I take the bus. I don’t drive. This makes me rather an oddity in a nation where cars rule. But I don’t mind taking the bus. My husband never takes the bus. He thinks its full of drug addicts, crazies, and homeless people. Well, there are no doubt a few. But there are plenty of just ordinary people.
The other day a man got on and only had dollar bills. The bus doesn’t give change. People scrambled to find change for his bills. I think that’s nice to see. People on the bus call out to the driver when they see someone running to catch the bus – they look out for other people.
There are frequent cries of ‘Back door.’ For some reason the drivers are all reluctant to open the back door. The other week, an elderly man almost missed his stop as he couldn’t move quickly enough to get to the door, but a young man shouted for the driver to stop. The poor flustered man dropped his glasses and couldn’t pick them up. The young man helped him, put them in the man’s pocket, then took his time helping the old man off the bus and onto the pavement. “You gotta do that for old folk. Someone gonna do that when you old,” he said as he got back on.
I listened to two old ladies talking about their grocery shopping plans. 99 cents for something or other. Then they started talking about how taking the bus was good exercise and so much better than just jumping in a car. As the bus passed the very old and rather dilapidated theater on route, one lady reminisced about going there on Saturday afternoons as a teenager, and the other smiled and replied ‘Good times.’
There is a man I see on there at least once a week. One week he was calling his imaginary friend to arrange an evening of pizza and beer. No need for a phone with a monthly plan. All he needed was an old-fashioned type of phone that he hooked back up on the wall after speaking (or in this case the back of the driver’s seat). Or he would have if the phone actually existed. His imaginary friend was quite persistent, checking the time in one call, where to meet in another, what kind of pizza in yet another (pepperoni) and finally had to be told ‘Stop calling me, man.’
Last week a man sat next to me, holding a pamphlet. He kept looking towards me, then finally plucked up the courage to ask me how to pronounce a word on his page: cytosis. Why he thought I would know the pronunciation, I’m not sure. When I got home I discovered it meant ‘A condition in which there is more than the usual number of cells,’ so taking the bus can even be educational.
There can be unpleasant times. Someone annoys someone else and they get aggressive for a while, but usually calm down. Others on the bus don’t hesitate in telling them to shut up and sit down, or to leave alone whoever is upsetting them. Some riders are a little louder than necessary, but you can learn a lot about this and that in an eavesdropped conversation.
And sometimes the drivers are chatty and talk away to whoever is sitting near the front. The best story recently: the driver said he’d once had a woman get on and put a $100 bill in the money-box. When she realized what she’d done, she was distraught. The driver said he’d called it in, taken her name and details, and had arranged for her to go to the office and get her change. Only she never went to collect her change. It turned out to be a forged note!