The buses operated by the Central Ohio Transit Authority are equipped with outward-facing electronic signs at the front of the bus, above the driver, that tell people waiting at bus stops where the bus is going. When I walk to work in the morning, I see buses that are heading to Kenny Road, or East Main, or Hilliard, or West Broad, or Rickenbacker. These are all familiar street names and locations for Columbus residents.
My favorite bus name, however, is “Smoky Row.” It’s got to be the best “end of the line” name in the COTA arsenal.
Where is Smoky Row, exactly? I have no idea, even though I’ve lived in Columbus for years. It could be north, east, west, or south. And unlike other COTA bus destinations, Smoky Row has a certain lyrical, almost mystical quality to it that sounds like a Hollywood movie from the ’40s starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. You could easily see Smoky Row in big print up on the screen as the movie credits started to roll.
And the fact that Smoky Row is an actual destination in the Columbus, Ohio area adds to the mystery. You wonder how Smoky Row got its unusual name. Is it a low-lying area that is frequently obscured by morning mist, or was it once home to lots of smoke-billowing factories? And what’s there now? Smoke-filled nightclubs, perhaps? Hookah joints? Hipsters puffing away on their smelly vape devices?
I’m sure that, for patrons who take the number 74 bus every day, it’s just another boring bus ride — but for me, boarding the bus to Smoky Row would seem like the ticket to adventure.