In October of last year, I sold my car and began the adventure of taking public transportation. It was an experience that humbled me, challenged me, taught me patience, and at other times completely broke me down. Some days, I did not think I could stomach commuting two hours each way, to and from work, one minute longer.
I fought back tears, foul moods, and a complete lack of personal space on a daily basis. I learned to accept that it would take me an inordinate amount of time to get just about anywhere. And finally, I embraced getting lost; in an array of books, Pandora radio, and the inspiration to write.
I experienced an awful lot, about the crazy thing that is human behavior and being immersed into a new world. While devoid of the means of my own personal vehicle, I started collecting tidbits and memories of my travels. Here is what I learned:
Some people don’t bathe as often as they should.
It is absolutely baffling how a person’s own staggering body odor doesn’t offend them. The rest of the bus is certainly affected. Like really, how do you deal with your own stench all day?
Everybody, regardless of age/social status/gender/race, will give up their seat for someone in need; such as an elderly or handicapped person.
This, for a brief period of time, makes you forget all of the other horrors of riding the bus. Enjoy the moment, but don’t let your guard down.
People are oblivious to social cues.
Never forget your headphones. 9 times out of 10, people will ignore your headphones and talk your ear off anyway.
It is a game of strategy.
You have to know, through the course of the route you are taking, who will be sitting where. Forget just taking a seat, you have to strategize. Sit too near the front, you may have to stand for the aforementioned elderly or disabled person. Then you are standing the rest of the way with people’s armpits in your face. Sit too close to the back, and it’s like you’ve been transported to the Wild Wild West. Since the back is furthest from the bus driver’s watching eye, it is a breeding ground for mischief. Complete anarchy. Winning move: sit close to the middle of the bus with your purse or bag on the seat by the window. This way no-one can grab or sit on your purse, and you can slide over to make room for a suitable bus mate (should you spot one). Suitable bus mates are like unicorns; rare, magical, and their existence has yet to be proven.
Do not, under any circumstance, make eye contact.
Eye contact is a sign that you want to communicate. Trust me, you DO NOT want to communicate.
On the bus schedule:
Buses run every 15-30 minutes, give or take 10 minutes. Except on the day you are running 2 minutes late, on that day the bus WILL leave on time.
Assume no-one is of sound mind.
This is for your own good. Safety first. Trust only yourself.
In order of riding comfort, the San Diego Transit System is ranked as follows:
Coaster or Amtrak > Trolley > Bus
In all seriousness, being dependent on public transportation taught me many valuable lessons that I will not soon forget. I encourage anyone to embrace a challenge of this size any time it is presented, because it will help shape you into a better person.
*Photo courtesy of Bus Ride.