Thursday, March 31, 2011

Too Old For This Ride

Today I want to talk about an old nemesis of mine: public transportation.  I have a job whose location requires me to travel via transit for at least an hour and a half every working day.  Though I love my job and wouldn't give it up for a quicker commute, the bus has been grating on me lately and I must get this frustration off my chest.

Let me begin what is essentially going to turn into a rant on a positive note.  I do understand that many people take the bus as a gesture of environmentalism or for lack of a designated driver.  My hat's off to you.  Also, one can argue that the transit service in my community is extremely reliable in comparison to public transportation elsewhere, with buses arriving pretty much on schedule.  I can attest to the fact that whenever it snows in my temperate community, I always arrive on time for work, whereas my four-by-four driving colleagues hunkered down and waited for the snowplows.  With few exceptions, transit drivers are also polite, compassionate and take constant abuse.  They are often called upon to handle uncomfortable situations and will usually slow down if they see me running down the street like a half-crazed lunatic.

The part about riding the bus that I hate is the other passengers.  For me, the morning starts off okay because the only other people on the bus are working people like me.  Mostly people going to office jobs and/or tradespeople heading to their respective sites.  Everyone is tired, their noses stuck in a book, or sipping quietly on their coffee trying to wake up.  Nobody tries to strike up a conversation, and passengers maintain a comfortable level of personal space.  Unfortunately it all goes downhill at the start of my evening commute. At the end of the day I lose patience with the lack of boundaries people have within public space.  I don't want to sound old-fashioned, but there are some activities and conversations that are meant to be done behind closed doors.  

Today I couldn't help but overhear (she was talking very loudly) a woman talking about how her diabetes medication caused a tear in her bowel.  In what context is it socially acceptable to talk frankly about bowel movements to complete strangers who you happened to strike up a conversation with?  The same goes for loud cellphone conversations about sexual escapades and/or lover's quarrels.  It brings out the intervener in me which is difficult to suppress.  I feel like today's society has lost the privacy (or religious shame) of our forefathers and we need a politeness movement.  The bus forces me to confront how uncomfortable it makes me to sit thigh to thigh with strangers or when the bus lurches forward, pitching me into another person.  Physical closeness with people not of my choosing is one thing, but the questionable hygiene of some of the patrons is another issue altogether.  On a number of occasions I have quietly sat beside men who hadn't bathed in about a week or so, their stink causing me to ponder fleeing the comfort of my seat.  Men who reek are one thing, but the one that always takes the cake in my mind is the woman who cut her fingernails covertly while sitting a few seat ahead of me.  She didn't just manicure a broken nail, she went to town and left her clippings on the floor.  

I suppose it is the confessional nature of our society which has infringed upon my private space too many times.  With talk shows and reality shows abound, people seem to want to air their dirty laundry publicly and the bus is just another forum.  I will not take the bus forever, in fact, I am learning how to drive and will somehow finance a vehicle.  I am tantalizingly close to my goal of a license and will soon have to find something else to complain about besides the crush of humanity that awaits me every time that door opens.      

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