I like almost everything about riding city buses. I like the view of the city streets, not as intimate as walking but affording a lot more contemplation than the view from behind a car’s steering wheel. I notice something new each time. I like the deceptive sense of objectivity that’s created by a pane of glass and a few yards’ distance, and the paradoxical intimacy that’s created among the riders, who don’t know each other’s names nor, often, even speak the same language.
Although a car can usually get me there faster (emphatically not counting the time it then takes me to find a parking spot), I like the imposed wait time of the bus stop and the excuse it gives me to do a little reading or knitting. Sometimes I like chatting with the other people who are waiting for the bus.
I like the range of people I share the bus with and the easy way we fall into conversation when so inclined, especially when I have a small child along. I like the education she gets just riding to and from school. I like it that I can hold her on my lap, play I Spy, fix her hair, talk with her face to face, all while getting where we need to go. I like looking at the other people’s clothes and hairstyles, noticing the regulars, knowing I’m a regular to them and that they know almost nothing about me. I like wondering what they do on either end of this route.
I like being able to listen to other people’s conversations with no qualms, since anyone who is talking in such a public place is unconcerned with privacy. (One exception: that couple across from me one time who were speaking to each other in low voices but clearly having an intense argument. I didn’t try to make out what they were saying, but instead pondered what about their body language made their antagonism obvious.) When the conversations are in English, I can listen to the stories and imagine what’s behind them; when they’re in Spanish, I can practice following Spanish; when they’re in Chinese, I can try to guess the kinds of things they are saying based on the expression and tone. One half of a cell phone conversation is often more interesting than hearing both speakers. You get that opportunity often on the bus.
In fact, I like just about everything about riding the bus except the bit about being in a moving bus. Only a small boat on a choppy sea has the same power to make me whimper for a Dramamine. If only the stop and start, accelerate and turn, climb and plummet didn’t turn me green, I could ride the bus all day.