When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my cousin and I rode our first city bus. Ever.
My age here is important, because it does somewhat excuse my total lack of bus-riding know-how, including the somewhat relevant topic, “How and when to get off”.
I blame my cousin. She’s older. She should have known.
I can’t remember the details. That is, I don’t remember where we were when we got on the bus. I do know we were aiming for home, or at least within visual distance of home. It was a good plan. Get on the bus and go home.
We confidently strode up the steps, dropped our coins into the little drain thingy and swaggered to the seats at the very back, sitting as far from other people as possible and probably made fun of everyone else, giggling at them with that tweenager’s sense of superiority. We looked around every time someone got off and said to each other with an air of supreme omniscience, “Nope, don’t wanna get off here”.
And then we were suddenly alone, very late at night, travelling along poorly paved and rutted roads in totally alien territory, and the bus driver was telling us, shouting to us because we hadn’t moved from the very back, that in two stops we would reach the terminal and the bus would be parked until morning.
We knew we did not want to go to the terminal.
We knew we did not want to get off in the middle of nowhere, one stop away from the terminal.
We got off in the middle of nowhere, one stop away from the terminal.
Because we were stupid.
There was nothing recognizable in that pitch blackness lying beyond the single weak street lamp we were standing under. So we started walking, and eventually found a phone booth. Then it was a toss-up over whose parents to call.
There was a little bit of trouble about that.
But that’s not important.
What’s important is that today, more than 45 years later, I still have only that one bus-riding experience in my portfolio.
And today I’m taking a bus.
I have spent the last 2 and one-half hours (2 and ½ hours!) planning my route, memorizing times, bus-stop numbers and locations. I have google-mapped street views of both pick-up and drop-off areas, and snapped photos of these to my phone so I can reference them at will. I have counted out exactly $2.75 (what? $2.75?? I thought buses were, like, 25 cents) for my 12 minute ride from the corner of 24th Avenue and 172nd Street to the Semiahmoo Mall entrance, written down how many stops we will pass along the way, google-mapped how long it will take me to walk from my home to the bus stop and again street-viewing the walking route to make sure I don’t miss the entrance to the short-cut trail between blocks, and made a note of the next bus time in case I miss this one. I have agonized and deliberated and considered and compared and finally made my plan. I have also programmed a taxicab number into my phone’s emergency speed dial.
I’m ready to put to rest any lingering doubts and fears I have about public transit.
And I’m telling you all of this so you know I tried my very best to not be the subject of a Silver Alert tonight.