I heard it mentioned in the staff room one afternoon. The bane of my existence throughout my adolescence. The locale to which I had reluctantly returned not but three months prior. The mention of it here, in my teachers office, in midtown Leafton sounded odd and out of place. My personal and professional worlds so rarely interacted. And that was how I liked it.
“Bridgewood?!” There it was again. My ears perked up like a cat’s, but I dared not turn around to find who my coworker Oksana was speaking to. I sat still, trying to remain unnoticed. She continued, “it must take you forever to get here!”
“About two hours.” Replied the new teacher in the office. “I have to take the subway to Merger Station, then the Birr Train to Nav and my mom picks me up there. It’s another 20 minute drive from the train to my house.”
I cringed. She was stuck with mass hoards of people for the majority of her commute. I could never do that. That’s why I drove all the way midtown each day and rented out a parking spot in a lot nearby. My hour and a half commute was bad, but at least I could sit in the comfort of my car. Enjoying my own silent solitude.
I grabbed my keys off of my desk and slipped out the office door. I was grateful that Oksana hadn’t remembered that I too lived in Bridgewood. Thank God. I didn’t have to offer to give the new girl a ride home or anything. I didn’t want to be stuck in a car with a complete stranger. What would we talk about? We probably shared a variety of acquaintances from Bridgewood, too. I hated Bridgewood people almost as much as I hated inane small talk.
I made it down the hall, past the water fountain, and around the corner before my conscience kicked in.
“That poor girl is going to be stuck on public transit for two hours of her life,” she reminded me, “two hours, when you’re driving in the exact same direction. That’s not very neighbourly.”
“But if I offer her a ride now, she’s going to need one tomorrow too, and the next day, and the day after that. She has the same schedule as me too. She’s going to want to get in on morning rides as well. Inane small talk in.the.morning!” My social anxiety argued back. I continued to the stairwell. I didn’t want to get involved in this. It was too much commitment.
But involuntarily, I turned around. Despite my strong aversions, I had made my decision. I returned to the office slowly, where the new Bridgewood teacher sat at her desk. She was eating a sandwich and writing on a pad of paper. I approached her cautiously. “Hi, you’re Amanda, right? I’m Alexis. I’m not sure if we’ve formally met yet.”
She looked up at me through her huge thick rimmed glasses and nodded. “Yeah, I don’t think we have. You’re right, I’m Amanda.”
“Did I overhear you say you live in Bridgewood?” I asked cautiously. I hoped perhaps that I had misheard her. That maybe she lived in some town called Bridgeton or Thornwood.
“Yes,” was her response. Damnit.
“Lorvelle Village?” I asked, buying time. Maybe she lived in a very far corner of Bridgewood, and it wouldn’t make sense to offer her a ride regardless.
“No,” she shook her head. I held my breath. “But I live right across the street from Lorvelle.”
Double damn damnit! The following words flowed out of my mouth without immediate permission, “well, I live in Lorvelle, and I actually drive to work. So if you want, I could give you a ride home.”
Maybe she’d decline. Maybe she adored her public transit commute.
“Wow, that’d be really great!” She beamed brightly. “I can’t believe we live like literally across the street from each other. We’re going to be insta best friends!”
As much as I’d primarily resisted, riding with Amanda was a nice change of pace to driving alone. Amanda was a pretty cool person. She was bubbly and cheery and always had a ton to say. And she hated all of the same people at work that I did! Suddenly, I had someone to talk to that didn’t know me personally.
Just two weeks into carpooling, the city began construction on the already notorious ramp from Hwy 004 to Hwy 104. It went down from two already busy lanes to just one. That extended our commute significantly, some days. It was insane. Leaving at 6:30am, some mornings we’d arrive at 7:00am for our 8:30am classes, but other mornings, we’d arrive at 8:35am. It was impossible to calculate the traffic trends. Enraging! Nobody in the office understood our plight. We were alone with our traffic troubles.
One afternoon, as we crawled over the aforementioned ramp, I told her about my last break up. I revealed how I felt like I needed to have some wild experiences before actually settling down. Maybe a fling or something, I suggested with a giggle. She suddenly blurted out, “I almost lost my virginity on a beach to a stranger on a family vacation!”
My eyes grew wide as I glanced at her sideways. She blushed bright pink, though she wasn’t one to embarrass easily. She giggled, “I don’t know why I just said that.”
It was the traffic. Being stuck in traffic together day in and day out has that effect on people.
Just over a year later, I was a bridesmaid in that new Bridgewood teacher’s wedding.