Let's face it: unless you live and work in the same building, commuting just about anywhere in the Capital District can be an exercise in cultivating patience. Using public transportation is no exception and, like driving, has its own colorful variety of stresses and pleasures.
I get around almost exclusively by public transportation, which has its own pleasures and challenges: from the people you meet (awesome to...less awesome), near death experiences, simple (and not so simple) kindnesses, and the zen of commuting.
Buses are great in the snow
Most winters, this is an important thing to remember. You, as a rider, don't have to shovel them out or warm them up. They're super safe, and the heat is blasting as soon as you step inside. Best of all they're usually still on time.
Emergency windows can create emergencies
This is especially important to know when the bus takes a sharp turn and the window you're sitting against flies open. You'll want to send 'Thank You' notes to the people who grab your shirt and pull you back inside the bus, but you never got a chance to catch their names while you were busy praying to Jesus (and Buddha and Allah and Mercury, the Roman God of Public Transportation. Whoever's listening.)
You may wind up as a human hamburger on a grill of regret
Say, if some guy carrying a collapsible metal shopping cart falls on top of you. Oh, and he happens to be Four-Loko-drunk at 7:45 am. And asking him if he's alright will only lead to your getting a hearty cursing out. There will be spit.
The driver may surprise you with personalized service
Like when you ring the bell at Dove Street and he cheerfully calls out, "Next stop...HOME!"
The driver may surprise someone else
For example: with the gift of a change card or day pass that's been left behind. The happy customer will then help a woman overwhelmed by bags, and seeing them both smile will make your day.
Murphy's Law of Transfers
This nearly always applies when it comes to making transfers, and you can spend a lot of time shaking your fist as the bus you're hoping to board pulls away. You know there's another one coming in fifteen minutes, but still. *shakes fist*
Check that seat before you sit
This. Is. Essential. Trust that you don't want to spend an entire evening coaxing the world's largest smear of gum out of a wool coat.
Sometimes you meet people who are awesome
Like a friendly young couple just starting out their lives in Albany together. They have a rosy-cheeked infant and the equally cute dad will say things like, "Having her has changed my life," and, "I want to give her everything." You will tear up and blame it on the bus fumes.
Sometimes you meet people who are... less awesome
Like the recently paroled gentleman giving a terrifying lecture on life behind bars to two blinking and speechless high school students. The bus driver will ask him, over the loud speaker, if he wouldn't mind watching his potty mouth, but it will have no effect. You will be even more frightened of prison than you were before.
For me, the bus has become the absolute best setting for meditating and getting centered. Travel time becomes a buffer on either end of your workday, with time to gear up and time to wind down. It's also an appropriate metaphor for serenity in general: there isn't much about the bus experience over which you have power. You can't control when it arrives, how fast it goes, or when it gets where it's going. But on the flip side, you also don't have to worry about what anyone else on the road is doing.
So grab a clean seat far away from those unpredictable emergency windows, then sit back and enjoy the ride.
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