Tag Archives: city life

Tales from the Bus

18 Nov

Public transit is wearing me down.

As many of you know, the totaling of Dave’s and my car spewed us into the land of bipeds and buses until further notice.  That means that twice a day, every weekday, I am subjected to the anxieties and atrocities of the bus system.  I started out incredibly grateful for this mode of transportation, and I’m trying very, very hard to maintain that virginal appreciation.  But there are only so many times I can have someone else’s cell phone conversation blasted in my ear for the duration of my stay in the flying steel sardine can before I have to smack a ho.

Did I just say ‘smack a ho’?

I’m really sorry.  This whole bus system thing is just… It’s hard.  Okay?  It’s changing me.

I think the main problem is that I don’t like to be around people.  So putting me in a situation where my personal space is inevitably going to be violated well over fifteen times before I can get out of the situation is a recipe for disaster.  That, and I don’t like it when people’s leg fat smooshes up against mine.

You know? You know when you sit right beside someone on the bus or – worse, right in between two already-seated people- and your leg fat spreads out around your legs and touches that of those beside you?   I try to tense up my quadriceps to avoid it, but it’s a long way to work in the morning and you can’t expect someone who has leg fat to begin with to be able to maintain that kind of form.

Yesterday was particularly trying for me.  I intentionally waited until three buses went by after work so that I could get on a less

Absolute torture.

crowded one.   I got a totally awesome seat and let out a nice relaxing breath for my post-work commute only to be joined at the next stop by an enormous crowd of people who piled onto the bus for what I can only imagine was a just-announced carnival somewhere along the bus route.  Unfortunately the gentleman who settled to stand right in front of me smelled exactly like a portable toilet.

Exactly.  I could have bottled his skin dew and sold it to variety stores, it was so painfully accurate.

Just then, the woman somewhere to the back, left-hand side of me took a cell phone call that she felt absolutely no need to muffle her voice for.  I don’t mind when people talk on their phones on the bus so long as they’re as respectful as possible.  I like to assume that people would only make the choice to carry on a conversation if they really needed to or had a hard time getting in touch with that particular person.  But this lady was like, running a call center out of her bus seat.  She was putting people on hold, doing three way calls… she was tending to some incredibly important business regarding someone she lived with telling her how to run her life and her sentiments on that.

And the entire time I sat in my seat, trying to tune her out, trying to hold my breath from the toilet man, and telling myself: Don’t lose your shit, Jackie. Do not.  Lose.  Your shit.

I had to repeat this to myself under my breath as I stared at the stain-coated floor of the bus and dreamed of wide open spaces because it took everything in me to not give the call center lady a piece of my mind, the toilet man a power wash, and run rip-tearing through the swarm of people, throwing my sad slip of a ticket at the bus driver’s face, and pounding on the doors to please God let me out.

Man that was a long sentence.  Did you make it through all right?  You can go back and reread because I’m not going to fix it.  I refuse.

So anyway, I think I’ve reached my criminal limit.  That is, the amount of public transit I can stand before I do something criminal.  

I guess it’s a good thing the insurance check came this week. 

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I Finally Learned How to Use the Bus

1 Nov

It's so big and scary.

Oh man, only 10 Lollipop Tuesdays left.  Whatever shall you do with your Tuesdays in 2012?

Cry, that’s what.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ya’ll.

In light of the Great Car Totalage of 2011 (also known as The Day of Sorrow), I decided it would be a good time to hone my bus skills.  And when I say ‘hone my bus skills’, I actually mean ‘learn how to use the bus’.  I’ve been doing the whole car/walk/bike thing for every one of my almost 6 years in the city because the idea of mass transit paralyzed me with fear.

There have been two exceptions: when I was with a large group of friends (monkey see, monkey do), and when the Burning Crusade Expansion for World of Warcraft was released.  I had to take a train out of the city to get to a WalMart, where I stood in line for the midnight sale because I was a sad, sad slave to the massive multiplayer online fantasy game

There’s no judging on The Jackie Blog, so stop it.

Anyway, I’m carless and it’s cold.  And while I still walked for miles out of fear of the bus system, it’s gotten a lot easier to try new things under the umbrella of a Lollipop Tuesday Adventure.  I’m happy to report that I’ve competently used the bus without a single familiar face to ride with me for an entire week. 

But since I’m sure lots of you live in the city and think that’s pretty lame (and you obviously don’t follow the ‘no judging on The Jackie Blog rule), I thought I should go a step further and experience the Megabus as well.

For those of you who aren’t aching for a cheap way to get from Point A to Point B on a regular basis, allow me to enlighten you to the ways of the Megabus.  You may have seen them rolling around the U.S. or even Europe.  They’re bright blue double decker buses with an enormous picture of a portly, cherry-cheeked guy in a bright yellow uniform touting seats for just one dollar* (*plus .50 registration fee).  It’s somewhat true that you can get a seat for one dollar.  It’s more true that the first 5 people to book a seat on a bus get it for one dollar and that the price goes up from there.  To get a seat for just one single George Washington, you have to book pretty far in advance.  It might be best to go by the “eh, I might go to NYC 5 months from now.  I’ll book it just in case” method. 

All the one dollar nonsense aside, it’s still a cost-effective mode of transportation.  For some routes, it’s half the price of a train and still well below the price of a Greyhound.  In most cases it’s also faster.  And the only thing you sacrifice is your personal bubble, any sense of comfort , and the ability to drink, eat, or pee comfortably for the duration of your trip.

They seem to have a pretty lax tracking system wherein you only need to get in line and have your reservation number handy.  They don’t ask your name, they don’t ask for ID, they don’t check bags, they don’t do anything that you would expect a transportation service to do.  You just give them a number and you board.

Sometimes you’re boarding in the middle of a much larger trip.  For example, there is a stop in State College between Pittsburgh and New York.  If you’re boarding at the midpoint (State College), you have to get bold because when you board, every New York passenger will have a pile of junk on the available seat, a pair of headphones in, and look mean as possible so you don’t choose to sit by them.  And you can either wander around to look for the folks who will willingly give up their seat with a little eye contact pressure, or you can just march right up to the folks who splay out all their belongings in their area and ask them to please move.  

Personally, I find the latter much more amusing and gratifying overall.

On the return trip, I was blessed by the Megabus gods, who made it appear as if the company had overbooked and sent a second independent charter bus to pick up the excess customers.  But thanks to a bundle of no-shows, the extra bus wasn’t necessary.  Having already been set on a course to Pittsburgh, however, the driver was willingly accepting passengers.  So I stepped on the bus expecting it to be fully crowded with cranky, tired New York folks and instead found myself on board with only 3 other humans in site.  I had 1/4 of the bus to myself and it was glorious.  

It reminded me of  another Lollipop Tuesday when I found myself in an entirely empty movie theater.

Sometimes you get a little unexpected reward for mustering up the mojo to try something new.

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