TrIP Blog Day 21: ants by Natalie Ayala #TrIP_Orlando #publictransportation #Solenopsisinvicta #RedImportedFireAnt

ant

I’ll be your mirror/Reflect what you are/In case you don’t know

For two years my only transportation options were my bicycle and the LYNX bus station. Commuting this way made my daily travels more difficult but it also had its advantages, the biggest being the way it forced me to live more deliberately. Every decision, every appointment, every article of clothing and content of my backpack required a level of attention that I never had to worry about when I drove a car.

Navigating the city this way – by bus, foot and bike – made it visible in a way I’d never experienced. I met so many interesting characters, I noticed new details of buildings and streets that I’d passed my entire life by car but never appreciated. I experienced the kindnesses and eccentricities of the people of Orlando – small gestures and big stories that I’ll never forget. By car, my city was like any other – a series of disjointed destinations with nothing in between but the traffic impeding my travels. By bus it was so much more. It was a community so diverse and strange and beautiful that I feel cheated to have missed it all those years.

The day of my TrIP commute was difficult. I intentionally chose a weekday when I’d be working to reflect my typical experience on the bus, utilizing it to get through my day. I was late for work – I have to walk a mile to my bus stop if I want to catch the inbound 28. To add to that I had several appointments to keep that day and a box to transport. On that day (and many others in my past) I couldn’t see the bus for the enlightening experience I described earlier. That day, with so much to do and no convenient way of doing it all, it just kind of sucked.

For some participating in this project (myself included as I drive more than I should these days) these bus rides aren’t a staple in our lives. But for many others this transit system is a necessary tool for survival. Despite its inadequacies Orlando’s public transportation keeps a large portion of our city afloat.

After our first TrIP meeting I remember chatting with David Thomas Moran about commuting by bus. We both noted the common occurrence of ants at most bus stops. Trash accumulates at these stops attracting the insects where they go on to bite the ankles of unsuspecting travelers. The ant species I most frequently noticed, Solenopsis invicta otherwise known as the Red Imported Fire Ant, serves as an apt metaphor for the LYNX experience.

In flood conditions a solitary fire ant will drown. A group of fire ants, on the other hand, will band together mandible to sticky foot pad to claw and create a buoyant structure capable of saving the entire colony. My life as I enjoy it would have been impossible were it not for the availability of the LYNX bus. Commuting to work, transporting items, traveling in bad weather all would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, without this community resource and all the extended helping tarsal claws and sticky foot pads keeping me, and our city, afloat.

As part of my contribution to this project I would like to explore the survival rafts of these ants and the mirror that holds to the rafts we create for each other.

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