Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why I love the bus

Many people have romanced the bus ride. Bus rides can bring anything from a lost wallet to chance meetings to carsickness...

In high school, when my parents were trying to get me to learn to drive, I couldn't help but be trapped by the me-mobile, that heavy-metal fast-moving machine, which only seemed to bring me towards nothing good fast. My body + speed + metal = not appealing. I feel more vulnerable in a car than anywhere else. Plus, as I'm cheap as hell, buying gas and insurance and car washes and snow tires, was no where near the top of my priority list.

I was (and am) happy to be late, mooch rides unabashedly, wait and wait and wait in rain or shine so as NOT to take a car.

And riding the bus does have its perks. It gives one an opportunity to reflect on life's transience and passings by's. A French phrase-a-day calendar once gave me the phrase "Où va ce bus?" which I immediately thought was the most profound phrase I'd ever heard, proceeding to put it somewhere in all of my art. I still think it's pretty darn profound.

Don't get me wrong. Riding the bus, especially in Pittsburgh, is a huge pain in the ass. It comes late, or never comes at all, especially when you're running late or when it's raining. It occasionally breaks down, and runs on a wildly infrequent schedule. And it's either too cold or too hot, and there's always somebody spewing profanities or smelling up the place.

At the end of the day, though, I like it. It makes me happy. It makes me feel free, empowered, un-chained to some big metal object that I'm required to keep safe and park without any issues.

Here's why I'm writing, then, to tell you why I like it.

I like riding the bus,

Because it makes me take time to do nothing.
Because I can do other things besides drive when I'm going to work or anywhere.
Because I can watch people, and talk to them, because we're in America and people do that sort of thing.
Because I get used to the same world passing me by, a slightly, slowly-changing world, where the same PT Cruiser, parked in Homewood, still hasn't moved in months. And where the same half-Asian man gets on at the same bus stop around the same time, though sometimes he wears gray, while others he wears black.
Because the bus driver smiles when I get on, and we tell each other to have a good day when I get off.
Because I don't have to park.
Because I can't be in control of where we stop, or when, or how long it's going to take, or who I'll be with.

I think that's it.

Once, in New York, I ran to catch a bus, fell, skinned my knee and ripped my jeans, and then made it on. I was going to LaGuardia to pick up a friend, the bus ride would be long, and this was the start of the journey.

While sitting in the back of the bus, a man, wearing headphones asked if I was ok. My pants were torn and bloodstained, and my knee had all sorts of crud in it, but I was just fine, as I told him. He said he had a band-aid in his bag, but as he searched for one, he was unable find it. His stop came, and I thanked him anyway, and he got off the bus.

Two stops later, the same guy ran on, and before I knew what was happening,
he handed me a package of band-aids.

I still have the pack. To remind me that:

a) people are so good


b) the bus ain't so bad.

So, folks. I dunno. Ride the bus, even if it takes you to where you didn't want to go. Because it's better than riding alone, and sometimes it's good to relinquish a little bit of the false control we try to assert over the daily whatevers.

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