By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
On monday, the one-month anniversary of the Metro Transit strike passed with no public sign that the matter will be resolved any time soon. No doubt it made the ears of a few bus riders ring with the words of Taxpayers League president David Strom: "Transit just isn't that important to the smooth functioning of the Twin Cities transportation system," he said in the first days of the stoppage. "That's the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the lack of chaos engendered by the bus-system strike. Even in areas highly transit dependent--such as the central business districts of St. Paul and Minneapolis--there just doesn't seem to be much difference in traffic when buses are running and when buses are not. The bus strike shows decisively that proponents of transit are simply not telling the truth when they say that transit ridership reduces congestion. It simply doesn't."
In other words, the bus strike doesn't matter because it doesn't make it any harder for people like David Strom, people who matter, to get where they're going.
Meanwhile, though, a lot of the people who don't matter by the reckoning of Strom and countless others like him were having a tougher time of it.
By Jim Walsh
After the bus strike began in the middle of the night of March 4, Sondra Nolan awoke the next day at 6:00 a.m. with a plan. She dressed herself and her three-year-old twins, Xavier and Xahira, fed them, and loaded the pair into a bike trailer for a three-and-a-half-mile trek from her rented duplex at 34th Street and First Avenue South to the day-care program at the 11th and Nicollet YWCA. It was cold, so she wore a winter coat and a hat under her helmet. Instead of riding in the street and competing with the heavy traffic, she took the sidewalks along First Avenue (not too fast, so as to not jolt the kids) down past the Convention Center, and, finally, on to Nicollet.
She stopped "50,001 times" to calm the kids, check on them, break up fights, or give them a snack. Then she dropped them at the day care, kissed them goodbye, and told them she'd be back after work. She climbed on the bike and headed for Portland Avenue, which affords a more streamlined route out of downtown and an easier ride to Cub than does Nicollet and its steep hills, which can look like the Pyrenees to Nolan, who has had asthma all her life.
The bicycle was one of those strokes of desperate ingenuity that working parents have to conjure from time to time. As the strike drew near, a panicky Nolan had called her mother-in-law and convinced her to drive Nolan to a Target store, where Sondra put a $240 mountain bike and kid trailer on her charge card with no real idea how or when she'd be able to pay it back. She makes $7.45 an hour at her part-time job as a Cub Foods cashier in Richfield.
An hour--and roughly 10 miles--after Nolan left home, she arrived at Cub, sweaty and smelly, and changed into her work clothes. After working her shift, she got back on her bike, pedaled past the bus shelter, the one she normally catches her bus from (the one that butts up against newspaper boxes half-filled with Employment News and the Employment Guide) and headed back downtown to pick up her kids and repeat the trip.
The next day she did the same thing, just as she has two to three days a week since the strike started. The day after that, the headline in the Star Tribune read, "First Day of Bus Strike Yields Few Complications."
"I remember somebody from the Minnesota Taxpayers' Association sitting there saying to the people in the Star Tribune that buses don't matter. 'Congestion isn't that big of an issue,'" she says, sitting in the front room of the duplex, where two televisions beam on simultaneously in separate rooms. A bottle of Excedrin and a bottle of prescription drugs sit on the stereo system's speakers, which dominate the room. Family pictures dot the walls; toys are strewn everywhere.
"It's like, 'Hello, people?' It isn't an issue of congestion," she says. "It's an issue of whether or not people who cannot afford cars can get to work, or get to where they need to go. A lot of elderly people need to go to doctor's appointments. They can't afford Metro Mobility. Metro Mobility is three bucks a ride, so that's six bucks for round-trip.
"Our lovely politicians--low-income people don't seem to matter to them. We still vote. To me, that should be enough to get anybody to listen. They're cutting programs that help you get off welfare, and they're cutting it to the point where you don't have any backup anymore, and now they want to cut buses. I know a lot of people from the inner city who need the bus system, more than any other single thing."
Sondra, 38, is one of the estimated 75,000 people who rely on the bus system to get to wherever they're going. Her bicycling Plan B has had its pitfalls. "I've had a couple of accidents with the bike on the way to work," she says. "Right after the strike started, I was really upset because there was the big snowstorm. I had to go to work in that, on the bike, no brakes, almost got hit by some cars along the way, because I had to ride in the street because hardly any sidewalks were plowed or anything. So that was really scary.
