Commuter Spotlight: Aretta and Her Puppets Find Joy in the MARTA Commute
A Midtown resident and employee, Aretta loves the 'me time' of her active commute
Aretta Baumgartner takes delight in the everyday act of commuting. As a puppeteer and musician, she often travels for work across the country or around town. If it’s a nice day and a reasonable distance, Aretta will walk. Otherwise, to get where she needs to go, she rides MARTA from her Midtown residence—whether it’s to her office at the Center for Puppetry Arts or all the way to the airport.
One day in 2016, Aretta was riding MARTA to work and realized that the announcements at her stop—the Arts Center MARTA Station—mentioned a variety of Midtown cultural attractions and landmarks, but not the Center for Puppetry Arts. She was surprised to notice its absence. After all, it is the largest organization dedicated to puppetry in the United States.
Aretta, who has been a passionate puppeteer for 25 years, decided to send an email to MARTA asking if the agency would consider adding the Center for Puppetry Arts to their announcements. Within 2 months, not only did the on-train announcements mention the Center for Puppetry Arts, but the Center was now also listed on the Arts Center MARTA wayfinding signs as well.
“I’m so thrilled that MARTA was so open to that,” said Aretta. “When I take the train now I giggle extra when I hear them announce the Center. I’m always incredibly delighted when that happens.”
A few months ago, during her morning commute, Aretta watched as a family made their MARTA journey to the Center Puppetry Arts.
“As soon as the announcement said ‘Exit here for…Center for Puppetry Arts,’ the little one got excited,” said Aretta.
She also marveled at the joy the children found in the mundane parts of her commute: “The escalator seemed like a ride to them. The fact that they got to take out their Breeze cards and zap it again—it was fun for them. These things that I take for granted or that even slow me down—it was like an adventure for these little ones,” said Aretta.
Aretta found a way to harness that adventurous spirit on MARTA as well—she decided to spend a day with her husband outside of Midtown, exploring the rest of Atlanta as tourists would. They took the train downtown, checking out tourist attractions that they don’t usually visit as people who live and work in the Midtown neighborhood.
“It changed the MARTA ride from a commute to a fun adventure,” said Aretta. “I get so spoiled in Midtown. I have to convince myself to get out sometimes,” she added, mentioning her love of Piedmont Park, all the restaurants, and shopping opportunities in Midtown.
Back on her regular commute, Aretta still enjoys the ride on MARTA more than driving in Midtown, where the changing landscape of construction often makes the drive unpredictable and delayed.
Aretta also likes that being on MARTA encourages her to log off from work emails and tune into her favorite podcasts, Pod Save America, Pop Culture Happy Hour, and NPR Politics.
“Even though the commute is short,” she said, “I really enjoy that me time, where I can listen to podcasts and not try to get work done.”
What adventures do you have on your active commute? Share your stories here.