This story is part of a week-long series challenging a native Houstonian to use public transit in everyday scenarios. Read parts one, two and three.
I need caffeine to survive most days. I'm Puerto Rican and was taught from a very early age that it's the life blood of my people. Whenever I need to relax and take some time for myself, I head out and grab a cup of coffee. A lot of Houston's coffee shops are on some of the bus routes I had already used and I wanted to change it up.
While getting my bachelor's, I spent most of my time at The Nook, a little café at the edge of the University of Houston's campus. It was cozy and had exactly what I needed: coffee and a bus I hadn't taken before. I decided to go straight after work to see how the bus fought through 288 traffic at rush hour.
My route was simple. I had to walk 10 minutes to get to the stop at the Bertner Avenue and Moursund Street in the Medical Center, then take the 4 to a stop off of Elgin Street on UH's campus. Then I'd walk another 10 minutes to get to the coffee shop.
Because I knew where I was going for the most part, I didn't have the usual moment of panic about whether I was going in the right direction or not. I also knew the area where the bus would drop me off wasn't the most ideal. I would have to walk across several parking lots to get to The Nook.
Like usual, there was another bus that could get me closer to the café, but it would add a transfer and an additional 15 minutes to my trip. I took my chances and decided I'd rather deal with only one bus during rush hour.
I left work around 4:45 and took my time getting to the bus stop. My main obstacle on the walk over was crossing Fannin, a street notorious for territorial drivers, especially at rush hour. The light rail passing by every couple of minutes added another crossing challenge.
I crossed Fannin and made my way to Bertner and Moursund. I looked at my watch. 4:58 p.m. I waited about two minutes before I got on the 4 and was on my way to caffeine bliss.
You know, rush hour doesn't suck so much when you're sharing the pain with a bus full of people. From my window seat, I watched the bumper-to-bumper traffic, complete with plentiful cursing and even a fender bender.
Why drive when you can be an outsider looking in?
The blurs of blue, pink and green from doctor's and nurse's scrubs flooded my peripherals as the 4 trucked through the Medical Center. Pretty soon, I was one of six left on the bus. We pulled into the Third Ward off of Ennis Street, passed Texas Southern University and turned onto Cleburne, a street I knew best as home to a Shipley's Donuts.
The bus cut through the middle of the Athletics side of campus, past the School of Music and made its stop in front of the School of Architecture, near the School of Communications, where I took most of my college courses.
I left the other five passengers behind at 5:30 p.m. and headed east toward The Nook. Cutting across parking lots, I shaved a couple of minutes off my ETA; I opened the door to The Nook at 5:35 p.m.
I grabbed a seat in the front room, where students usually sit and play board games or draw on the chalkboard walls. I decided to do what I did at the park a couple days before: crack open a book and sip a signature Rattlesnake latte. Complete with hazelnut, caramel and white chocolate, it was worth the trek.
Read the final installment of this series here.