Friday, October 21, 2011

Bus People

I am a former city kid.  I grew up knowing how to cross streets at age 5, taking city buses with a group of friends by age 11 and walk, yes walk, to stores even miles away.  It was a necessity, for my mother, in typical urban 1960’s fashion,  did not drive a car.  She always boasted that she had a license, but I never saw her behind the wheel.  A mystery of life I guess. It certainly reduced the families' car insurance rates.

I relish public transportation.  Suburbia affords me none of that.  I sit in my car seemingly from early morning to late at night just driving. It’s my own little world amplified by my own iPod selection, my own  adjustable seat memory, my own temperature control, my own steering column height and my own neuroses. Too many "my's".  You are cut off, “outskirted” from the real world. You can sing, curse,  talk to yourself, fart and no one knows or even cares.  Sure you see the other “pods” driving but they are also in their own little worlds.  The only minor points of contact are accidental in the forms of middle fingers when inappropriately cutting someone off, the occasional wave when allowing someone the right of way or horn to give the heads up to someone adrift at a red light.  God forbid a real accident should happen, you might just have to get out of the car.

No wonder why suburbia boasts so many republicans.

In my suburbia, you don't have to exit the car for almost anything.  We have no neighborhood mailboxes anymore but we have a mailbox that sits outside the post office with it's height adjusted for a passing car.  We have drive through tellers for the little banking that's not done online.  Meals can always be drive through.  Peapod also delivers groceries for those of us to lazy or too busy to get basic necessities.

I got the chance to take a bus several weeks ago.  The service runs from my main city to a city up north, where I had to change to a train to reach another destination.  What a great experience for a sleepy suburban Mom.  The bus was  clean, had A/C plugs and Wifi.  Perfect basic 21st Century transportation. It’s not the amenities that I loved.  It was the people.  You don’t see bus people in most sleepy suburban towns.  There was the guy across the aisle, drifting off to sleep as his screen saver showed a naked woman peeing on a beach.  Nice.  The woman in front of me who had so much perfume on it was sickening.  The lady with the two pre-pubescent girls clinging to their American Girl® dolls who looked eerily like them.  The Diane Arbus’ picture came to mind.  And don’t forget the bus driver who announced with great surliness that this was clearly HER bus, that SHE was responsible for cleaning it
 -including the bathrooms- and YOU MUST be courteous to other passengers as they should be courteous to you.  She was clearly part mother, part preacher and part cleaning lady.  I have learned to fear and love these women.

You don’t experience this sitting in a car or a minivan that resemble some mobile living rooms.  Driving solo you miss people.  You miss the overheard stories.  You miss the courtesies of letting an elderly passenger  a little more time to board the bus.  You miss the smell of other people, their sounds, their dialects, their walks, their clothes, what they are reading, or whether they drool while sleeping.  You miss humanity.  You miss contact.

I have to get back to the city. Next challenge:  the NYC Subway system. Long story......

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