Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mass Transit

Missed the bus this morning. He was early! By four minutes. Four minutes! That's a lot of time, especially in the morning. That's the difference between finishing your coffee and dumping it down the sink. I was only partway up my apartment complex's driveway when the bus whooshed by, and I didn't get a chance to read its head sign. I checked the time and assumed it was the Express, which comes through a couple minutes ahead of the local to scoop up all the students trying to get to campus for their classes (I live in a college town, by the way). A few minutes later, when a second bus failed to appear (or a few minutes after that when a second bus still failed to appear), it occurred to me that what I'd missed was the local. Argh! And so I called work and said I'd be there at 8:30.

Lucky I work with a fairly flexible group of people. Also lucky I wasn't supposed to be on the reference desk at 8 AM.

I wasn't the only one who got stuck. I saw at least 6 people at the bus shelter up the hill from mine doing the same pace-turn-peer-hopefully thing I was doing.

Ah, mass transit. It's wonderful.

Actually it's not all bad. During peak hours it can be a bit irritating. I don't much care for the way they always seem to be short of buses on my route. We get squashed in tight, and I've taken to walking two or three stops further up the route ahead of my own, just to ensure I get a seat. I hate standing in buses. I'm not good at it. I think it must be like surfing. There has to be some way to stand that can help you adjust to shifts and bumps, but I can't find it. Maybe it's just that my balance is bad. It doesn't matter whether I hang on to the bar or a strap. Doesn't matter whether I use one or both hands while hanging on. I still weave and bobble and make the people around me worry that I'm going to wind up in their laps. It doesn't help that the guy up front takes turns at light speed, or that he hits the brakes so hard it's a wonder someone doesn't get flung up against the windshield.

Wasn't I just saying it's not all bad? It really isn't. That stuff with the cramming in really only happens around rush hour. Most of the time it's full, but not packed. And most of the drivers are nice people.

Like The Whistler. I got to ride with him this evening. He's a fan of big band and swing music, and he makes mix tapes to play on the bus's stereo. Great stuff. He whistles along to them, which I think is the best part. Not just the melody -- come to think of it, I don't think he ever whistles the melody. He makes up these intricate harmonies on the fly, weaving them in and around what's playing. He's a nice good-natured guy. Never seen him in a bad mood. I think the music has something to do with it. Lately, he hasn't been bringing tapes as much. It depends on which bus he's assigned. Some of the stereos are a little on the old side, and I guess he's had a couple of his favorite tapes eaten by them. So in those buses he listens to the oldies station on the radio, and whistles to that.

And that reminds me of something that happened a few years back. I was on the Express bus home. Crammed in like sardines, as usual. The driver (a woman this time. I haven't seen her recently. Don't know whether she quit or just got assigned to a route I never take) had the radio on. Billy Joel's "Piano Man" started playing just as we were leaving campus. She turned it up and began singing along. Wasn't long before most of us were bobbing our heads, then humming, and by the time we hit the first of the Express's stops, we were in full swing:

"La, da, da dideeaaaa, lada dideeaaaaaaaaaaaaadadum!"

Felt like a scene from a movie.

See what I'd miss if I had a car?

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