Adventures in Mass Transit

31 Jan
Because of car problems, two weeks ago I began taking the bus to work. Despite the inconvenience of not having a functional car, I feel real pleasure in knowing that I am doing my part for the environment.

On my first day back in the mass transit groove, the bus is late. It finally arrives and as soon as I get on I can tell this driver is going to be trouble.

“So, did you watch the game yesterday?” she asks in a voice that can only be described as “chipper.”
I am of the belief that chipper is for chipper/shredders, not for human beings.
I am a morning person. Shoot me, but I am. Still, I don’t want to make small talk with strangers in the morning and I sure as heck don’t want to talk about a subject I know nothing about whether it is the gross domestic product of East Timor or, as in this situation, “the game.”

“No,” came my miserable reply.

Not content to leave well enough alone, the bus driver responds as if I had just confessed that I have learned to move about my day without breathing oxygen:
“No?!”
She just can’t believe her ears!

From my vantage point, I can see there is a little sign admonishing the bus driver not to talk on a cell phone while driving.

There is no little sign warning the driver not to eat grits while driving which may explain why my bus driver is, indeed, going ahead and having herself some grits while she is manipulating that big steering wheel.
The little bowl has a Krystal logo on it. Uh huh.

That would explain why the bus was late. The game obsessed blond lady made a stop at the Krystal before swinging the bus back toward town and my stop. Service at Krystal is abominable, but I guess when a gal needs her grits things like adhering to an established and widely published bus schedule just goes right out the window.

At the next stop, as the grits lady slows down to admit an older gentleman decked out in attire celebrating the Florida Gators, she says, “I bet he watched the game!”
The man navigates the bus steps carefully, as he is walking with a cane. He is wearing a cap with a cross on it that reads “From the Manger to the Cross.”
He is also wearing an iPod, so he does not hear her when she says, “Did you watch the game?” He sits down without acknowledging the driver’s query and opens up a book entitled “Strengthening the Inner Man.”

The driver’s desperate need to talk about this “game” as she calls it, is getting a little sad.

“Someone please talk to this woman about the game!” I scream silently, but no one seems to hear.

It is a silent scream, after all.
At the next intersection the bus driver tosses the empty little Styrofoam grits bowl into the trash receptacle next to the fare box, stops the bus and asks out loud,
“Do I turn here?”
“I don’t know,” I reply. “I have never ridden this bus before.”

I am sure by now she must think me a total waste of human flesh:
Didn’t watch the game.
Doesn’t know the bus route!
Why doesn’t this guy just die?

A woman with a foreign accent pipes up, “Next corner. Turn at the next corner.”

It is about this time a curious phenomenon begins. The bus is apparently rigged with some sort of talking GPS unit, so that a prerecorded announcement plays when the bus is reaching certain destination points.
“Now approaching San Marco and Mary Street,” a cheerful woman’s voice announces. The only problem is, we are by no stretch of the imagination at that particular intersection. We have miles to go before that will happen.

While she is driving, the driver who can find no one to discuss football with her, continues to study a typewritten page of what I can only assume are directions for this bus route.

“Now approaching Rosa L. Parks FCCJ Station,” says the cheerful GPS voice, erroneously announcing the end of the line. Fortunately none of the passengers are listening, or someone might have tried to get off and change buses in the middle of the onramp to 95.

Bus riding: Day 2
This morning the bus driver is an African American male. He looks a little sullen and that is a good thing because sullen people rarely try to make conversation.
Oddly, I notice that every time the bus makes a left turn, the horn gives out a little blast.
The canned announcements regarding upcoming destination points is apparently disabled.
Maybe someone figured out the disembodied voices were hopelessly lost and merely confusing the passengers and therefore no help at all.
However, just before the turn that would take me to my stop, while the bus waits at a red light, the disembodied voices begin speaking again. This time they aren’t giving false geographical information. Instead it is like a little radio skit with appropriate bus behavior as the theme.
“Hey, you can’t open that here.”
*Sound of soda can being opened.*
“What? Why not?”
“There’s no eating, drinking or smoking allowed on JTA.”
Quickly, it goes into a second scenario:
“Hey, stop disrespecting us with your foul language!”
“What? I’m sorry. I didn’t know I was offending anyone.”
“You know there’s no swearing allowed JTA.”

