Despite being a Whitefish Bay resident for almost 15 years, I have never worked here. Even after becoming self-employed, I rented an office elsewhere. “The String Bus Incident” convinced me to finish my out-of-town lease and find a space in my hometown.
I was riding home when I came upon a line of a dozen ambling children, each grasping a long string. One adult held the front, while another watched the back. The “bus” was apparently returning them from an expedition. Though powered only by their little feet, it was as boisterous as any bus I had ever seen. Not many towns feature classes of small children parading down the sidewalk under their own power. Such occurrences make a village appealing and friendly. It’s a meaningful difference that can distinguish a community from a formally named geographical region.
The atmosphere in Whitefish Bay is not as tense and hostile as it is in many suburbs. Kids walk to school, younger ones with parents in tow. Storefronts on Silver Spring beckon strollers. Families gather outside the theatre and kids lock their bikes behind Winkie’s. Come Saturday, almost as many bicycles as cars pass my house. A human being is not entirely out of place.
Prior to encountering the String Bus, the day’s mood had been dark. I had read two disturbing news articles. One concerned a young girl in Greendale, run over and killed as she and her mother walked her bicycle through a crosswalk. The other reported that a Senator was trying to remove the mere one-percent of transportation funds that had already been approved to increase pedestrian safety. He referred to it as “a waste.” His comment, on top of the girl’s tragic story, proved an unsettling combination.
As I set out for home that evening, that combination clouded my mind. The streets in my wake were apocalyptic visions, prowled by menacing machines whose glaring windshields obscured their occupants’ faces. I have always been relieved to escape that manic hustle, to be welcomed by Whitefish Bay’s canopy of trees. I noticed a group of teenagers playing Frisbee in Klode Park. People walked their dogs on the sidewalk. My jacket flapped in the cool Lake Michigan breeze.
Along came the String Bus. The children were small enough that they appeared to have some difficulty walking and holding the string at the same time - what with all the distractions: a bug here, a twig there, an exciting clump of dirt begging for examination. I slowed down to listen and watch them enjoy their adventure. The day finished with a smile.
Why did such an instance seem so rare?
“That’s it,” I told myself. “Sleeping here is not enough. I am moving my office.”
These moments are vital. The String Bus Incident persuaded me to spend more time in Whitefish Bay, where moments like this happen every day.
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