It’s been a couple of months since I rode the bus home from work. Circumstances have meant that lately I’ve been driving to and from home, and there are a lot of advantages to that. The walk to the parking garage is longer than it is to the bus stop, but my schedule isn’t as rigid because I’m not trying to be on time to catch a bus that’ll probably be late or may not even show up or that may go right by me. I don’t have to stand in the rain or the cold, or even worry about those days where it’s too cold to go out without a coat in the morning and too hot to wear one in the afternoon. Sure, if I drive I still have to carry my coat home, but at least when I get home I can leave it in the car so it’ll be good and frozen when I need it the next morning, but that’s another story.
If there are funny smells in the car I at least know where they came from, and I never have to worry about finding a seat. The stop-and-go traffic is annoying, but at least I don’t have to cross busy intersections on foot.
And yet I miss riding the bus. I miss being able to sit back and listen to music or a podcast, and even though I don’t regularly talk to any other bus riders there are some I’ve come to know by sight. There’s the kid who always sits in the very back and has a sketchpad he’s steadily filling. One of these days, I keep telling myself, I’m going to ask what he’s drawing. There are the two guys who always sit together, one of them always reading a newspaper, the other reading a book. There’s the older woman who’s had several conversations with other riders and sometimes with the bus drivers about her husband’s health. She doesn’t have a lot of good news but as long as she still talks about him I believe there’s always hope. And there’s the guy with the really thick glasses who lives in an apartment complex along the route. There’s no stop at the entrance to the apartment complex but he occasionally asks the driver, “Can you stop here?” Most drivers oblige. Sometimes when I’m driving I’ll see him waiting at a bus stop. One of these days, I keep telling myself, I’ll stop and offer him a ride. And then there are just the chance encounters with strangers, people I might see once and never see again.
It seems strange to miss people I don’t even know, but it’s also been a good reminder of the value of public transportation, of how the connecting routes connect people too.
I don’t take public transit enough to take note of any regular passengers, but I do like making up stories about random fellow riders. If they only knew what elaborate pasts I can manage to dream up for them!
I enjoy how hands-off the bus and the train make my commute. Sure, I’m traveling at the whim of someone else’s idea of an efficient schedule, and the trip to work takes approximately twice as long as if I were to drive, but it’s still freeing to hand the reins over to someone else now and then and just experience the ride.
The hands-off part is definitely the biggest advantage of public transit, regardless of what form it takes. I like to read while riding and, well, that’s not such a good idea when driving. I also like to watch the scenery go by and it can be hard to do that when I’m concentrating on where the other drivers are.
Making up stories about fellow riders is also a lot of fun. I imagine a lot of stories start that way.
A very poignant post, Chris, and it made me think how much I would miss the strange folks I see outside the front windows of my store if I ever were not here for some reason (or I went to sit in the back where there are no views). It also reminded me that I should be working but instead I’m reading blogs. Don’t tell the boss. 😉
I’ll keep it between us that you’re reading blogs when you should be working, although it’s odd that I haven’t been able to get to your blog lately. Anyway interacting with people may not be for everyone but for some of us it’s what makes us better people. It reminds us how different the experiences of others are.
And my blog crashed. I lost everything (for now). A new TBT was just launched moments ago. Come check it out!
I really relate to this post- especially about seeing interesting folks on public transport!
Public transport really is a great place for people-watching because it brings together so much diversity.
I love the way you connect with other people, Chris.
I’m glad that you’re among the people I regularly connect with.