"And earlier this week, somebody had messed with the bike trailer. And the hub assembly had started to come off. It was really scary. It came off, the bike went flying, the back tire went flying opposite, and I wound up late for work by an hour because I had to go to Target and get some stuff to get it fixed."
At first, her kids loved the bike. They'd race out the door in the morning and stand eagerly by the trailer, helmets on, squealing, "Mommy take off and go wheee." Now, as the bus strike enters its second month, it's a different story. Now they stall as long as they can to avoid getting into the cramped trailer, where they pout and elbow each other and often cry all the way downtown.
Last Monday, I hauled out my bike and joined them on their ride. Sondra was on schedule to get the kids to day care by the center's cut-off time of 9:30. She'd dressed them, packed her lunch, and belted Xahira into the trailer, but Xavier wanted nothing to do with it. As Sondra unlocked the bike from the chain-link fence it sits next to in the front yard, the boy slammed the gate and ran to the backyard. Sondra had to go corral him.
"C'mon, Boo-Boo," she pled, using his nickname, while carrying him under her arm. The boy half-heartedly kicked and squirmed, and finally let his mother put him in the trailer.
She lurched off on the bike, her legs waddling more than pumping, her face impassive. She stayed on the sidewalks, giving a quick wave to cars that slow down for her at intersections. The trailer's plastic orange caution flag flapped noisily in the wind, harmonizing with the sound of kids crying, rush-hour traffic, and--what's this?--a dull flop-flop coming from the trailer.
The right-side tire on the trailer had gone flat. Sondra pulled into a convenience store-service station on Lake Street that sits kitty-corner from the Metro Transit's Nicollet Garage. The tire was shot, so she called the day-care center to say she'd be late. The kids were cold and wailing. Sondra got back on the bike and pedaled back home.
There was still one chance to get the kids to day care before cut-off time. Her neighbor, a woman who helped her get the job at Cub, owns a "beater" car. Sondra explained what had happened and asked her for a ride downtown. Before they left, the woman turned to me. "I'm a witness," she said. "This woman has put on hundreds of miles in the last month. She goes downtown, then to work, and back again. Three times a week."
This time, Sondra's piecemeal transit system got her to day care and therapy. That night, after putting the kids to bed, she did what she usually does to relax: a little time in front of the TV watching the Sci-Fi Channel or the home improvement show Trading Spaces, the theme of which last week was couples trying to win enough money to pay off their mortgages.
Her dreams are modest these days. She's thankful for her job at Cub, and for the welfare assistance she receives, but she'd like a better job. She'd like her kids to have a better life. She'd like tickets to the Prince concert. She'd like the buses to start running again.
Jill, age 31, temporary employee
I could've had a good-paying job commensurate with my experience, but instead I have a temporary, lesser-paying job without benefits because I couldn't get to the job interview, let alone the job. I believe the state's trying to gut mass transit so it can be eliminated. That's just sad. A city without mass transit is not a city. Fairly soon, we'll be a suburb of Milwaukee. Just you wait.
Patricia, age 19, student
I am a full-time college student at MCTC. I used to ride the bus back and forth between school and home (three miles one way)--now I have to ride my bike to morning and afternoon classes. But for my Monday night class, I take a cab because I will not ride my bike at 8:00 p.m. I also work, and so I walk every day and then one of my co-workers gives me a ride home. It's only a mile away, but it still sucks! My mother used to ride the bus to my grandmother's house and then go to the grocery store with her, but now she has no way to get to my grandmother's so we have to go to a nearby store, which is expensive, and with the money we have there is not a lot we can get! They need to get these buses up and running because my mother and I cannot afford to take cabs everywhere and I am getting sick from riding my bike in cold weather.
John, age 42, salesperson
I'm one of the folks who chooses to take the bus--it isn't my only option. My family makes $90,000 a year and we live in the suburbs. My wife and I both take the bus four days a week. With a transfer in the middle, my bus ride is about 75 minutes each way. Why do I choose the bus? It's relaxing--I can read, listen to music, talk on the phone, and count the car drivers not wearing seatbelts. It saves me about $120 per month in gas and also wear and tear on my car. It's safer than driving, especially in winter/rain, or when I'm drunk. It's better for the environment. I feel pretty smug riding the bus, because I'm part of the solution, not just another complacent asshole on the road. I figure every time I start my car, it is a vote for Big Oil and Detroit, things I'd rather not support. My main disappointment isn't with greedy suburban Republicans like David Strom, but with the general population: Why doesn't everyone understand that riding the bus can give you a sense of superiority over others? Self-placed limitation is satisfying because you're always sticking it to the man!
