I worked for my alma mater college several years ago (and wrote about it here), and today I was thinking about the part that was my favorite or least favorite depending on the day you asked: the bus commute.
Every morning I woke up at 5 AM, boarded my first bus at 7:15, got off at a transfer stop in the city at 8:30, and boarded my second bus at 8:45 in order to get to work by 9. At night, I would try to catch a bus by 6 PM (getting home around 8) unless I was teaching and needed to stay until closer to 10:30 or 11. This was my usual schedule. Unless one of my buses was late, early, or never showed up.
Other than the obvious downside of less time at home with W, I actually loved the bus. Reading while moving makes me motion sick, so I spent the time listening to music and watching my surroundings inside and outside the bus. Most of the time, things were quiet and uneventful, but when they weren’t…boy, did I have some strange experiences.
My personal favorite might be the man who boarded the bus holding a baseball cap. A baseball cap full of KFC chicken. Of course, given the mostly empty bus, he sat right next to me and politely offered me some. I politely declined. We sat in the silence the rest of the trip. I wish I had had the nerve to ask certain questions. What happened to the bucket the chicken came in? Did he ask for the chicken to be put in the hat at the counter? Why? I’ll never have the answers. I am forever changed. There is only life before chicken hat, and life after chicken hat.
There are few things I enjoy more than people-watching and meeting interesting characters, but being approached in the dark at my transfer stop on the way home at night was not my favorite. Shout-out to the awesome old lady who helped me once when a very creepy man kept trying to get me to leave the bus stop with him. She asked if I knew him, then sat with me and told him to back off because I’m with her. She made sure I was okay and safely on my bus. Lady, I hope I turn out to be a badass grandma like you someday.
Waiting at my transfer stop when winter was at its coldest point isn’t something I’m eager to repeat either. My second bus was frequently late, and it never showed up at all more than once. One morning, it was -18 degrees with the wind chill, and when my second bus didn’t show, I broke down and cried while I paced up and down the street waiting. When I realized my tears had actually STARTING TO FREEZE ON MY FACE, I texted my boss something along the lines of “our world is a frozen tundra hellscape and i’m not coming in today because the universe said no.” He was very understanding (thanks, John), and I got on the next bus heading back home.
If you know me at all, you know that I love fall and winter more than most things, including but not limited to at least one of my cats. My commute almost made me hate winter, because I was always around so many commuters who absolutely hated winter. At one point, there was a screaming baby and a screaming kitten in a carrier on either side of me expressing in surround sound how the rest of us were feeling inside as the ice-covered bus inched through two feet of snow. Look up the word “trudge” in the dictionary, and you’ll see angry New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania commuters in action.
There was also the week when, somewhat unbelievably, I was accidentally flashed twice in one week. The back of a man’s sweatpants that were too big fell down while getting off the bus, and a few days later, another man’s sweatpants fell down all the way while falling on the steps getting onto the bus. More questions with no answers! Why was everyone having so many problems boarding and exiting buses? Why wasn’t anyone wearing underwear? Why was I always managing to sit in the perfect vantage point? Why, why, why?
My last Tale From the Bus for today is more of a direct message to very specific individuals. To the people who laughed at me at the bus stop that one time: two things! First, I didn’t see you walk up. That was very stealthy of you. Second, you were always welcome to join my Shake It Off dance party. There is room for all of us here in the Taylor Swift fandom.