In the country that fell in love with the automobile, public transport systems serve a cross-section of the population. The very old sidle in next to the very young, the homeless make room for the former drunk drivers, and the environmentally conscious shove a bun for the mentally unstable. From childhood, it is generally understood that the rowdies own the back of the bus, while the dorks sit up front anxiously pestering the driver.
- IMAGE BY ANNA WELTNER
- PSYCHADELIC BUS TRIP:
“While running to catch the bus the next day I tripped and fell tooth first into the ground and broke my toe.” Now, said Cole, “I take the bus and drive with a lot more caution.”
Marketing consultant Michael Soon Lee considers driving one of the biggest time-wasters ever invented. Lee claims to know the bus-riding demographic well. On the Greyhound bus, he said, “you're more likely to run into the drunks and the mentally questionable, which always make the trip an adventure.” On long trips, Lee said, “I take public transit probably more than any other professional because I'm fanatical about it.” His wife fears for his life when he boards the bus (particularly Greyhound, where “everyone’s talking about their parole officer, or the latest tattoo they’ve gotten”). But Lee, author of Cross Cultural Selling for Dummies, believes that success comes by doing what others are not willing to do. His method has served him well: Lee has written no fewer than eight books while aboard buses, trains, and airplanes. Conversely, on car rides, he explained, “life goes by your windshield.”
Having heard tell that that employees who work in San Luis Obispo’s downtown district are eligible for a free SLO Transit Gold Pass, New Times did a bit of digging, and proved this myth to indeed be fact. (The pass can be obtained from the Department of Public Works and Transportation, and must be renewed monthly.)
Gold Pass clutched triumphantly in hand, this reporter decided to take a little joyride on the town, in order to create this fail-proof guide to public transportation use:
First, get on. Then pay the fare, unless you work downtown. Choose a seat. You have not chosen wisely, but you do not know this yet. The vacant seat beside you is soon filled by a young woman who just happens to be fresh out of the slammer and is calling everyone she knows.
Though your precious Gold Pass doesn’t apply to the RTA, you reason that the RTA may be a better way to make bus friends. So you head to the bus stop and wait for RTA’s route 12. Suddenly, you see the 12 puffing up to the stop, pausing there as if to catch a breath, then careening around the corner and out of sight! Bolt after it, pointy footwear notwithstanding! Don’t let it get away! A young man from the bus stop chases after it too. In fact, he gets a bit farther than you do, but neither of you successfully flags the monstrosity down.
Begin walking back to the stop. Realize that another Route 12, in fact, a veritable carbon copy of the route 12 whose money you just gave a run for, is pulling up to the stop and admitting passengers through its doors. Exchange looks with the guy who just chased the other bus with you, whose name you will soon learn is Joseph. You’ve seen him around. Bolt back to the stop in time to board the 12A going north. Grudgingly pay the dollar twenty-five. (SLO Transit Gold Pass membership has gone to your head.)
Emboldened by your little jaunt, and having bonded in the shame of its pointlessness, you sit next to Joseph and inquire where he is going, and why? Home to sleep, he says, after pulling an all-nighter writing a paper addressing the question, “Are voters rational?” You both agree they’re not. You are now bus friends. ∆
Anna Weltner was a New Times intern. Send comments anywhere but firstname.lastname@example.org.