Sunday, March 07, 2004

Riding Public Transit

I often get around by bus. Sometimes I have use of my husband's car (something I must state or he'll get mad if I pretend I don't have a car, because he pays for it), but when I go to work or travel about during the day, public transit provides my chauffeur.

I've used public transit ever since I moved here to Portland, but six years ago I really began to depend on it. At first I felt some resistance, feeling like it took time away from my day, especially when I got a promotion that took me further away from home. After around six months though, I realized that I enjoyed my time on the bus. Sometimes I would just sit, not exactly the sort of meditation I was used to, but a meditation more connected with the world. Sometimes I would read. Sometimes I would listen to music. I relaxed, and realized that I literally did not have to worry about watching the road, unless I wanted to look at the interesting signs and buildings along the way. So while it might take me an hour to get somewhere, and with a car it would take fifteen minutes, I don't mind because that time is for me. No chores, no work, no stressful road-watching, no frustration at red lights (although there is frustration at just-missed buses).

Another thing I enjoy about taking the bus is the connection it gives me to other people that I might not otherwise ever rub elbows with. I know many people don't like it for that reason. I share my ride with homeless, drunks, students, skater boys, single moms with their kids, commuters like me, people fresh out of prison, dredlocked new hippies, blind people with their dogs, people in wheelchairs, people with all colors of hair, people with all possible shades of skin, goths, anarchists, liberals, conservatives. (Not many suburbanites, not on my usual routes.) Well yeah, I do rub elbows with all these folks at my job at the library, but there I provide a service. Here I am just one of them, and sometimes we make connections.

Sometimes it's on the way to a peace rally. We're carrying signs. It's a reason to start up a conversation. Sometimes conversations happen at the bus stop. This morning a man attempted to start a conversation with me, I wasn't quite ready or awake enough for that so I brushed him off. I especially wasn't ready to deal with first his request for change, and second, his question if I was on my way to church. When I said kinda...Buddhist temple actually, he wanted to talk some more. D'oh! Actually, I usually might talk some more with a person about going to a Buddhist temple, even if they might proselytize at me. In this case I was about to go meditate, and I wanted to be quiet.

On the other hand, when I was on my way home late this afternoon, I had a lovely conversation with a young man still in high school. Again, he started it, remarking on the warm weather and how he'd missed it, having to work inside all day. He asked if I'd been able to enjoy it. I told him I'd been in and out, that I'm a Big Sister and I had taken my Little Sister to the mall to ice skate. The conversation moved on, he told me about his lame experience with a Big Brother when he was a little kid, how the man had taken the boy to his house and flopped in front of the TV while the kid played pool. I was shocked, since in my experience the whole point of being a Big Sister or Brother is to interact with the kid. He was curious if we got anything for doing this, because he could never figure out why this guy was a Big Brother, since he didn't do anything. I told him at most we sometimes get free tickets such as for Blazers games (which I would avoid like the plague) but I did take free tickets to a Portland Hockey game, which of course led to this ice skating outing. (It was her first time skating and she did great!) I admitted I didn't skate, as I haven't since I was a kid and I was too afraid I'll break my glasses and an ankle. We got on the bus, and as often happens then, our conversation ended. I did thank him for a nice conversation, and opened my book that I'd set aside, choosing to read on my ride home.

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