Monday, April 19, 2010

Mein Kampf: city buses

I have a confession to make: Before last week, I had only been on a city bus once in my entire life. But that one time was in New Zealand and I don't really count that because all that sky diving and bungee jumping and glacier hiking left me feeling particularly brave. And also I was probably high. I was in New Zealand, remember.

I've never had a car, so I routinely rely on my friends to cart my ass around. And when that fails, public transportation is always my friend. Buses, however, have always been Mein Kampf.

I don't know what it is about the thought of stepping on to a public bus. It's just ... scary. The thought alone would make me clench my butt cheeks.

The public transportation system in Philadelphia isn't exactly the country's strongest. But from my neighborhood, I could easily hop on a train to Center City and get almost anywhere I usually needed to go from there with a little hoofin'. But if the train or subway didn't go there, neither did I. No way was I brave enough to try to figure out how to bus myself to a certain neighborhood, what with all the tokens and the transfers and the Asian men with really long, dirty fingernails who hog the poles (I assume). So I'd make B drive me. Problem solved.

Boston however, is a horse of a different color. Traffic is an absolute bitch, no matter what time of day and no matter where you are going. So driving is out. Wasn't there supposed to be some kind of Big Dig construction project to solve that problem? What happened there, Boston?

The public transportation in Boston, however, is fabulous. I can easily hop on a subway and get anywhere I need to go. I've seen buses floating around out there, but never needed one because I have been able to get absolutely anywhere I've needed to go within a block or two via the "tunnel train."

So as I was figuring out what my morning commute would be before my first day of work, I was pleased to see that the city's Silver Line would drop me off a few hundred feet from my office doorstep. Being as all the train and subway lines are labeled by color (Red Line, Green Line, Orange Line, etc.), I assumed the Silver Line was one and the same.

The next morning I took the train into the city, fed my monthly pass into the turnstile like a good little commuter, and took the steps down to the Silver Line platform. And then a bus pulled up. And then I shit my pants.

A bus?! How do I know what bus to get on?! Any moron from the burbs can figure out the train. It only goes in two directions; just get on the one going your way. As more buses pulled into the platform, I broke out into a cold sweat. For me, figuring out a bus route is like figuring out the migratory pattern of a fruit fly. Buses crawl all over the city in no apparent pattern!

There is nothing I hate more than actin' a' fool on public transportation. You know at least 75% of commuters in the early morning are borderline miserable human beings and you know there is nothing borderline miserable human beings hate more than a passenger who doesn't know what the feck they are doing because if this moron from the suburbs makes them late for work so help her gah.

So standing there on the platform, I started to take stock of things I knew about the location of my office. I knew the address. I knew it was on the water. I knew the name of the office building. Suddenly, a bus pulled up with "WATERFRONT" blinking across the front. My office is on the water; this must be it. So I boarded the bus and sat tensely on the edge of my seat, my anxiety rising with each passing stop as all the other passengers eventually disappeared, never making a peep. Within 15 minutes, the bus had made a complete circle and I found myself back at South Station.

Blokay, I got on the wrong bus, but I was back in the station and I hadn't yet been accosted by any fellow passengers. I felt like a jackass in front of the bus driver, but no harm no foul, what else is new?

Thank gah the next bus to roll up had the name of my office building flashing across it's screen. So yeah, I guess it couldn't really be any easier. The bus might as well have pulled up with a flashing sign that said "GET ON ME, BRIDGET" (that's what he said).

Since then, however, I have had a few experiences that have reminded me why riding the bus was so ass-clenchingly terrifying. I haven't yet come across any many old Asian men with really long, dirty fingernails who hog the poles. I've come across something much worse. The man sitting next to me a few days ago was clipping his fingernails. ARE YOU SERIOUS, DUDE?! Do you think you are sitting in your undoubtedly grimy bathroom with a sink that I assume is filled with your shaving hair and probably some pubes? No. You are not. You, my socially retarded fellow-commuter, are sitting on a public bus NEXT TO A GIRL WHO CRINGES AT THE SOUND OF NAIL CLIPPERS. Didn't your mother ever teach you that it's socially unacceptable to clip your fingernails in public? I was appalled. So what did I do? I sat quietly in my little bucket seat, pushing myself into the woman on my other side as much as publicly decent and praying to gah almighty that a rogue nail clipping wouldn't fly in my direction. Barf times ten.

Then, on Friday evening, as I was waiting for the bus to come take me to the train station, I was scrounging through my bag to pull out my pass. Seconds later, the bus pulled up. As the other passengers boarded, I hopped in line behind the last person and threw my bag over my shoulder. And as I stepped onto the bus, the bus driver closed the door on me. Picture this: me, stuck in between two glass bus doors. Head in, butt out, 100 percent awkward. A bit shocked, I tried to pull my shoulders from the doors while the driver stared at me. And I was all, "uhhhh ... I'm getting on this bus." He stared at me for a good few more seconds before audibly sighing and finally opening the doors to let me fully in. I'm sorry I'm making it to necessary for you to do your job, Mr. Busdriver. I know you're on a scheule, but I promise it would have been faster to wait for me to get fully on the bus before closing the door. Awesome? Awesome. See you on Monday.

So now here I stand, world: Bridget Horne, bus rider. What once was mortally feared, is now tolerated surprisingly well. Skanky ass fingernail clippers, hazardous door closings, and all.

6 comments:

Avitable said...

I don't know - still sounds pretty terrifying to me.

Lora said...

as an avid pubtranser, I say you make that bus your bitch. as a tax payer, you do own it. now show that bus you own it. spank it when you get off. srsly.

I spank buses, trains, and planes. And my car. Every time, all the time. I don't know why I do it, but I do. It makes me feel better. I do it out of love, but control. You know how you do with the dog? (I'm assuming. I do it with all my animals, and my kid.) It's like I love them so much that I can't keep my hands off their butts and sometimes I kiss them repeatedly but I don't kiss vehicles because... eww. Plus you can't really kiss these things secretly. But you can totally spank them while you get on and people think you are just holding on and using the side for support.

Try it on the way home. Just a little tap.

Oh yeah.

Who's the mommy now?

Becky Mochaface said...

Buses are absolutely terrifying. But sometimes, they are the faster way to get somewhere than going into Park Street from Allston to get on the red line to go to Harvard Square because the bus goes directly across the river. A 30 minutes (or more) time save. I would do it occasionally.

Shelley Greenberg said...

Okay, I take issue with one sentence: "The public transportation in Boston, however, is fabulous."

Uh. No. No it's not. Try taking the green line a few times (ideally when you actually have to get somewhere relatively on time) and tell me the public transit in Boston is fabulous.

Five years of the T is a big part of why I was all too ready to move out of the city!

Congratulations on the job though. :)

Jesseca | Print Postcards said...

I have terrible bus stories too. I was surprised to have read your blog because we nearly had same experience with buses. I wonder why they're usually like that. Fast and lousy.

Caitlin said...

I am a bus pro--one of the many (ok, ok, maybe not that many) life skills I learned living in Rome. But as far as the strange people goes, there are plenty of them on train as well, or plane, boat, taxi, for that matter.

Still, one of my weirder NYC subway experience happened a week ago. I sat next to a youngish man who was struggling to get his package of Skinny Cow ice cream treats open. All right, I thought, it's a warm day and the dude just wants to enjoy some cold, sugary goodness. NO. Upon getting said package opened, said man proceeded to eat each ice cream sandwich with a fork until he had housed the entire pack. Now, I realize each sandwich allegedly has, like, 100 calories but seriously?

The noise with which he ate didn't help.

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