure on this trip is, again, not a straightforward rating. However, the transit center and the bus itself are both very ADA-friendly; in addition, the main road on which the bus stop was located for my destination has very nice, well-maintained sidewalks. The road I had to walk on to get to my interview had no sidewalks whatsoever, and I had to walk on the side of the road. In heels. Overall grade: C.

Transportation options: Hey, that's the one place where this trip did well. This area is accessible by car, by bus, and less easily but still possible, by walking. There aren't any bike lanes in the area of the interview, so I'll give it a B.

The land use of the area in question also scores decently. The area around the state capitol is beautiful (I mean, the state capitol building is right there), well-maintained, and feels very safe. However, the area is not very densely developed, so it's a bit sprawly. I'll give it a B.

The atmosphere of this trip FAILS because I have no patience for street harassment. That would have in itself been a fatal blow to the atmosphere rating, but the misunderstanding with the bus driver regarding my fare didn't help either. F for atmosphere.

The overall grade for this trip is a 15 out of a possible 25. It was definitely do-able, and if I were in a situation where I needed to make the trip regularly (as in, I got a job in that area), I'm fairly confident that the kinks would be worked out to make it a convenient trip.

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