On the Bus

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On hot days I crossed the street to wait for the bus so I wouldn’t sweat unnecessarily. I stayed on the sunny side in the winter months for the opposite reason.

It’s curious how we’ve come to schedule our natural body function of sweating. It’s an undesirable feeling and resulting smell so we don’t want to sweat most of the time, except at the gym – that’s our scheduled time for it. Any other time when the prickling of fresh perspiration tickles our underarm or coats our back with adhesive to make our shirts stick like wallpaper, well, we check our calendar and say, “This is not scheduled sweating time.” And we resolve to have a word with Logistics.

The truth is, the sun does a lot of talking on cold days and not a whole lot of action. It’s bright, sure, but deceptively so, almost making you colder as you realize that your warm expectations will not be met.

I usually wait ten minutes for my bus to arrive, relying on my do-it-yourself brand of wisdom: “Better early and shivering with hypothermic tremors than late and sorry.” TM.

My neck gets plenty of exercise craning to look down the street for the sight of the bus, lumbering along. So much relief I feel when its course is true, aiming for me, air brakes gasping as it slows to a shuddering stop. I’m ready with my pass in hand and a “good morning” on my lips.

I like my drivers. I used to think of the Bus Driver Stereotype as white-haired and geometrically spherical, with the perpetual scowl of a reluctant servant of public transportation. While that stereotype still persists, I’ve found gentler elderly drivers with optimism and kindness in their eyes, even if their driving makes me nauseous. They’re not the invisible automations that cabbies and airplane pilots are, not if you ride every day. Their face is always available in the mirror overhead, their expression open to all.

I’m sure people with their own cars might find bus travel to be low class and an unfortunate convention, like doing laundry at a laundromat. I’m sure these people appreciate the freedom they exercise in being able to drive anywhere, whenever they want, at whatever speed.

Me, I see the bus as something of a public chauffeur, a low grade luxury. Granted, if it’s a limousine it’s a noisy one, with its share of inconveniences, frequent stops and smells among them.

But I don’t have to watch the road as I go to school. I don’t have to obey traffic signs, the speed limit. All of that is being done for me. My hands are free to use a phone, eat a snack or do homework. I’d rather take a little longer to get somewhere if I know I can multitask while I’m en route. My bus time has become very important to me. In the mornings I say Tehillim for the day, and I have a chance to catch up on Tanya if I haven’t learned it yet. In the afternoons, I have Chumash scheduled. After a really long day, I can even afford a nap. Is the freedom of one’s own car worth exchanging for these small liberties?

The Bus

One thought on “On the Bus

  1. You make a valid point, and I think you will be surprised at the amount of people who have come to the same conclusion. I know several business people who, although they either option, opt to take the train to work instead of driving. Driving requires one to pay attention, using valuable energy and brain space while removing the opportunity for eating, learning, and communication, at least safely.
    However, I did hear of a 15 year old in California who wanted a Tesla Model S. He obviously couldn’t afford the $70,000- $120,000 car, so he started a premium taxi service utilizing two of them called TesLoop. The commute is between LA and San Francisco and he not only makes enough to cover the car payments, but makes a good living as well (I’m not sure who the drivers are). The coolest thing is (besides for the free electricity due to Tesla’s Supercharger network) that the drivers utilize Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous technology to do the bulk of the driving. This allows them to remain well rested and avoid fatigue.

    Tesla has been dropping hints about a release of a Level 4 l, fully-autonomous driving system. Stay tuned for announcements at the end of the year.


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