public transport: friend or fiend?

It’s a well established fact (at least in my own head) that every single time I step on a bus (in the case of St. John’s), I am reminded of a comment made by a friend of mine concerning how much he detested having to use public transport: “I f*%king hate having to use it. It’s so gross.” Well, maybe it wasn’t such an offensive comment, but that was the general gist of it. I always remembered it, and we would often disagree on the matter. I don’t have anything against public transport. In fact, I think it’s a very good thing, for lots of different reasons.

I have occasion, now, to mention The London Underground Song by Adam Kay and Suman Biswas. (It’s likely that myself and Kayla Walters are the only ones who will recognize that reference, but I digress…) The song is about how dirty and grimy and irritating London’s Tube system is, and yet how necessary it is; a necessary evil, one might say. And sure, public transport is often grimy and it sure doesn’t smell like freshly cut roses, but it’s an excellent venue for people watching, nature watching and city watching. I needn’t even bother to mention the bonus for the environment, but I will, because I can.

For the sake of illustrating my point, I will relate to you my encounter with a new bus route this afternoon.

Having absolutely nothing to do today in my somewhat perpetually jobless state, I ventured to the mall and myself and Kayla got together for some coffee shop goodness. Post coffee shop, Paul nearly tripped over me, we had a chat, and headed for the exit. “Takin’ the ol’ route 3?” Paul asked. Indeed I was, or so I thought.

When I got to the bus stop, a route 15 pulled up and I decided to go on a bus adventure. Route 15 eventually ends up where I was headed, and so I saw no harm in taking a different route, since I have been availing of any and all manner of distraction as of late. So I got on, parted with another toonie, and sat down. I had no idea at all where the bus was going to take me, nor did I care. A gaggle of interesting people boarded the bus with me, which is always good. The variety of people that one sees on-board public transport is astounding. It is perhaps only beaten by the mall, or maybe downtown; but those places are completely different animals. Having said that, generally, ‘the people on the bus’ are either students or elderly people, with a good occasional dose of the 18 to 40-something demographic who are working minimum wage jobs. The most puzzling person I saw on the route 15 this afternoon was a young woman who was wearing a Tim Horton’s uniform and what looked like Gucci sunglasses. No doubt they were knock-offs, but just the same, that’s an odd combination if there ever was one. The most familiar face I saw was that of my Chaucer professor, the most attractive was a young woman (who seemed to be a tourist, and possibly of Spanish decent) who was wearing a lovely polka-dot dress with a silky, bright yellow ribbon tied around her waist; and the most scatterbrained was the bus driver, who missed my stop. Thankfully, the nicest person on the bus, a lady who I peg at about 60, pointed this out to the driver, and he let me out on the next stop. I got off the bus and found a great shortcut home through a lane that I had neglected to notice, though I had passed by it about a million times before. There was nothing unpleasant about my bus experience this afternoon; nothing. I saw a bunch of new things and people, I rode down at least 3 streets that I hadn’t previously, and availed of every chance to tap my toes and bop along to Serena Ryder singing Boo Hoo on my iPod.

Using public transport is a lesson in knowing your city.

Do it more, and pay attention.

One thought on “public transport: friend or fiend?

  1. I use to do this in Ottawa while working as a professional (note: neither student or senior which seems to be the stigma for St John’s public transit). I would take a lazy Sunday or Saturday – but most often Sundays – to catch a route I knew nothing about, to a part of the city I never been, just to see what I could see. Armed with nothing more than my transit pass and my CD player I learned lot’s about the city I lived. When I eventually bought a car – which was necessary only for the fact I had a job that involved off hours calls that could see me in the office again – I knew the city better and was able to navigate it with ease.

    Having spent the past year working with Metrobus as a customer on one of their committees for the new system (coming June 25th), I learned they really take this system seriously. I also learned they are against the sigma of “looser cruiser” and hope with a new and improved system they will shake that label. They want to take it to the level of being a viable alternative to getting to and from work, school, and play.

    Great post! Hope your friend reads it!

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