Lisa, age 51, receptionist
I don't own a car. I've been lucky because I've been able to get rides most of the time to get around during the strike. But I feel uncomfortable asking people. I'm afraid they'll get tired of giving me rides. So, one day I walked a trip that had taken about 22 minutes by bus. It took one hour and 21 minutes on foot and I couldn't read the newspaper or set my stuff down in my lap like when I ride the bus. I've cut out some activities I would have done if the buses were running, because finding rides would have been impossible in many cases.
Netta, age 48, shelter worker
I don't know if any of you parents out there have teenage kids that ride the bus, but if you do, you should give Pawlenty a talkin' to about how hard it is to get your kids back and forth to jobs, practice, and school! I can't stand it! Pawlenty is just a stinker! I say we drop our kids off at the Capitol and let them hang out there! A few afternoons of that should send him a message real clear. I am sick of spending my money in this town and having to put up with this crap! I pay for that bus system, my kids use it, my friends' kids use it, and we are not going to take this crap!
Mark, age 47, executive assistant
Last night, while giving a weekly guitar lesson to a friend and her nine-year-old daughter, the younger of the two was telling us a story. And even though it had nothing to do with the bus strike, she established the story's point in time by saying, "This happened back when there used to be buses."
Ann, age 29, research engineer
I choose to ride the bus. My husband and I own one car, and specifically chose our apartment upon moving to the Twin Cities from Boston nearly three years ago because we both could ride the bus to work. I ride Metro Transit from downtown Minneapolis to the 3M Center where I am a senior research engineer, and my husband rides Southwest Metro Transit to Eden Prairie where he is a senior research scientist. Thankfully, both transit systems are not on strike. Currently, I am alternating riding my bicycle to work (17 miles one way and quite cold on a bike at 6:00 a.m.) with driving, particularly so that my husband may attend doctor's appointments, off-site meetings, etc. We are committed to mass transit because we believe it is critical for any city that wishes to be economically healthy and culturally interesting.
Keith, age 40, sales analyst
I live in East St. Paul near Lake Phalen and I work in downtown Minneapolis. If I don't get a ride to and from work with a colleague or friend, I have to walk. It takes me nearly 3 1/2 hours. This takes away from research and writing time since I'm trying to finish my thesis. Also, with no shower facilities at work, biking to and from my job isn't an option. I'm also losing the reading/studying time that I had on the bus. Please, somebody settle the strike soon!
Roberta, age and occupation unknown
My friend, Terry, has epilepsy and therefore doesn't drive. Since the bus strike, he has to walk to work and back. Terry lives on St. Paul's west side and works at the St. Paul Post Office. He begins work at 6:00 a.m. so must start walking in the dark, at 5:00 a.m. Let's pay these bus drivers and let our working men and women get a ride to work!
Tom, age 31, data entry operator
My quadriceps have accelerated their growth from the usual end-of-winter atrophy to what one could call mid-spring normality, as I've been forced to bicycle from our Whittier apartment to my data entry job at the U of M. I've also been saving the money from each paycheck that usually goes toward a monthly bus pass. My brother, John Paul, suggested that everyone should send their pass money directly to the transit workers' strike fund, a good and noble idea; but my 35 dollars is going directly into a future baby's diaper fund, as the wife is 30 weeks pregnant. The strike has stirred a good bit of resentment in me--and it's also helped to give me a clearer picture of my society; I'm not optimistic.
