My Worst Nightmare Was Missing the Bus

Jonathan Gonzalez
Author Jonathan Gonzalez
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In partnership with Coachella UnincorporatedCoachella Unincorporated is a youth media training program based in the eastern Coachella Valley. Young people, ages 15-24, who join Coachella Unincorporated strengthen their storytelling and leadership skills and work to amplify voices from the eastern Coachella Valley. The youth media program is operated by New America Media and funded by The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative.

North Shore resident Jonathan Gonzalez recalls one of his worst nightmares, missing the bus from his community in the eastern Coachella Valley.

If I wanted to get to work on time, I knew I needed to get out of bed before dawn in order to catch a bus that took a good hour and a half to get me to work. This was my life for three months, three days a week. I’d start every day while it was still dark, hoping I wouldn’t miss the only bus that serves my community of North Shore. Losing such an opportunity would mean a three hour wait for the next bus, with an almost two hour travel time to get to my job in La Quinta.

Essentially, missing the bus meant missing work.

North Shore, if you aren’t aware, is a community by the Salton Sea. Occasionally it smells like fish. More than occasionally, it’s impossible for a young person like me to find work. With only one place of employment, a small carniceria, I had to look out towards the west for work. The closest town, ten miles away, didn’t hold many possibilities for me. I had to look out about thirty miles away to the city of La Quinta.

Thankfully, I got a job. I was also thankful that North Shore, at the time, had recently been added as a stop to a new bus line. I was less thankful about the fact that this bus line had a limited route and didn’t run on the weekends. My initial ride was quite an experience. In many ways, it felt like being in a dentist’s office that was also in motion; there was a lot of waiting and most of the people didn’t look comfortable. That hour and a half ride actually resulted in many moments of self reflection. My smartphone games were played until boredom and social media sites were browsed ad nauseum. Fortunately, I found light in the darkness in the form of the bus driver.

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So often and so long did I ride the bus, that a friendship grew between the bus driver and I. At one point he revealed to me that he had previously been a trucker, which explained how he could bear driving such a long line. Occasionally I had chats with other riders. Mostly I would just observe. An old friend actually began riding as well and the tedium subsided.

Even I, who had found comfort in the long rides, always had the terrifying image of missing the bus in the back of my head. One morning I did wake up late. I shot out of my house running through the sand towards the stop, waving the bus down. Turns out befriending the driver helped in that regard, as he recognized me and gave me a few moments to catch up. Months later, that bus driver got switched to another line and a few days after that I got a driving permit. Worrying about the bus is no longer an issue, but I still think back to those days.

Not everyone would be willing to make the sacrifices that I did and for so many there’s no other choice. It’s exciting to have the bus and I’m grateful for even having the chance to get out of my community more than occasionally. But it’s unfortunate that to ride it requires not only a bus fare; it necessitates planning and patience. Having ridden the buses on the west side of the valley, I can easily say that the people of North Shore don’t have the luxury of taking a nice trip on a whim.

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