Spring Break was a great opportunity to teach our teens a few more life skills at Palmetto Place and we embarked on a big adventure – a #busventure for anyone who follows us on Twitter. The day started out early and cold and rainy – perfect conditions for taking the city bus, right?

Kat, our grad intern, had sat down with the teens the night before to map out the route and taught them how to read the bus maps and schedules.

The goal: ride the bus from Palmetto Place to Five Points, tour BB&T, open a bank account and have lunch at Groucho’s.

The bus riders were: myself, Kat, Tedrea (our Program Coordinator), Katy (a wonderful volunteer who coordinates our partnership with BB&T) and 4 teenagers, ages 16-18.

We left Palmetto Place at 7:30 am and walked to the bus stop – a 25-minute walk! That was our first eye-opening moment of the day. We think there might be other bus stops closer to Palmetto Place, but they weren’t on the route map and we had no way of knowing what time a bus would pick up or where it was going.

Our bus arrived early, which was a nice surprise. The bus driver was very patient and very helpful. Kat had purchased a 10-ride pass ahead of time, which allows 10 people to ride one time, or one person to ride 10 times, etc. Those passes can only be purchased at the main bus depot, or at a few Piggly Wiggly stores in Columbia. In addition to that pass, however, we each had to pay another quarter for a transfer pass, since the bus wouldn’t take us straight to Five Points. Not expensive, but complicated and a little confusing.

bus pass

We settled into our seats and it felt a little like we were tourists at first. All eyes were on us. Our nervousness went away once the bus got moving. Although, this was also the point when I realized, not only do I get motion sickness as a car passenger, I also get motion sickness on a city bus! Great!

We arrived at the transfer station downtown, prepared for the hour-long wait between buses. The teens sure didn't hesitate to tell us how brutal this part of the process was, but it's a necessary part of using CMRTA.

There was a rack displaying the various bus routes. That alone was enough to make me grateful for my car. I don’t know how you’d figure out and memorize all the bus routes all over town – the 3, the 7, the one that’s marked 3 AND 18. It wasn’t logical! Why aren’t they named by the area of town? Help?!?

route map

The station was full – lots of people going to work and a number of moms with young children. One woman had a small baby wrapped in a blanket strapped to her chest. Another had a toddler. A grandmotherly woman had a child in a stroller. Our teens took notice.

“I’m not sure I could ride the bus with a kid.”

“It would be really hard to do this every day and try and get to work.”

One teen also had a keen observation of the buses coming and going. We were looking for a particular bus that would take us near Five Points, but this teen spotted a bus marked Five Points that we were not expecting! It hadn't been on the routes we’d looked at, and even after our #busventure was over, Kat couldn't find a copy of the route on the CMRTA website – only the printed version available at the depot. She checked.

Grateful to our highly observant teen, we boarded the bus and headed to our final destination.

There was a woman on the bus out looking for a job. She was dressed in a suit, carrying a portfolio with her resume. She said she gets on the bus every morning and heads out, dropping her resume wherever she thinks there might be an opportunity.

“I’d like to get a job in housekeeping or as a front desk clerk at a hotel. Or anything, any job would be good.” Of everyone we met on the ride, she made the biggest impression on me and I can’t stop thinking about her. I wonder if she’s still riding around looking for work.

Finally, we made it to Five Points and BB&T. Two hours after we left Palmetto Place! Two hours! It normally takes less than 20 minutes to drive to Five Points. GoogleMaps estimates that walking would take less than an hour and a half. I cannot imagine doing that every day, then working an 8-hour shift or longer, and then doing it all over again at the end of the day and going home to feed your family, help with homework, etc.

I’ll admit we were tired after the bus trip. It’s hard work. And we were just doing it one time. And this is what teaching life skills teaches us, here at Palmetto Place. We are blessed to be a part of the phase in our teens' lives as they begin to imagine what it will be like once they graduate high school and begin to live "independently" (though, who among us is truly independent?). It was wonderful to watch the teens' confidence grow as they demonstrated their own knowledge of navigating the CMRTA system. It was more amazing than that to participate in that learning with them, and have our own eyes opened to some of the realities of other peoples' lives.

Our bank visit and lunch at Groucho’s were great but I’ll save that for the next blog post. Stay tuned!