"We're Getting There." I doubt a more fitting and honest a slogan ever existed.
In this age of shameless self-promotion, where everything is the best, the most, SEPTA's humble catchphrase stands out like one shining example of truth in advertising. Instead of aggrandizing themselves, the transit agency chose a clever double-entendre to describe their mediocrity. The first layer speaks of it's function: SEPTA will deliver you to a destination, though without any promise of speed, comfort, or style. The second layer reveals a rare admission by a company that it is not an industry leader -- and it isn't trying to make us believe differently. They are aware of their shortcomings, but they're trying, and they are asking for our understanding. Brilliant.
I suppose as the only game in town they know they cannot engage in braggadocio, though one would think that for the sake of dignity, SEPTA might use a bit more lavish and positive language. Or even just a favorable adverb. We're Really Getting There. Or maybe an exclamation point: We're Getting There! While I love SEPTA for their humbleness and candor, it's mostly because as a non-driving resident of Philadelphia, I had always relied heavily on trains, buses and trolleys as my principal modes of transport. That is, until the birth of my first child last October.
Being a parent and dying are the two things in life that you are completely unprepared for regardless of how much advice and instruction you've received. Obviously, I am not equating the two, but nothing can truly ready you for either experience. And so I found myself, bewildered but elated, upon the arrival of our beautiful Ella Jane. Not ready, but ready to learn, as if someone's life depended on it.
We didn't go out much during the first few cold months of her life, only to take short walks with the stroller to the store or to snow-covered
Near the end of March, I found out that in order to claim the $1,000 child tax credit, my child must have a social security number. I panicked and quickly decided that I would take her to the Social Security Administration office at 40th and Market Streets. While I stood on the corner and waited for the westbound #40 bus, I to tried to ease my anxiety by telling myself that the #40 was usually not too crowded. Of course, when the bus finally pulled up and the doors opened, I could see that it was packed, with people standing all around the driver, almost spilling into the street. My wife hates crowds, and if she was with us, she never would have let us get on, but I needed to get to the office before it closed. I tried to squeeze us into the belly of the bus, and with the baby strapped in a sort of front-worn backpack, her chest against mine, I attempted to avoid pressing against the passengers standing all around us.
It was oppressively hot, but the bus's heater inexplicably was turned on. So, I stood in the heat amidst a crowd of pressed bodies, and the little ball of heat tethered to my chest. I looked down at her face, and she looked back at me with wide eyes, bottom lip stuck out and quivering. I tried to gently sshh her, but the lip quiver turned into a wail. It's not like we were at the symphony; still it is embarrassing when you are the one with the screaming child. I tried to gently bounce her up and down to soothe her, but that only served to shake up the full bottle of milk that she drank right before we left and now sat unsettled in her stomach. The milk. The heat. The movement of the bus. The upsetment. The inevitable happened.
It would have been worse had she been facing away from me. As it was, I took the brunt of it, though our packed-in neighbors to the sides were also hit. Dripping and in shock, I sheepishly apologized to those around us, trying to avoid direct eye contact. I had forgotten to bring any cloths or wipes, but even if I had, there was no room to attempt any sort of cleanup. I knew that I needed to flee the scene of this disaster. Seeing that we weren't far from our stop, I started inching towards the door, again begging everyone's pardon, using the screaming, soaked baby to part the way through the visibly disgusted and annoyed throng.
As I reached the back exit and strained through strange arms to push the stop button, I glanced up at the sign above the door and smiled widely. We're Getting There.
Marc Lomax lives in