Cody, age 27, web guy
I'm lucky. Although my wife needs our only car to commute to Northfield, my sister and I have been able to carpool to work. She's got a car and I've got free parking. With a little extra planning for the evenings and weekends, our routines have been largely unaffected. I like riding the bus. It allows me to commute stress-free, and provides me with an hour or so a day to read, which I've sorely missed during the strike. I also like the striking workers. I think it's quite likely that they're fighting a losing battle, but I applaud their stand. The most frustrating thing about the strike is that it's saved me time and money. Between us, my sister and I had been paying about $10 a day to ride the bus. Even considering the costs of owning and insuring her car, it's far cheaper for us to drive than to take the bus. And, even when traffic's really bad, I generally get home 10 to 15 minutes sooner than I would on the bus. This is a statement that some might seize upon as an epitaph for mass transit in the metro. I hope that instead it can be an indication of how broken our transit system is. Transit is good for the metro. It is a vital service for our elderly, disabled, and lower-income citizens; it cuts down on traffic and pollution, and if I am any indication, it reduces road rage and increases literacy. State and local leaders ought to recognize the benefits of transit and fund it accordingly. Pawlenty is a fink.
Sherri, age 43, collector
How does the bus strike affect me? I bought a car, which will put me back $300 a month. I miss the buses, which were kind of a neighborhood get-together. Everyone would talk about daily, weekly events. Other bus riders helped me with major decisions in my life. I hate driving to downtown Minneapolis or St Paul and parking prices are astronomical. I wish the buses would run, so I could gaze out those windows again.
Natalie, age 42, disabled
This transit strike has given me more mental issues than I thought I had. I have had to cancel all doctor appointments, as I have no way of getting to them. Obviously, there is no end in sight and no one--not the governor, the metro council, or the union representatives--seems to be in any hurry to get this strike over. What really sickens me is when I read comments from people who own cars and think that everyone should be able to afford a car and that we should do away with public transit. They complain about the taxes they pay. We all pay taxes in various forms. It seems everything inevitably comes down to taxes.
Bryan, age 26, office worker
Because I take the time to drive someone to work, I'm losing 40 dollars' worth of pay every week.
I live in northeast Minneapolis. I teach Spanish to health care professionals at Hennepin County Medical Center, Fairview University Medical Center, and North Memorial Medical Center. I am currently finishing my master's degree in English as a Second Language at Hamline University in St. Paul. I have managed to engage in all of the above work and school activities without owning a car. I am an educated and concerned citizen who doesn't want to contribute to the consumption of world resources and the contamination of the world with a car. In the wintertime, I take the bus often. I see disabled people on the bus. I see mothers and fathers and children on the bus. I see people taking bags of groceries on the bus. I see and know people who take two and three buses to get to their places of employment. The bus is their lifeline to work, to day care, to hospital appointments, to meeting basic daily needs, and to social events. I am extremely disappointed in this government, whose representatives say, "There seems to be no need for public transportation."
If it's Wednesday, it must be payday. Once again I'm at the Labor Center in northeast Minneapolis, waiting for my check. A driver saunters out of the room, where they're handing out $150 strike paychecks from Amalgamated Transit Union International, clad all in black. A buddy ribs him about the color scheme and he retorts: "I'm in mourning. My job died."
But it's kind of true. Having been out of my clerical job at Metro Transit for a month, I'll agree that striking can feel like a grieving process. People handle the experience differently. Some are fearful, some focused and resolute. More frequently, though, it's an all of the above situation.
Many of my assumptions have been turned topsy-turvy by this strike. It seems like the folks with the most at stake are the most determined to see this through. But nobody takes his or her job for granted, not anymore.
Driver Farah Gelle's family keeps asking when he's going back to work. His normal monthly salary is consumed by food for a family of six, car payments, and $1,500 in rent. (Once that was a figure associated with luxury apartments, but not anymore.) The Somali native, a five-year veteran, figures he'll drive cab, or take an over-the-road trucking job.
In his tidy driver's jacket and coat, Gelle looks ready to punch his timecard. But he's not rushing back to the garage, not unless there's a decent contract. At Tuesday's rally at the Hennepin County Government Center, he holds a sign asking, "Is this Pawlenty's vision for Transit?" with pictures marked "Before" and "After." "Before" shows a Transit bus; "After" is a motorized cart with a Transit symbol. "I don't want to come back and drive this," he says, pointing to "After." "That's no good."
Mary, one of several people in this story who'd prefer not to give her last name, is a clerk at the Heywood Facility (home to both the Heywood Garage and Transit administrative HQ). A gentle, doting grandma, she tells me at the rally that she has two months before she has to find another job. Her spirits were deflated by the failed talks on Monday, March 22, between ATU Local 1005 and the Metropolitan Council at the Bureau of Mediation Services. She worries about the end of her career. "I was real depressed," she says. "I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to retire on time. I'm planning to retire in four years [when she'll hit 30 years of service], and it's sad."
