Hi. My name is Melissa Fitzgerald. I'm 33, and I have a four year old son named Jacob. I left my husband two years ago; he just wasn't the man I'd married. After he got laid off by the car companies, he started drinking, and when he refused to get help or try to go back to school to be trained in a new field, I just ran out of effort. He's in Ohio now, and is supposed to pay alimony, but I can't say that it's very reliable. He's not malicious about it or anything, it's just that his life is still a mess.

I teach fifth grade at a public school a few miles from my house. I have a great group of kids this year. Teaching is often not enough to make ends meet, so I also work on Saturdays as a visitor guide at the Henry Ford Museum, and work there full time during the summer. That's a fun job and lets me bring some of what I do in the classroom to the visitors, and I take some of what I see at the Museum into the classroom. It doesn't leave me as much time with Jacob as as I want -- on days when I work, I leave Jacob with Stacy, my neighbor, whose son is about the same age -- but it does mean he'll be able to go to college.

I'm also pretty tired when I get home from work most days, so I don't get to cook as often as I'd like. I remember when I used to enjoy cooking, but after a long day -- and knowing that I still need to do prepare for the next day's lessons -- I'm usually ready to let someone else do the work. Fortunately, there are some pretty good Chinese takeout places on my way home (I love that!), as well as a decent burrito place and a Boston Market type of place.

I drive to school and to the museum. I never quite know when my day is going to end, so it's nice to be able to leave as soon as I'm ready. I tried walking one year, since I don't have enough time to exercise, but there were days when it would rain and I'd end up having to leave stuff at school so that it wouldn't get wrecked by the rain. If that happened, I'd have to come in even earlier the next day to do that grading. I drive a nine year old Honda Civic. It runs pretty well, but there are some cold days when it just doesn't want to start -- I had to call friends for rides twice last year. Sometimes I think about switching to the bus, since it runs from about two blocks away right to the school, but with all the stuff I have to carry, and stopping to get dinner, I'm not sure if it would work out for me. I also wouldn't be able to leave when I want, and I worry about mornings when Jacob is running late or something.

When I do get a spare moment, I love to curl up with a book -- anything from a thriller to a book I'm considering having the kids read -- my cat, Muffin, and a cup of tea. When I'm trying to get work done or clean the house, I like to give myself a bit of extra energy with some John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen. I'm embarassed to admit it, but I sing along. Loudly.


* Melissa likes to have control over her schedule -- it's busy enough that waiting for the bus is extra-painful.
* Wants to save money.
* When Melissa is heading to or from school, she is often carrying a bunch of stuff, and needs to be able to get that safely to and from school.
* Have the flexibility to stop to get dinner on the way home.
* She's concerned about finding time to exercise.


Today, Melissa needs to go to school, and she needs her coffee to do so. On the way, she will drop Jacob off at preschool. Her neighbor, Stacy, will pick Jacob and her kid up from preschool at 3p, and then the kids have a play date. Stacy will feed Jacob dinner since Melissa has back to school night tonight.

When the day is over, Melissa will go home, stopping to pickup Jacob.

Current Outcome

Melissa drives to work. She is a little slow dropping Jake off -- she needs to make sure Stacy remembers that she has back to school tonight. As she gets back in her car, she realizes she left her travel mug at sitting on the counter, and debates whether to go home, stop at Starbucks on the way, or brave the sludge that is availabe in the teacher's lounge. She decides to stop at Starbucks and get a fancy latte and a baked good -- it's gonna be a long day, so she can live it up a little. Despite the various delays, Melissa is able to speed a little and make up for lost time, arriving at school just before her kids start coming into home room.

Toward evening time, Melissa feels like she is set for back to school night. She catches the attention of a couple of other teachers and they decide to go out for a quick bite to eat. They all pile into Melissa's car, drive to a restaurant, and are back in time for the evening's activities.

While driving home, Melissa remembers that she needs to stop to get some more lunch supplies for her and Jacob, so she makes a detour to Kroger's before continuing to pick up Jacob and go home. When she gets to Stacy's, Melissa finds that Jacob is asleep, so she carries him to the car, without waking him, and buckles him in.

How it might work if Melissa took the bus

Melissa walks Jacob to Stacy's, and then Stacy drops both kids at preschool on the way to her job. She carries her school bag (a nice messenger bag) and a purse. She'd have her coffee if she remembers it. Melissa then walks to the bus stop. On the way, she realizes she forgot her coffee, but if she misses a bus, she might be late. She'll just have to make do with what's in the teacher's lounge.

When it gets to be dinner time, Melissa looks around for the other teachers. She catches the third grade teacher from across the hall, who shares a car with her husband and will be getting a ride home from him. Since neither of them has a car, they decide to just grab dinner at a sub place about a block away. It's not their favorite, but at least they know they can walk there and back quickly.

When back to school night is over, Melissa heads to the bus stop. The buses have switched to the night schedule, so she has to wait a little bit longer than usual. The bus drops her off close to home, so she walks to pick up Jacob, who has fallen asleep as Stacy's. He's fussy at being woken for the walk home, so she has to carry his little book bag in addition to her own stuff. By the time she gets home, she's beat.