Determined to catch the earlier bus, I arrived at the Hampton Gravois Bus Center 15 minutes earlier than the day before. The 80 Southampton was already waiting.
A quick check on yesterday's trash pile at the Bus Center revealed that the cleaning crew had been through and picked up the place. Everything looked good, except for a recently emptied, 40-ounce can of Colt 45, set up on one of the recently cleaned seats.
The Southampton driver told me I'd be a lot better off catching the 10 Gravois across the street. So I heeded his advice, crossed Gravois, and waited at the stop.
Standing in the 33 degree misty air, the sky still dark at this early hour, gazing out across the wide expanse which included a Schnucks, a Walgreens, the cozy Hampton/Gravois Bus Center, and a Steak and Shake, but mostly, hundreds of cars travelling in all directions, made me feel like about one in 50,000. Most everyone else was riding by in cars. The few of us waiting for buses were barely noticeable.
Then a man started to cross the street from the Bus Center. An eastbound car on Gravois nearly hit him. The pedestrian had to jump out of its way. After a couple of minutes, the 10 Gravois arrived, and about five of us stepped aboard. The route would be pretty much a straight shot down Gravois towards downtown.
Just before Meramec, we passed under the Gravois Viaduct. I was reminded of the perennial Suburban Journal letter writer who periodically like clockwork writes in to criticize the 14th ward alderman for the deteriorating conditions of this and the nearby Chippewa Viaduct. I wondered, should an individual alderman - elected in the mid-1990s - be held responsible for semi-crumbling, massive, viaducts built in the 1920s or 30s?
A short while later, we stopped near Roosevelt High School at the corner of Gravois and Michigan. A group of high school-aged youths exited the bus. None of the them were carrying any backpacks or books.
The bus continued down Gravois, until it made a swing over to 14th Street to enter downtown proper. It passed the Sheraton Hotel in the old Edison building, and I wondered what the late Don Breckenridge might have done if he had a chance at rehabbing the old Children's Building across Clark Street.
At Tucker and Market, the bus headed east. It turned north on Fourth Street, and I started looking for the most convenient stop. I moved to the front of the bus, and was surprised to learn that the canned-sounding, recorded voices you hear narrating stop and transfer information are actually the driver's, speaking into a small microphone, played back after a 2-second delay.
I exited the bus at 4th and Locust, and walked through the new Federal Reserve Plaza. It's an urban plaza that really works, connecting points of interest together. It's all granite and bronze, lots of horizontal and vertical angles, classic in design, even more beautiful this time of year decorated for the holidays. It felt like a one-block section of mid-town Manhattan was moved to downtown St. Louis.
Walking another block west on Locust, I passed the remains of an abandoned homeless encampment, blocking the doorway of the old Mercantile Library/Boatmen's Bank building. Plans are in the works for this building to soon be converted into another loft housing development. At this point I checked my watch, and was 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
I ran some quick numbers in my head. If I didn't need a car during the day to get around to business meetings, we could save hundreds of dollars every month by riding the bus...