I could hear the bus braking from down the street, with its distinctive whoosh. It was approaching the stop sign, just across the intersection from the bus stop, and I was still over half a block away. Adrenaline surged in preparation for a mad dash to the corner – or at least close enough to the corner to be able to catch the driver’s eye. It was an instinctive reaction, but no longer necessary. I was not on my way to the bus stop.
For five years I rode the CT Transit bus system downtown to work. I saw it as a way to avoid the hassles and expense of driving to work every day, and doing my little part to reduce the number of cars on the road. Even though it took longer than driving myself, it was nice to just be a passenger and enjoy the ride.
People generally rode the same bus every day and sat in the same areas on the bus. Mornings were more crowded, but consistently quieter as the riders kept to themselves and presumably reflected on the upcoming day. Small conversations broke out here and there but were generally at low volumes and confined to a seat or two. Standing-room-only buses and basically empty buses were always the quietest, with the most interaction on buses that were about half full.
One of the best benefits of riding the bus was having the opportunity to meet fellow commuters. I had ten opportunities per week to interact with folks and developed a whole network of “bus friends” that I would otherwise have never met. At first we would just say hello and cover the polite conversation staples like current events, sports or the previous night’s TV shows. But over time you get to know people and begin to learn more about them. Like their name, their job and in some cases their family.
I still ride the bus downtown periodically to meetings and events. It’s great to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while and share stories about what’s going on in my life. But it’s just not the same without riding regularly – I’m out of the loop. Even in today’s world of digital connectedness, I can’t help but feel that I am missing the bus.