Those two little cards sat inside of this little wallet:
Which sat in the back pocket of my jeans everyday from 1994-1998. Sorry, no pictures of my back pocket.
That was my Travelcard. It let me travel anywhere in London using any bus or any tube line at any time. I remember my dad handing it to me and stressing how important it was that I NOT lose my Travelcard. It lasted 4 months, was not replaceable and as you can see cost 116.80 pounds. I was impressed that my dad trusted me (at age 11) to not lose something (so easily lost) that cost so much money. Oddly enough, I wasn't impressed that my dad was trusting me (at age 11) to navigate a major city like London all by myself. What was he thinking?!?!
We moved to London in 1994 and I started 5th grade. During the first semester, the three of us (Marie, David and I) took the "school bus." It was a small white van driven by a Scottish guy named Tony who introduced me to Queen. Maybe the bus service was too expensive or too inconvenient, but for whatever reason my dad decided to pull us off the bus and buy us all Travelcards instead. I think his initial idea was that the three of us would catch the bus (the double deckered 13 or 82) together in Hampstead and ride it to St. John's Woods where our school was. That was probably the case for the first week, but after that it was every Tueller for themself. Marie must have been too cool to ride with me and David. And David must have been too slow to ride with me. Somehow the three of us separately got to school unharmed and on time everyday for four years. Which, now that I'm a parent myself, seems like a small miracle. If I was 11 when I first started using the London transit system, David must have been 9. And this was way before 9-year-olds had cell phones.
Yet maybe my dad was onto something. When people ask me where my favorite place to live was, I automatically respond with London and I think this Travelcard had a lot to do with it. I had so much freedom and it came at such a good age for me. My sister (who was three years older and in high school) was perhaps not at a good age for this type of freedom. But for me it was heavenly. Sure, some bad things happened on the bus on to school. I had my first kiss (with Pierce Brosnan's son, Sean). I also vaguely remember a creepy pervert exposing himself to me. It shook me at first but then I recalled how my Aunt Anna responded in a similar situation (or was it my Aunt Martha?) and decided that laughter is the best reaction.
But for the most part, the freedom my Travelcard granted me was amazing and now that I look back on it, perhaps necessary. I'm sure traffic was a nightmare and gas, expensive. It didn't help that our family car was a "tank" compared to the petite British cars that roamed the streets of London. Not to mention how horribly embarrassing that car was. It stuck out like a sore thumb. It was the only American car in a country of right handed steering wheels. Place my mother at the wheel and it was enough to drive any teenager "underground."
Traveling alone made me feel so independent, so grown up. I went from St. John's Woods to Swiss Cottage everyday for swim practice. I would meet my best friend, Catharine on Bond Street for an afternoon of shopping whenever I felt like it. I went to Golder's Green to see movies and Hyde Park to visit the museums. When I heard the news of Princess Diana's death, I headed straight to Hampstead tube station so I could join the thousands of mourners at Kensington Palace. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to do all these things if I had to rely solely on my mom for transportation. My Travelcard allowed me to truly experience London and all the fun things it had to offer at the time.
So who knows. Maybe it was out of necessity but maybe my dad is just a super genius and knew then what I know now- that trusting your kids with both small and big things will help them grow up to be independent and confident. Anyone that has successfully gotten from Point A to Point B in a major capital without getting lost knows how wonderful that sense of accomplishment feels. Right now I can't even trust Booker to get from our car to the sidewalk without getting hit by another car. Maybe one day both Booker and Ike will be crisscrossing the world by plane, train and automobile with ease. I hope that as a parent, I'll have the ability to trust that they're safe. I hope even more that I raise the type of kids who have a desire to travel and see the world.
Wow, what a long and random post. All because I found my bus pass.