Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tulsi Tea in the SEPTA Station

Recently I had an adventure getting back from Philadelphia in the morning. This drab photograph captures my mood at the time:

My Adventure:

It turned out to be relatively difficult to get back to Newark, Delaware from Philadelphia in the morning. I had missed the last morning train that went the whole way back to Newark, and getting back the whole way turned out to be rather involved and time-consuming. I needed to go to Wilmington, and change to a bus. The SEPTA train was late, but this was irrelevant as it turned out not to connect well with the bus schedule and I had to wait for the bus, which took about an hour for what is a 15-minute train ride. I found this unnecessary and sad.

Public Transportation in the U.S.

I live right on the east-coast corridor, the most densely-populated part of the U.S., and the rail line. The U.S. has the largest economy of any country in the world. Can't we at least have usable rail service, maybe not everywhere, but at least in our densest population corridor? Having been to Europe twice, where there is outstanding rail service even to remote villages, I know that we could have it.

This is one issue I feel passionately about. Honestly? More passionately than anything I feel about tea. Unlike most of what I write about tea, it's not a question of personal taste. It's a question of sustainability, and it's a question of equality of opportunity. Without good public transportation, people have a greater need to own cars and drive cars, and fewer options are available to the people who cannot afford a car or cannot drive a car for other reasons. Even for those like me who can afford a car or own a car, being required to use a car is costly--it uses money and resources and it uses energy and has a negative impact on the environment. It taxes patience and is tiring. Public transportation is liberating: it gives people the option to live or travel without a car. Riding on a train allows one to relax, perhaps sip a cup of tea, which is exactly what I did. But this morning I didn't reach for actual tea, it was a particular herbal tea that was calling to me.

Tulsi hits the spot:

I had a teabag of Organic India's tulsi on me during this adventure. I bought a cup of hot water from a local vendor to brew it, and it really hit the spot. Supposedly, tulsi is good for stress. There is a lot of solid science behind this; actually, RateTea's page on Tulsi or Holy Basil has a lot more discussion in case you're interested -- that's one of the most thorough of the health and medicinal articles on the site currently. But, aside from all the science, I will say that when I am feeling stressed, tulsi generally does make me feel better. I also love the flavor.

I vowed to write about the whole adventure...I've put it off a bit, but I decided to write about it today. And I'd like to urge you: if you're ever in a position to do anything to advance the state of public transportation in the U.S., whether it's contacting a politician and voicing your support, or just riding the existing transportation so they earn more money from fares, please, by all means do it! I think everyone will appreciate it.


  1. ALex, thanks for bringing up Tulsi tea. I first discovered it on a trip to India a few years ago and at least for me I find it to be calming. I read the article on fair trade over on your other site and even though I sell teaware, not tea, I am looking for a charity that supports tea workers. I want to have an option to donate to those who work so hard to provide this beverage to us. Do you know of any charities?

  2. Oh right on about trains. After being able to go to almost all the smallest villages by bus or rail in Europe, it pains me greatly that our transportation system is so awful. In Albany, NY, the state capitol, you can take buses along hub routes into Center City. However, there are no buses to connect these spokes. Also, both the Albany and the Schenectady train stations are not in town, so you have to drive quite q way to access them.

    We used to live near Philly and it took an hour to drive the 15 miles to the train station because of traffic. And the train to NYC cost $95. It took an hour to drive to Trenton, NJ along a much more pleasurable road and the train to NYC was $19, plus $5 for police patrolled parking. No bus to either place, however. There was a train into Philly but then you had to get 2 subways from where it landed and the RR station. Doh!

  3. I don't know of such a charity, Lelia, but I'll think about it in case I run across one.

    I think the only way to make public transportation work in the U.S. is to choose to live somewhere based on the transit. I'm currently looking to move somewhere in the Philly metro area when my lease is up, and transit accessibility (and walkability) is a huge factor for me.

    If more Americans took this issue into account, it would affect rent and land values more and developers would start designing new developments in such a way that was more transit friendly (rather than the isolated one-way-in, one-way-out exurban development that is extremely unfriendly to public transportation).

    Ironically, currently, it's often cheaper to live in transit-accessible areas because people see public transit as being associated with crime and low-income individuals. It's sad that it has this reputation--while there's some truth to it, people tend to think it's more true than it is. When I lived in Lakewood, Ohio, I would ride the RTA bus to downtown Cleveland and every morning a man dressed in a business suit walked out the door of his immense mansion on Lake Erie to catch the bus downtown. Shaker Heights also had a very wealthy area well-served by transit, with some of the largest houses directly along the transit line.