Initial venture into the world of riding the bus.
| In my own small way I support everything environmentally green. Recycling, using paper rather than plastic, reusing tinfoil-don’t laugh, I learned this from my Mother who lived through the depression- and taking shorter showers have become automatic. My personal biggest step towards environmental preservation came last May when I became a “dyed in the wool, hope to die” official bus rider. What forces are at work to make me do the right thing? That’s a tough one given the years I’ve mulled over this move. Could be my environmentally correct friends finally got through to me and I have stepped up to be a good earth resident. Much as I would like to pass as being that altruistic the truth is when gas prices jumped to over $4 a gallon my pocketbook took a hit. It was time.
It’s not so bad. Remember your first day of Kindergarten? Now that “shock and awe” can be repeated at any time for any hardy soul. A little preparation from the Metro Transit website to map out routes, time and bus numbers and I’m set to step right outside my door and board bus 227. A month ago we got a snappy new bus. It’s fresh, clean and pretty as buses go with all the latest bells and whistles.
I only need one transfer. I tickles me to say “only” since even the thought of transferring was always a deal breaker in the past. Beware the fear of missed connections, sharp winds and frozen toes. Reality: transferring is a breeze. Rosedale mall sports a transit hub that sees lots of action. The buses line up: 87, 64, 245 next lane: 227, 225. Always the same order. Prompt 99% of the time. The bus number is plastered on the upper left hand corner of the front of the bus. You can’t miss it.
The transit hub has all the amenities one could wish for: a huge twin cities map, a list of bus route times and an enclosed waiting room that I’ll be frequenting when the snow flies. It’s even clean since Metro Transit passed on installing public bathrooms, but that’s another experience.
For a people watcher, this is the best. I have a couple favorite bus drivers. There’s Mike who sings karaoke to us and regales us with stories of Sturgis rides (notice the camaraderie of using “us” as the riders), Ken who remembers all the regular’s names to say hello and Thomas, the soul of honesty who cemented this evaluation by saving my purse for me when I forgot it on one of my novice rides. Thomas filled me in on bus etiquette and gave me a few helpful hints to prevent future faux paus.
1. Always have your bus card or money ready when you step on the bus.
2. Be courteous. Exiting passengers go first.
3. Let the driver know every time you board if you need the accommodation of not having the bus pull out until you’re completely seated. You may be sitting on the floor if you don’t.
4. Ask the bus driver to let you know when your stop comes up if you can’t just “see” it on your own.
5. At the bus stop stand up, look up or wave so the driver knows this is the bus you want. They will drive past without a thought if they think you aren’t waiting for their bus.
6. Save your complaints for safety issues only.
I’ll omit the names of the less than wonderful drivers but acknowledge they do exist. There’s the driver who fights on the cell phone with his wife and slams on the brakes – repeatedly - just like he slams down the phone. Jerk. Jerk. Jerk. No one ever promised you a rose gar.. Wait, that’s a different story. I do have a personal project to initiate change from the unhappy man who never, ever says “good morning” or utters any social niceties. I’m doing the killing him with kindness technique. As the eternal optimist I believe one day he will smile and say hello.
Not so good things? Well, if I really tried I could work up a complaint that the bus only comes once every 30 minutes but that’s just dredging the bottom of the barrel. I could rant about the bus that flew right past me as I stood at the bus stop in the rain without an umbrella on my birthday and had to wait another 30 minutes for the next bus. I could succumb to the fear and paranoia non-riders express about the riders from downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. Why do people think they’ll be mugged or shot in the middle of the day downtown?
On the other hand, benefits abound for a bus rider. I’m prepared for work by listening to the news on MN Public Radio. I’ve made several business networking contacts with a publishing editor, a person who knows someone who knows someone from whom I got needed vocational information that helped me in my job. I’ve met a young woman who is just returning to work after a back injury and shares that process with me. I have a new bus friend who is an expert on herbal and natural healing remedies so I have put another foot forward for wellness. I can stay on top of the latest music while waiting for my bus. But I bet you already knew rap songs all sound alike.
I’m passing you the baton. Accept the challenge to step into the carefree world of having someone drive you to and from work. It’s a great ride for a pittance.