Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another One Rides the Bus

I don’t like touching stuff in public.  Rails, handles, walls, basically anything that is open for anybody else to touch.  I always leave a piece of crumbled paper towel behind the door in public restrooms after I use it to grab the handle.  People are gross and I’m not shy about the fact that I think so.  I see too many people walk out of bathroom stalls and head straight for the exit without so much as wetting their hands.  It is because of the general disgusting nature of society that I vowed to myself to never ride a public bus in Los Angeles after seeing many accordion-style buses packed with people to the point of bursting from the windows.  But the cards of my life have been reshuffled and I was forced to quit my job because my boss was (and continues to be) an amazing asshole.  So now I find myself commuting to a job that doesn’t offer parking.  How can this work?  Public transportation.  And since there isn’t a train that goes into Westwood (for some reason), I am forced to take the goddamn bus.

I’m a week-deep into riding the gas-slurping, smog-belching, road-clogging behemoth.  Surprisingly, I don’t hate it as much as I thought I would.  I used to ride the bus to college and back throughout the mid-2000’s.  But the experience of waiting for a bus in the cold half of the year in Wisconsin is much different than waiting for a bus during the same time frame in California.  Basically, I don’t have chunks of ice being blown at 20 mph directly into my face.  That was always the shittiest part of riding the bus, but it’s not a factor out here.  Mark that in the column of “Worth Risking a Debilitating Earthquake.”  Aside from that, the bus is a great opportunity to pop on some music and zone out the world around you as you bounce down the road and read or write or dominate the puzzles they play on the tiny TVs.

My hatred of driving has been well documented.  I can’t fucking stand it.  I had to run one errand today that required my car and I lost it.  Screaming.  Screaming in my car because I’m a lunatic and everyone is stupid.  But when riding the bus, you feel untouched by the world around you.  A few days ago, a woman pulled directly in front of the bus and almost got herself annihilated.  Straight up killed.  The bus slammed on its brakes and laid on the horn while she sheepishly put her car in reverse and sat at the stop sign she apparently didn’t respect while everyone in the bus gave her the You-Fucking-Idiot look as we pulled past her to clog up the lane.  I watched this play out and laughed.  Smiling.  If I were driving I would have been livid. 

But being in the bus takes you out of that game because you have a chauffer.  Granted, it’s a chauffer that you share with a number of random people, some of which are right out of their minds, but that doesn’t negate the fact that you have someone driving you were you want to go (or at least in the general direction you want to go).  And that’s nice.  I have always considered commute time to be complete bullshit and have fantasized in the shower (yeah, like that) about getting a job within biking distance.  But that’s hard to find.  And since I’m not really driving myself and can simply listen to music and read, I don’t feel like I’m wasting time commuting since I would probably be doing nearly the same thing at home.  Either that or watching videos of cheetahs running in slow motion.  Have you ever seen that shit?  How do they keep their head so still?  I’m so glad someone invented guns because those things could tear apart the most badass person you can think of.  Try it.  Anybody you think of could get torn to shreds by a cheetah.  Even if you didn’t try to fight it, you couldn’t get away in an open field.  Sure, you could go behind a door, but that’s cheating.  Wait, what was I talking about?

The bus.  It’s not that bad, but it’s not all good either.  There are definitely things about it that I don’t like, but I’m trying to ignore those things for a little while.  In that spirit, here’s some things I don’t like about the bus:  People are assholes.  No one wants to sit next to somebody they don’t know.  It’s like everyone thinks everyone else rolled around in garbage before putting on a herpes jacket and hauling ass to the bus stop.  It blows my mind when the bus is full of people, old ladies trying to surf Newton’s second law in the aisle, and people sit in the outside seat while leaving the inside seat wide open.  Why do they do this?  So they don’t have to sit next to a stranger.  It would make sense if it was a ten-year-old kid trying to avoid getting diddled by some weirdo, but an adult should feel comfortable enough within society to sit next to someone else.  I mean, goddamnit, this is the society we live in; People watch others uncomfortably navigating the perils of standing up inside a moving vehicle and say to themselves, “Well I’ll be damned if I’m letting that tired old woman sit down in this open seat right next to me.  I don’t know her!”

There’s also a strange inverse of this:  Sometimes people refuse to sit in a seat even when it’s wide open.  I’m not talking about one open seat next to somebody else (which also happens) but two fully open seats right next to each other.  There’s no danger of your leg slightly rubbing against the side of another person’s leg.  Nobody to reach over to pull the stop cord.  I’ve seen elderly women that obviously aren’t too quick to get around choose to stand on a bumpy, unstable bus rather than sit in the seat.  Blows my mind.  And it’s not because they are germaphobes because they gladly wrap their claws around every railing and handle they get near.  I’d like to ask one of them what-the-hell but I don’t speak much Spanish outside of common pleasantries and a few vulgarities so my access to people on the bus is pretty small.

While all that shit happens, the rest of us are forced to grab onto the slimy railing near the front or the hold-on-for-dear-life handles which honestly aren’t that helpful (you’ll remain upright but it’s a fucking workout to stay in one spot).  This is why I pack a bottle of hand sanitizer every time I ride the bus.  As soon as a seat finally opens up I plop myself in and slather that wonderful goo all over my hands.  I can always feel the person next to me watching as I disinfect myself which makes me feel weird, but the overall disgust I feel due to touching the railing completely outweighs the awkwardness.

If you are able to find a seat and are able to get over the fact that public transportation is fucking disgusting, taking the bus ain’t so bad.  Aside from getting time to read (which, by the way, I’m reading a really unfortunate book right now.  It’s called The Turner Diaries and it has this written across the front cover…

I mean, goddamn.  At least give me the original cover so that the only people that know what it’s about are people that read it, otherwise it just makes me look like some neo-Nazi when, in fact, I’m simply reading a weird book because I found it at the top of a “Ten Most Shocking Books” list and I wanted to see what could possibly be so bad about it.  By the way, it’s pretty fucked up) and time to write while not using any of my own gas, riding the bus just feels better to me.  It might partially be the whole “better for the environment” thing, but it’s something more than that.  Riding a bus makes me feel like I’m experiencing the city more so than existing within it.  Participating in it.  When you drive you are busy trying not to kill yourself and others, but when riding the bus you get to take in the sights (for instance, I get to see this every night on my way home, learn street names.  It teaches you more about your surroundings which, in turn, makes you a more participatory citizen.  I like that.  I haven’t been a frequent user of public transportation for a few years, but I now use the train semi-frequently and the bus almost every day.  I’d really like to sell my car, but that’s just impractical.  I still need it for when I have to pick up a 30 pack, hamburger buns, and Sun Chips from the grocery store.  That’s simply far too much to carry on one bike trip. 

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