Traci, a clerk-floater at Heywood, shivered in front of the Government Center after a rally last week--the wind punishing us for having chosen fashionable leather over warm down. She felt "crushed" by Monday's stalemate. With three teens at home--she looks more like their older sister than their mom--she's held onto her part-time job at the Marriott-Depot complex. "I work twice as hard for half of the money," she says of her efforts there.
She moved in March, and already is negotiating with her landlord on a rent extension. "Your bills don't stop because you're out on strike. Your creditors don't stop calling, and your kids don't stop being hungry."
On strike-check Wednesday, I talked to Jeff and Margaret, a husband and wife team who drive out of the Ruter Garage in Brooklyn Center. Typically, Jeff is infectiously cheerful, while Margaret has a drier sense of humor. But striking makes them both serious.
Jeff remembers when talks stalled: "When I first turned on the news I felt depressed and angry. I had to picket that night. Everyone on the picket line that night was real quiet. No one said nothing. Which I can understand."
Lael and Fred Beamish, another driving couple picking up checks at the Labor Center, sigh in unison when I ask how the strike is going. It's funny. What's less amusing is how they spend their free time. They have plenty of time now to unpack boxes in the house they bought a few months back--and all kinds of time to wonder where the next mortgage payment will come from.
"One car complicates matters," Fred says. "You can't have two temp jobs out of walking distance."
"Which they all are", adds Lael.
Being out on strike is strange enough by itself. My husband says that it's like laying yourself off. You expose yourself to financial and emotional hardship and the taunts of disappointed customers: "Go back to work!" "Stay off the streets, we don't miss you!"
Strikers I talk to feel genuinely lousy about stranding riders--after all, they had no say in this.
"I'm more concerned about the customers than I am myself right now," Lael says.
Fred adds, "We have our regulars, we know their needs. It bugs me that I don't know how they're doing right now."
Jeff sees people on routes he once drove waiting in bus shelters for rides. "It's such a weird feeling. I really miss 'em," he says. Jeff recalls going into a north side Burger King with his granddaughter and telling a tableful of riders, "I apologize for any inconvenience I have caused. We had to make a stand in order to save you and your families." He adds, "I left on a good note with them."
Solidarity can sound like a cliché when you're talking about a strike. But it feels like a lot more than a mere buzzword when you're out of work. I've witnessed other unions stepping in to provide support. A member of the U of M's AFSCME local drops off a bag of treats every day at the corner of Seventh and Olson Memorial Highway. Go to a fundraiser at Stardust Lanes, pick up a check for several grand. Attend a lecture on transit strikes, and watch your fellow attendees fill a hat to overflowing with dollar bills and checks. As I've heard over and over again, "They're coming for us next."
Most remarkable is the relative lack of bitterness from the ridership.
They write to newspapers, contact the Council, and tell us: Do what you've gotta do. One rainy afternoon a few weeks back, a smiling, middle-aged woman U-turned her SUV in front of our picket site. She and her teenaged daughter climbed out of the car and handed out bagels and coffee.
A young man came by Heywood last Wednesday night to talk to the crew. He was shivering in his shorts: He was on his way to catch a ride with a friend because of car trouble. Yet he was the one who promised to help us by e-mailing the governor.
Jeff feels that in the wake of this, "going back is going to change everyone's attitude about life and service."
And there have been other positive changes, too. Many people have commented that the strike has broken down barriers between workers. Like any other workplace, we tend to segregate ourselves by job description and work location. But now, drivers rub elbows with Transit Information Center representatives who mingle with Skilled Helpers who converse with Money Counters. Everyone bonds over long, cold hours pacing the sidewalk.
Margaret has used this time for reflection. "I get up, read my Bible and spend time with God," she says. "We're still blessed either way we go."
But what will pull us through is something less noble--sheer orneriness. Jeff, Margaret's husband, says, "I'm a fighter, not a quitter. I want to prove them wrong."
Fred's light, wry tone becomes feisty when he talks about the future of the strike: "I'm fed up with opponents of Transit being bad losers. They tried to kill us with the budget. They need to just give up."
