Beth, of previous BTL authorship, has decided once again to delight us with a harrowing tale involving a zombie apocalypse and parenting techniques of generations past (not sure which is worse). My only question is, will they be slow zombies or fast zombies? Thanks Beth!!
As I ride on Muni, stopping at every stop light, sometimes for two or three reds, I often ponder how I would escape the apocalypse if it happened while I was riding on public transit. In fact, I even have an app on my phone that helps me determine just how hard it would be to escape zombies if they chased a Muni bus. When I turn the app on, I appear on the touch screen as a tiny dot in a real-time Google map and the zombies travel at a set speed towards the little dot that holds my brains. Almost invariably they catch my bus and I am eaten when some panicky lady tries to flee through the rear exit as the unaware bus driver lets them open to the shrieks of “BACKDOOR!”
Muni has not been helpful to my survival scenarios until it allowed me the time for my latest bus read, “Little House in the Big Woods,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sure, I read it as a kid and fell in love with a quaint life in the woods, but how much more valuable now that I know what an apocalypse is. Those Ingalls kids really knew how to survive!
Their log cabin was built to keep snarling creatures out and Pa never traveled anywhere without his gun. So, as soon as I could scan my Translink, I disappeared, only glancing out of the corner of my eye to catch Golden Gate Park grass and roots speeding by as though I was running as fast as Ma when she accidentally slapped a huge, woolly bear that she had mistaken for the family cow.
Not only was I that creepy person on the 5, smirking into my book with messy introvert hair hanging in my face, but my book was a super childish book, inappropriate to be muttering over. The cover of the 2004 HarperCollins full-color edition sports a small, innocent girl gazing lovingly at her rag doll. In the background a wholesome Pa carries little sister Mary on his shoulders, making me look bad by starkly contrasting with my unruly snorts at the hijinks of idyllic life of toddlers in the woods.
The only thing that saved me from being That Creepy Guy is that I picked up the little charge that I nanny for, and suddenly I had a reason to be a silly dork.
But I didn’t suggest that he read any of the Little House series as his Muni diversion. These books are chocked full of gender horrors and beatings as punishments for seemingly minor infractions. In my enthusiasm to relive the wonder of fresh maple candy, I had completely forgotten about my beloved Laura getting spanked for being too unruly on a Sunday and that she was forbidden to wear pants and copper-toed boy shoes.
None the less, there are still plenty of ways for nostalgic grown-ups to draw bus-etiquette lessons from the Little House. I would never say that children should only be seen. I think they should be chatted with and completely absorbed in the wonders that pass by the windows on the way to Ocean Beach. However, they don’t really need to be heard banging their feet on the seat backstops or screaming for extra jelly beans at breakfast time. Plenty of Bay Area kids would be just as worried as Laura about the well-being of the bees who are robbed of the honey that humans want to eat. Even her Pa goes an entire hunting season without being able to make himself shoot first a huge, majestic buck, then a delicious-looking and very edible bear, or even, finally, a fatted doe with a year-old fawn. Despite the bottom-whippings, there is still something undeniably gentle and loving about the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
While I would prefer to have bazillions of books to devour on buses and trains, there is certainly something to be said for strict but indulgent parents who train their offspring so well that they can be entrusted with the Ingalls’ family’s only two books. How many young ruffians in modern life would I even let hold my Muni map without suspecting them of tearing it to shreds in a fit of whimsy inspired by having plenty more of everything that they need? So I suggest that we all re-read our childhood survivalist roots. They can teach us how to be better grown-ups, who can teach our children to have proper bus manners and to thrive in the inevitable end of the world wilderness
that Muni will not survive.
Additionally, this marvel from long ago only took two Commuter Days to finish and the end was sweeter than empty seats on a bus with a broken fare-collector. “This is now. Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music were now. They could not be forgotten, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.” Which is what we shall all say, until the zombies destroy PG&E. Then it will seem like forever ago when we last got a free ride on an electric vehicle.