I don’t remember exactly when I took my first ride on a city bus.Â I do know I was in grade school at the time, and it’s just about 100% guaranteed that neither of my parents was with me.
My parents came from a society (bedroom communities of New York City) where men of substance rode public transit every day.Â There was no social snobbery aimed at men whose wives dropped them off at the train station for their daily commute, nor those who rode the subway to their upper-crust office destinations.
However, despite my parents’ everyone-who-is-anyone-in-NYC pretensions, we didn’t live there.Â We lived in central Virginia.Â And in central Virginia, riding the bus was for, you know, THOSE people.Â Even though there was a bus stop a block away, and a frequently-arriving bus that would transport him to a stop directly across from the front gate of the college where he taught, I can pretty much guarantee that the notion of riding that bus never once crossed my father’s mind.Â Ever.Â (If the car was out of order he’d get a ride with a colleague.)
Each morning, he’d pile us kids in the car, drop us off at school, and go merrily on his way to work, where he would park and leave the car for the rest of the day.Â That’s what men did.Â The fact that my mother therefore had no transportation didn’t enter into it, nor did the fact that we kids had to walk home from school, every day, regardless of the weather.Â (No, this isn’t one of those “uphill both ways barefoot in the snow” stories–most of the time, we didn’t mind walking that mile.)Â Needless to say, the idea of taking a bus anywhere didn’t occur to my mother, either.
However, I had no problem with it.Â If I could wheedle the money out of a parent, I could go all kinds of places.Â Two bucks would finance a trip to the movies downtown, plus drinks and popcorn, for my oldest brother and me, and my mom started trusting me to manage that destination when I was nine or ten.Â I got myself to school and back on the bus after I transferred out of the mile-away elementary school.
To be honest, I liked riding the bus then, and I like riding the bus now.Â Granted, I don’t ride it anywhere near as often any more–public transit in Los Angeles sucks, and getting to most useful destinations via the MTA can most charitably be described as slow.Â However, I take the local bus service to and from my class at the community college each week and I still feel the same about bus travel as I did as a kid.
There’s a great sense of equal community on the bus.Â Here we all are, from our different spheres, having one very important thing in common.Â We’re all on the bus.Â I have noticed that the old rules don’t seem to apply any more, though–in my youth, any kid who didn’t break land speed records getting up to offer his/her seat to an older person would be ordered to do so in no uncertain terms.Â Nowadays, I seem to be the only person who ever offers a seat to an older person, and for pity’s sake, I’m pushing 60 myself.
If you haven’t ridden a bus lately, give it a try.Â Pick someplace you can get to easily and go.Â You might be pleasantly surprised by the experience–if you can get some zoned-out kid to give you a seat.
photo credit: Xaragmata