Note: on a summer evening in 1988, Paul Rasmusen crashed his motorcycle on a country road near Hackensack, Minnesota. He languished in the ditch for 12 hours before being discovered. According to his rescuers, says Rasmusen, his face was so covered with woodticks, "it looked like I had a beard." Worse--much worse--his left leg was almost completely torn off. Three weeks after the accident, gangrene set in and doctors amputated the leg just above the knee.
In the years that followed, Rasmusen, who is now 41 years old, lived and worked in northern Minnesota. He played guitar in a cover band, tended bar, and ran karaoke shows. After a series of drunk driving arrests, he lost his driver's license and returned to his native Minneapolis. A year and a half ago, he moved into a small apartment in Northeast.
He has relied on the Metro Transit bus system to get around. Since the strike, however, Rasmusen--known to his friends as "Peg Leg Paul" or, simply, "PLP"--has begun riding a bicycle around the city. It's been great for his physique, he reports, though he admits to falling down a lot ("usually at very slow speeds," he laughs) because of difficulty balancing on his fake leg.
Paul Rasmusen:The bus is my main means of transportation. My mother--she's a cancer survivor--lives over southwest. So I take the bus there to mow her grass or shovel her sidewalk. I like the bus service. The drivers are good. I know the system. I can get around pretty well.
When I found out about the bus strike, I knew I would need some other form of transportation. So I went to the Grease Pit, an underground bike store, and got a Trek. They wanted 80 bucks, but I traded them an old Schwinn and another mountain bike frame and paid 50. It's the best thing I've bought in years and years.
For the last couple of weeks, I've been riding almost every day. Usually, my buddy Cory calls me at around 3:30 when he gets off work at the Post Office. He's also missing a leg, and he also needs to lose some weight, so we're in the same boat. We get along good. Most days, we bike until dark.
I'm not going crazy or anything. Just biking around the city. I rode to the Quarry today and bought a cushy bike seat for a friend of mine. She said she had been going through a lot of stress. I told her, "You should start biking. It's great for stress." It's true. I feel much better since I've been biking.
After the first week, me and Cory bought gel seats because we got so sore. It's the best seat I've ever had. In the past, I had difficulty because my prosthetic leg would rub against the edge of the seat and cause my foot to come off the pedal. This one works better.
I'm an AK amputee. AK is above the knee. Cory is BK, which is below the knee. He's more gutsy than I am. And because he has a knee, he can jump up and down off curbs really well. I can't. If I go over a curb, my fake leg flies off the pedal. Then I have to look down, grab the leg and physically place it back on the pedal.
I don't use a toe clip, so it's a challenge to go over bumps. But usually when I fall it's because I'm moving too slowly--circling and meandering, waiting for the light to change or traffic to pass. I can go a day without falling. Some days, I have three or four falls. Since the strike, I've probably torn holes in four pairs of jeans falling off my bike.
I always fall on my fake leg side. I worry about that because I already wear out a leg every three years. Already, I'm walking on borrowed time. I'm just rough on them, to the point that they get structurally unsound. But the technology keeps getting better. My first prosthetic leg was basically a rusty hinge and a two-by-four. Now, I have some very good components--a hydraulic piston knee and what they call a College Park foot. Costs around $13,000. And that's not expensive. You can spend $50,000 for the ones that have a computer chip in them.
I can switch my knee from hydraulic, which I do when I'm walking, to stiff legged, which I do when I'm hiking, to free swinging, which I do when I biking. Because it's free swinging, I don't stand up and pedal at all. That's a thing of the past. Which means that it can be hard to get up hills. But my Trek has 21 speeds, and that makes things easier.
Since the strike, I've been cruising all over and it's great. For a long time, I had a sedentary life style. I have to go to chiropractors pretty often. But even with the biking, my back is doing pretty well. It's low impact, which is important to me because I try to take care of my knee. It's the only one I've got--and I've torqued it pretty good a few times. That's why I don't go downhill skiing anymore.
I could see this strike going 80 days. When it's over, I'll probably ride the bus less.
I won't bike when there's glare ice. I'm probably not going to ride my bike to St. Paul. Who knows? Maybe in the future, I'll get more athletic.
I still need to be more mobile than I am. I think I'm going to take my tax refund and try to get my driver's license back. It's been eight years. That's long enough. I want to get back on a motorcycle.