Riding the bus is Awesome.
When I first started taking the bus though I had mixed feelings.
When it came to the Metro, I had only the horror stories that others had shared and these tales had prevented me from going anywhere near public transportation. I’ve ridden metro for 6 months now and while the bus system has it’s challenges, I can say with certainty that it is worth a ride.
There is a communal dimension to bus riding that car drivers miss out on. Taking the metro is an opportunity to engage in someone else’s story. It’s a chance to make a new friend. Uttering something as simple as, “hey how are you?” to the passenger next to you can spark some fantastic conversations.
There is a societal shunning of the metro system in Southern California that prevents others from delighting in this public treat. There are few fronts on which this occurs.
On one front, people worry about the homeless population that takes the transit. Homelessness is often associated with mental illness so I think people shy away from public transportation because of the danger of “unstable people.” I can’t really blame someone for doing this because I’ve acted on a similar impulse before. Just hear me out! The more I take the bus, the more that I start to see the insufficiency of this belief. Homelessness isn’t properly explained by the rationale that the homeless are inherently off in their nature. In fact, a lot of homeless people on the transit are surprisingly self aware. They can tell you who they are, how they ended up where they are, and even offer up an opinion or two as to why they are that way…and that is something.
I’ll never forget when I realized how deep of an issue this was. This one day came where I recognized a schizophrenic lady who came on the bus. I knew she was homeless because others had told me that she lost her job a while ago and was struggling. So it was no surprise that when she started mumbling as she entered I, along with others on the bus, averted our gazes. Oddly enough, the bus driver called out her name and in a surprising moment, she and the bus driver had a friendly exchange until the next bus stop. It was like that one acknowledgement from the bus driver had temporarily suspended her schizophrenia. Following that, a few others on the bus greeted her as well….. And in that moment, I realized that I had an irrational fear toward someone who was harmless. The bus driver’s kind gesture had changed the whole atmosphere of the bus ride and made me realize that this woman was person just like me.
We fear people with mental illness because because mistake the stigma of mental illness for their actual reality. As off putting as it is to have someone shout randomly on the bus, this schizophrenic woman is harmless and is made in the image of God. We shouldn’t be quick to shun someone with a mental condition simply because it feels disheartening to our own condition. There are difficult people on the metro to be sure, but I’ve learned a lot from the regular commuters that a considerable majority of the homeless passengers are harmless.
Some people on the bus smell, some people yell for no apparent reason and on occasion, you are squished up next to a complete stranger who mumbles to themself. In a very real sense, the metro can be an uncomfortable experience. Most of the people on the metro though aren’t homeless and make great conversation partners if you’re willing to step out of your bubble. Heck, pretty soon, you’ll get to know some of the people on the bus and realize that the guy emitting the strange smell genuinely wants help and the woman mumbling to herself in the back really isn’t that threatening. Both are just in a bit of bind psychologically.
The Bus Schedule can be a drag
On another front, people don’t take the metro because driving car is much quicker. Usually, this is true. What is a twenty minute trip via car ride can take up to an Hour and a half on the bus. This of course, all depends on the routes available at the time of your departure and the traffic that day etc. Still even on the best day, the bus takes a while and that is a drag. Alongside this, the metro route map also takes some getting used to. However, with patience it can be learned and once you learn it, the metro is great! Plus, the metro buses in LA have wifi so you can do work while you endure the long ride. To be productive, I do all the work that can be done on my laptop on the bus so that I don’t have to worry about it when I get home. If you don’t mind a few bumps here and there while typing, then the bus is a good way to manage your time.
The Metro Can Be Cost Effective
If you order a Tap card or a monthly pass then fare can be quite inexpensive when taking the bus. If you’re traveling long distance like let’s say from LA to San Diego, then you can make the trip for a mere $6.50 on the MetroLink train — which is pretty good! In addition to that, the metro in Orange County and LA have great deals on monthly passes that save you a ton of money.
While it has its ups and downs, the transit system takes a lot of people too and from work. When it boils down to it, commuter life has taken me into it’s ranks and I kind of dig it.