I’ve been meaning to take the bus since Earth Day.
Earth Day was in April. That’s almost six months ago.
Alright, so it took some courage building, but I finally gave it a go yesterday. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t confusing, inconvenient, creepy or life threatening. I’m still living and breathing and to my knowledge haven’t caught a disease.
There could be no better time to try the bus than during the MATBUS Commuter Challenge (Sept. 6 – Nov. 1, www.matbus.com). The challenge encourages our community to “park your car” for one day per week to carpool, bike, skate, or sit around like a bum waiting for tomorrow so you can use your car.
While riding bike is a regular routine in the summer, colder weather combined with bike-hating drivers makes for a terrible experience. I feel skinny jeans are required to “skate” to work, and I could carpool with a co-worker who lives just down the street, but riding to work with her would resemble work itself.
So this week, I dug out my “free pass” coupon and caught the route 15 bus. Actually, I was quite certain I missed the bus. Rapping Kris Kross’, “I Missed the Bus” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aeBqJ9JN9g), I walked towards my car, bummed that the self-given 5-minute pep talk was now sheerly a waste of 5 minutes.
Driving away from the bus stop, I saw bus 15 whip around the corner. I quit rapping and threw my car into reverse, quickly parked, grabbed my bags and sprinted to the bus as though my car wasn’t readily available.
“I’ve never done this before,” I told the driver who looked at me strangely. “Does this bus go downtown?”
Of course “GTC” (Ground Transportation Center – in Downtown Fargo) continuously scrolled across the screen on the bus, but people make mistakes and I didn’t want to end up somewhere foreign, like North Fargo.
I hurried to a seat, scared to look around. I dug out my book, only opening it after checking for the third time that my purse was still in my possession.
But before I began reading, a sign directly in front of me caught my eye. “These seats reserved for seniors and disabled persons.” The notice hung next to a photo of a beverage with an “X“ through it.
Interesting. I thought, sipping on my coffee in the front seat. Things are going really well.
The ride was relaxing. I had to smile every time the bus driver hit a yellow light. It was his frustration now, not mine. The tool-bag cop consuming a lane and a half and creating significant traffic backup wasn’t as much of an annoyance. I read several pages, saved a few miles on my car and was able to lounge for 20 minutes instead of fighting my way to work.
Dropped at the GTC, I took a short block walk to work, amazed at how good it felt. I was 15 minutes EARLY for work. That only happens when… okay, that never happens. Unless…. nope. It just doesn’t happen.
Nervously waiting for the bus for the return route (I had ridden a bus for 11 years throughout elementary and middle school — even into high school. Why was I nervous?), I took the opportunity to study the “type” of people who ride the bus. I was expecting about what you’re picturing – just “different.”
Well, the crowd was different alright. There were trendy girls. Professional women. Older gentlemen. A very attractive man about my age with broad shoulders, dark hair and no wedding band stepping onto route 6 at 5:09 p.m…. You know, for anyone who may be looking. There were parents with kids, even a man with a dog. There was a wide variety of people, but nobody seemed as “strange” as expected. Then I saw a girl with purple hair.
Then again, I have a purple phone that most 13-year-olds would enjoy. Every parent has watched Barney with their kids. People still cheer for the Vikings. Whatever.
Finally the bus arrived. I was still too nervous to strike up a “bus conversation” so I read my book and the motivational notes on the wall telling of the money regular riders could save and reinforcing the good they’re doing for the environment.
The ride was soon over. I found myself excited to tell people about the bus and am looking forward to riding again. Funny how I used to purposely miss the bus back in high school in hopes that mom and dad would lend me their car.
Shootin’ the Wit is a column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.