Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Where does this bus go?

"Where does this bus go?"
"Where do you want to go?"

If I know my readership, most of you have had that conversation. You're in a strange town, or a strange part of your own town. There's something about that bus that looks intriguing. Maybe it doesn't have a sign on it, but there's a long line of interesting-looking people getting on. Maybe it's got different markings, or it's pointing in an interesting direction. Maybe it's just the first bus that's come along in a while.

You're imagining taking that bus - where? Through a bustling neighborhood filled with an immigrant population you had no idea existed - the Finnish slum in Tegucigalpa, maybe. Past a dramatic waterfall or through the shadow of a nuclear power plant. Down a lush boulevard lined with Victorian mansions. To a trailhead in the foothills, or the best working-class takeout, or a great concert. Or maybe it connects to the end of the new subway, or the old trolley line. But you have no idea, really. You just see the bus, full of possibility.

You can probably picture the look on the driver's face. Where does this bus go? What kind of question is that? It goes home. It goes to work. It goes to the mall. It goes to the park-and-ride. You obviously don't have a car in the park-and-ride. Are you going home, or to work? Do you really want to shop in that mall? Why? Don't they have malls where you come from?

Why don't you take a taxi? You can afford it, and a taxi driver will take you right where you're going, wherever that is. Or a tour bus? All the other tourists take the tour bus. It'll take you past the Ancient Wonder and the Modern Marvel and even make a stop at the Mega-Event. There's even a tour bus that goes to the new mall where the rich people shop. It's much better than the one this bus goes to. It has a Cinnabon and a Lush and an Armani Exchange.

But mostly, it's going to bring people home. And that includes the ten other people waiting to get on the bus, grab their seats and snooze all the way home. You're holding the driver up; a couple more minutes and the bus will be officially Late, and the driver will have to floor it on the straightaway to make up time.

So make up your mind. Are you on or off?


C.P. Norris said...

Ha, not me, I'm too self-conscious.

I memorize every piece of information I can find about the bus from the Internets and guidebooks, then I try to board like I've done it every day of my life. If anything goes wrong, I back out and go cry in a McDonald's.

Anonymous said...

I'm on.

I'm sure you could do it with buses too, but if you ever need to kill a day in Seoul, South Korea, just pick a random subway stop, get off, and walk around... no matter where you end up, it'll be interesting.

Allie Cat said...

I'm on, always. I've gotten on the wrong bus many a time, but I've never regretted it.

JayinPhiladelphia said...

Ha. Not quite the experience you describe above, but there was an incident a few days ago where I should have asked that question (or at least, should have asked which bus number it was!).

At 3rd & Arch in Center City, I was waiting for the 5 bus home. Two buses stop at this particular stop. The 48 (which almost always runs articulated buses, and which I often use to get out to Fairmount and a few other locations), and the 5, which runs up to Kensington, where I live, and beyond.

I saw a plain ole' 40-foot New Flyer pulling up, and its destination sign wasn't working. I just assumed it was the 5, so I hopped on it.

Oops. Turned out to be one of the rare, non-articulated 48s. Feeling embarrassed (I pride myself on my expertise of the SEPTA system!), I ended up riding it for like 10 blocks, then hopping off and taking the subway right back to 2nd Street to try to catch another 5.

Clearly, sometimes it ain't only tourists that need to ask this question!

The Amateur Transporter said...

Just had this experience in Yonkers. The schedule on the bus stop said, "#1 to Dobbs Ferry", but the buses all said that they did not go that far. Waited about 45 minutes and gave up.

fwiw, the bus drivers also lacked accurate information.