Are you f*ing kidding me?

If they are going to do radio plays, I’d like it better if they offered something with a little more zip to it.
How about something like:
“Hey! You can’t smoke that here!”
“What the f*k?!”
“You know there’s no crack, meth or pot smoking allowed on JTA—Wait! What are you doing? You know there’s no knives or guns allowed on JTA!”
BANG! BANG!
*Sound of crack pipe being lit followed by the sound of someone exhaling*
Now that’s good radio theater.
Bus Riding: Day 3
There is a woman situated in the sideways seat across from me. She puts on glasses, pulls a small Bible from her purse, squinches up her mouth in a dead on imitation of Ernestine the Operator, and peruses the tiny Bible. I expect at any moment she will start snorting and reading aloud from the Bible, “Gracious hello…For God so loved the world (snort, snort!)”
Bus Riding: Day 4
Oh my God, there is a genuine gypsy woman on this bus. I know it is not politically correct to call people gypsies, but I swear she looks like she stepped out of a Wolf Man movie, except she is carrying a chartreuse purse. I bet there’s wolf bane in that purse.

I glance around and take in my fellow bus riders. None of them looks very happy.

There’s the ruggedly attractive man with the tattoo of a snake wrapping around his right arm. He has tattooed barbed wire wrapped around his neck and has a teardrop tattooed at the corner of his right eye.
What must life have thrown your way to make you decide that you require a permanent teardrop placed on your face?
On his left ring finger there is a tattoo of a black widow spider. Makes you contemplate what this fellow thinks about the institution of marriage…
This tattooed guy, who is wearing a “Git Er Done” cap and a scowl, doesn’t look like he is happy to be riding the bus at all. I doubt the environment figured into his decision to take mass transit. Not even a little bit. I think maybe his pickup truck is broken down, or maybe he has a DUI and a suspended license…I am almost certain he never saw “An Inconvenient Truth” nor would he be caught dead driving a Prius.

The gypsy woman doesn’t look happy either. In fact, she looks like she might be planning to put a curse on someone any minute now. She clutches her purse and frowns.

Even Ernestine the Operator, engrossed in the Holy Bible, looks a little miserable.

I am getting the impression that the gypsy lady’s purse is the greenest thing about this bus ride—and it is chartreuse. I am pretty sure all of my fellow mass transit riders are on the bus, not to save the planet, but because they have no other choice.

I am pretty sure I’ll keep riding the bus even when I get a new set of wheels.

It’s the green thing to do. Maybe I’ll even start riding my bike to work…

My love for the planet swells in my heart…

Then my mind wanders, as it always does.

I notice an advertisement above the tattooed man’s head:
“Using a condom is something everyone can live with” and there are two men pictured in the ad.

Are you allowed to consider the possibility of man on man sex while riding JTA?

“Now approaching…” The disembodied voices are back and they are no longer lost.

This is my stop…

5 Responses to “Adventures in Mass Transit”

  1. Tsquared February 1, 2010 at 7:55 am #

    Yup. You definitely are in Florida. 🙂

  2. Deb February 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    I'm pretty sure you are allowed to think anything you want while you're enjoying mass transit, but I don't think saying them outloud would be a good idea. Kind of makes me wonder if you've looped and are on your own little episode of LOST…becareful!

  3. catzenspace November 29, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    Reblogged this on Cat Zen Space and commented:

    Our local transit system is going to make some radical changes as of December 1, 2014. So I felt the urge to go back and reread this blog from a few years ago.

  4. Pamela N Red December 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    The adventures of riding the bus. There’s a great book called Riding The Bus With My Sister about a journalist that rides the bus with her sister that has Down’s Syndrome. It’s a great book. You do meet some interesting characters on mass transit.

  5. Terri Crane December 7, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Good thing you didn’t get into an altercation with the man with the teardrop tattooed on his face! In prison you get one teardrop tattoo for every person you killed!

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