Not Driving and Riding the Bus with My Aunt

Cameron Lee Cowan

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My Aunt is the biggest user of mass transit I know. For most of my childhood, she worked in downtown Denver. We lived in the northern suburbs, and she would drive her 1988 Hyundai Excel to the park and ride and take the bus into the city. Even when she briefly worked out of Denver, she usually tried to commute by bus.

I think that’s how my passion for mass transit started. When I was 18, I really just wanted to move to New York, ride the subway and never own a car. In sweet irony, I’ve spent much of my life driving and traveling. I didn’t intend for it to be that way. When I was 18, I wanted to be an interior designer and take the subway in New York. My theory went like this, “why should I go to all that work of navigating traffic when a nice man in a train could do it for me?”

I think it was also the influence of television. Children’s programs like Sesame Street that always seemed to be set in New York featured things we didn’t have in provincial Denver: taxi cabs, subway trains, and a variety of buses.

When DIA opened in 1995, there was a public preview before the airport opened, and you could anywhere in the public areas of the building (pre-9–11 travel!) and the underground train that took you from the Terminal to the concourses seemed so fast and magical to me. It was much more modern than the old Stapleton airport, which involved a great deal of walking. The airport was so poorly planned, airplanes were obliged to cross I-70 over several bridges.

When I was a little kid, my Mom would drop me off at her job at National Jewish hospital in Denver and I would wait a patient for a couple of hours for her to finish working, and then we would ride the bus all the way to her house in Denver’s northern suburbs. I think she was the only person I knew who actually used mass transit to commute to work.

Somehow, to me at 6 or 7 years old, riding a big bus on RTD seemed glamorous and exciting. The walk from her office at the corner of Colfax and Colorado Boulevard to the bus stop involved crossing this major intersection and then going over to the bus stop. Even today, having worked in the area myself, that intersection still seems dangerous and daunting!

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Cameron Lee Cowan

Creative Director of The Cameron Journal. Culture, political commentary, and much more!