Riding a big-city bus becomes a true adventure

June 29, 2011

Living in a quiet resort area, sometimes we wish for the life found in major cities. You know what I am talking about - the shopping, the excitement of so many restaurants, the crowds, and the overall experience of the hustle and bustle.

But the bus? I’ve never been a bus person myself; I am a taxi person. Besides, hailing a cab is one of the great ways to dry your hair after a quick shower. Just hang over the side of a curb at rush hour and let the armada of taxis blow by you at mach speed.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with taking the bus. I’m all for public transportation. It’s just that it has that reputation. Okay, you could be more honest and call it a stigma. But we won’t go there. Well, maybe just a little bit.

You remember in high school, if you took the bus, you were known as “the bus kids.” While the rest of the crowd was tooling around in their cars, you could be found sitting next to someone named Delbert who would suck in his lips every five seconds to make this hissing sound, like he was drinking coffee. Oh, it wasn’t that bad, at least compared to his breath that always had the aroma of Italian sausage or Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. It would stick to your clothes long after you departed from the bus.

It goes without saying that the Delberts of the world went on to become CEOs of major Fortune 500 companies, earn Nobel Peace Prizes and own million-dollar, high-tech industries that affected every minute of  your staid, boring life.

Oh, those who had their licenses in high school and tooled around in cars bought by their parents did quite well too. They stayed in academia, you might say, and became quite proficient in the same school, wielding a mop, a broom and a “Hazard Wet Floor” sign.
I should mention that no matter how many years it has been since you took the bus in high school, the mere sight of the yellow and black vehicles does bring on a catatonic flashback, even if you did pick up 20 Oscars the night before.

Recently I was visiting a major city and knowing all of this, I decided to walk a few blocks and test out my theory by catching the bus to go downtown.

Well, that and the derision from my adult children who felt I needed to get more down with the people.

It was a warm, sunny, golden morning - the usual summer day you get when it’s not quite summer on the calendar. I stood in line at the bus stop, curious as to what my fellow passengers would be like.

The bus pulled up and a strong belch of air sent me reeling backward toward the building; don’t be silly, the belch wasn’t from the bus, but rather a large gentleman in front of me who was holding an equally large bottle of Tums.

The doors opened, revealing an enormous driver who seemed welded to the seat. She was very pleasant though and welcomed everyone.

I gazed up, delighted to revel in the sights of being down with the people. Unfortunately most of them were upright, holding onto straps and metal poles with expressions on their faces that said, “Don’t even think about a seat.”

But as the bus lurched forward, I did spot an empty seat that was vacated by a person I believe was launched to the back of the bus as we took off into what seemed like a mosh pit at a rock concert.

I sat next to a young man with spiked hair who was wearing a T-shirt that said, “If you knew my family you would understand.” I looked around expecting to see the big-city image of passengers wearing earpieces or typing on their high-tech devices.
I brought my fake iPod and fake iPad so I could fit in also.

Something unknown must have happened because the passengers were all asleep. And I don’t mean just nodding off. I am talking about being totally sedated, sprawled across each other in fetal positions.

Anyway, we chugged along, swaying from side to side, with stops called out and doors swishing open and shut.

I must say, I really enjoyed the whole adventure. And I will never look down on the bus experience again. It’s fun to be mature about this stuff, and of course there is nothing like the song that ran through my adult head, “The wheels of the bus go round and round, round and round….” I really did fit in, without a doubt.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.