Home > Complete Streets, Cultural Movement, Public Transit, Transportation Education > The surprising magic of riding the bus

The surprising magic of riding the bus

February 23, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: A big welcome to first time guest contributor, Amy Martin. Amy is a free-thinker and free agent, appears where and when needed in the Traverse City NPO sector.  Part urbanite, part ruralist; she is equally at home traversing rivers or city streets.

The surprising magic of riding the bus

by guest contributor Amy Martin.


I prefer to get around on my feet. Yet, I work in Traverse City and live 30-plus miles away.  That means a lot of time in the car. Consequently, I often drive-up, drop my preschooler off at school, and then find a place to park for the day. From there, I can typically walk to work and meetings until the time comes to drive back to the school.

A few weeks ago, however, at the end of the school day I found myself unready to get back in the car. Without a plan I walked to the school to pick up my son, keenly aware I had a 2.5 mile hike ahead of me with a 4-year-old in tow. I consulted a friend with a borderline obsession for public transportation about my quasi-dilemma. “BATA” he suggested. “Then you can write about it.”

Great idea, the kid loves the bus. So after school that day, we took a BATA bus back to our car; it was a magical experience for a 4-year-old. So magical, in fact, that I haven’t heard the end of it.

Preschool persistence; promise kept

From that day forward, he has asked, begged, pleaded to take the bus again. He earnestly scours parking lots and couch cushions looking for the $.75 to cover his next trip. I promised him we would make it happen. Yet, several days passed along with far too many repetitions of, “not today, honey.”  The compounding parental guilt for letting a 4-year-old down who just wants, “to ride the bus, mom!” was building. So, at the point that I felt I’d disappointed the kid enough, I followed through with my promise.

We’re riding the BATA,” he tells his teacher and classmates with a cool preschool nonchalance. We were off! We walk to the bus stop at a 4-year-old pace, stopping to pick up sticks, inspect rocks and break chunks of ice. I ask him questions about school and he answers as he takes a stick and cast spells on cars and buildings turning them into “grass and rocks…but it’s not real mom, my wand is fake.”

Casting spells as we go

While waiting at the stop, we make music on the chain-link fence with the fake magic wand and talk to a group of young adults who, when the bus rounds the bend, become just as excited about seeing it as he is.  The pace, the interactions…these are all things we wouldn’t experience had he been bundled up in the back of the car.

On the bus, I buckle him in while he casts a few spells and watches the people get on and off.  As we pass by the State Theatre he straightens up and exclaims, “I want to be let off THERE mom! They have good movies and popcorn and stars on the ceiling!” I tell him I love those stars too. We continue down Front street, and soon, our short ride is over.

As we walk to the car and I ask him what his favorite part of the ride was, “casting spells,” he says. And, as we are on our long-trek home he adds one more thought before falling asleep, “I’m saving up alllll my money, mom!” I ask him what for and he answers, “for a Lego set and the BATA bus.”

Well, of course – Legos and a bus ride–both magical things for a 4-year-old. 




A contribution today helps fund magic spells and BATA rides. 

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  1. Max
    February 23, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I love it!! We should take up a collection and buy this kid a BATA pass.

  2. Sharon
    February 23, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Nice story, Amy, and welcome! I introduced my young kids to BATA when the Cherriott service began a dozen or so years ago. Now they ride on their own as teens. The magic may be gone for them, but not for me as I appreciate their ability to get around safely, cheaply and independently.

    Your story reminds me of a visit 20 years ago when we lived in Washington, D.C., from North Carolina relatives. My niece, who was 8 at the time, would have spent the entire weekend riding the Metro if we had let her! It was her favorite D.C. activity — more fun than the zoo, the mall, anything. She talked about it for years afterwards.

  3. February 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Awesome post! Kid has good taste and a cool mom.

  4. February 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    What’s a BATA pass run? I know this 4-yr old, he’d cherish it.

  5. Marya
    February 23, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Love the story. Thanks, Amy.

  6. Max
    February 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    $30 for 45 $0.75 punches, so he’d even get some free rides out of it.

  7. dianne van huysen
    February 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I love his imagination. Great story for his scrapbook. Keep writing!

  8. February 24, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Adorable. Great guest columnist. 🙂

  9. February 27, 2012 at 5:36 am

    I love this story too! I am almost 74 years old, and some of my most vivid memories involve “public transportation.” We are “alive” then — unencumbered by the need to be alert or dead (driving a car). “Public” transportation means independence — for anyone under the driving age — and it means seeing & interacting with the “public.” Why — oh why — can’t others see how much fun it can be. (Short little aside. A friend who lived for awhile in Cairo Egypt explained how when he was on an “empty” bus, the person who got on, came & sat right next to them, began talking, chatting. We westerners would move as far way as possible from the other person on the bus. We need to be forced to socialize. Public transportation can be so much fun! It is, at its best, people watching — and, of course, “casting spells.”)

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