Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bus World

November 8, 2011

What makes travel exciting is that you chose to put yourself in a strange and different place. You see and experience a new world, sometimes more uncomfortable or seemingly more exotic than the place you call home. Of course for those who call your destination home, you are the strange and exotic person. For them, your discoveries are their everyday drudgery.

I am discovering a new world to explore. It is as strange and as foreign to me as any of the several places on this earth I have been fortunate to visit. It is the world that exists on the public bus.

Now for many of my ilk and my children, taking the metro in Beijing is more exciting and certainly not as frightening as taking the bus downtown. The choice is clear. Your shiny, protected, comfortable bubble wins out every time. But imagine what may happen if you chose to take the bus. What adventures may be in store for you? Here is my entry for today.

The rush hour bus is nearly full when I get on and search for a place to sit. There is a backpack next to a young chocolat-skinned seemingly immigrant girl sitting next to the window. I ask her if she would would move it so I could sit down. She does. As the bus empties, she crawls over me to sit on a jump seat in front of me with her backpack on her lap.

The young African-American man in the seat behind me is on his cellphone trying to tell people at an insurance company his new Minneapolis address. He has recently moved from Springfield, Illinois. He has to make three calls before he gets to a person who can make the changes so he can be reimbursed for medical expenses incurred in Springfield. He slowly spells his name, making fun of the fact that his parents named him Galvin, rather than Calvin, a source of much confusion as to who he is. He goes on to spell his street, but when it comes to spelling Minneapolis, both parties are stumped. He asks another older passenger if there is an abbreviation. The passenger says, MPLS. I am sure no one outside of Minneapolis and probably only a few who live here have ever heard of that abbreviation. The young man then calls a friend and tells him, he soon should get a check and pay him the owed money. I hope he gets his check. Thank goodness he gives the zip code.

There is a well-dressed Middle Eastern couple asking other passengers if this is the stop for Fairview Hospital (There are several throughout the metro area). They don't know. The stop is at the center of the University of Minnesota campus. As the bus disgorges most of its passengers, the confused couple rushes off the bus with the crowd and ends up standing alone on the sidewalk not knowing where they are. They remind me of similar incidents during my travels as I find myself standing alone, not knowing where I am or who to turn for directions.

As I walk out of the office building in St Paul, I see the bus I want pull away. An elderly out-of-town couple stops me in their car to ask for directions to the University of Minnesota Hospital. They are miles from the hospital and have been lost for over an hour. Their MapQuest printout is only for the neighborhood around the hospital. I say I am happy to show them the way and hop in their car. Just before they are to turn off to the hospital, I hop out of the car, just in time to catch the same bus I missed miles back.

The bus driver asks those who pass their wallets over the bus electronic fare meter without hearing its responding beep to show him their pre-paid bus card. Puzzled, he explains the electronic meter is broken and he wants to see the card, those riders not being charged. Each person hurriedly fumbles to show their card while others wait impatiently in line wondering about the delay. A girl with cornrows similar to the style and dressed like the girls in Senegal, sits down behind me. Just before departing, the young bus driver turns in his seat to the rear of the bus and light-heartedly calls out, "You showed me your company ID card instead of your bus card. I now know where you work". I have no idea she understood what he said, whether it is the driver's attempt at a joke, or more. She makes not a sound. He closes the door and off we go.

A tall, big man with Eastern European features struggles to get on with two heavy plastic bags dangling around his neck, pulling a suitcase, and carrying a stuffed garment bag and some other clothes, including a new pair of large, shiny black, three inch elevator shoes. He unwraps himself of his load as he searches his pockets for the fare. He continues standing next to what appears to be his worldly possessions. At his stop, he puts the plastic bags around his neck, gathers his luggage, and leaves. The young petite Asian girl next to me looks at him and then at me. We laugh about why would a 6'4" man need elevator shoes. I remark to her that he probably has quite a story to tell. But after the girl gets off the bus, I wonder about her story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday to you
Wolfgang Mauritz