Alphabet Challenge: B

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

B: Basement

My best friend, Carol, lived with her family in a basement apartment. Her parents were custodians of the four-story residential building near the corner of Summit Avenue and Mercer Street in Jersey City. I lived down the block. 

When we were in grammar school and I called on her to play, I had to walk down the three brick steps next to the apartment building. Facing a heavy door, I rang the bell. Carol would come to flip the locks and let me in. If Carol had to get ready, I usually told her I’d rather wait outside. Walking through the dark and damp basement to get to her apartment frightened me. I expected a stranger might be hiding in the shadowy corners of the basement waiting for me to walk by—and pounce! 

When I was older, I followed after Carol as she did her chores in the basement. Using the Dumbwaiters, Carol pulled at the ropes raising the box to reach each apartment. She rang a bell to alert the resident to place her garbage in the box. During this encounter, Carol and the tenant would exchange pleasantries, their voices echoing up and down the shaft. In the winter, Carol shoveled coal into the furnace. Throughout the year, she swept the basement floor regularly under the lone light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. 

In my teens, I spent more time visiting with Carol and her family (mother, father and older sister) in their cozy two-bedroom apartment. It was easy to forget that outside the front door, the basement stood in darkness. 

When Carol began dating, the slog from the front door to Carol’s apartment didn’t deter her suitors.  

After Carol and her sister married, their parents bought a single family home in southern New Jersey—for cash.


My husband and I will move into in our new Raleigh town house at the end of the week. Part of the reason for our move, besides being nearer to the grandchildren, is that we want more of a city life. Our last house, in a lovely forested neighborhood, was tranquil and isolated. We needed a car to go anywhere. We were happy to discover that a city bus passes by our new development.

I haven’t taken a bus in years.

I grew up in Jersey City where, as children, my best friend, Carol, and I would hop on the bus—any bus—and ride it to the end of the line and back. I think the fare was nine cents. The bus drivers had coin dispensers

Coin Dispenser
Coin Dispenser

to give us change and then we would drop the correct amount in the fare box.

Fare Box
Fare Box

At least that’s what I remember happened back then. Later, we used tokens.

Carol and I felt independent and adventurous. We never told our mothers.

In other cities where I lived, I took mass transportation, not only buses but more frequently trains:

Chicago El
Chicago El

the El in Chicago and the

Metro in the greater Washington DC area,

DC Metro
DC Metro

and on frequent visits to NYC, the subway.

NYC subway
NYC subway

What a liberating feeling not to depend on a car.

I have a brochure of the Capital Area Transit (cat) bus route. The bus starts from the northern part of Raleigh, passes our home and turns south toward the city. Seniors ride free. I plan to call my friend, Carol, who lives a suburb not far from our new home. (How’s that for serendipity?) I’m sure she will be excited to join me on an adventurous bus ride.

And we won’t tell our mothers.

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