No One Ever Looks Happy at the Bus Stop

Columnist Bob Deakin looks into public transportation and its effect on people.

Driving down the road the other day I passed a bus stop with four people waiting, craning their necks looking up the road to see the bus on its way. They each had angst written on their faces and did not look like they wanted to be there. Just then I thought to myself; “have I ever seen anyone smile at a bus stop?”

The answer was no, and I didn't feel good for having the thought but I knew I was right. Why don't people look happy at bus stops? I realize they don't have a ride to where they want to go or perhaps are unable to drive. It happens to everyone at one time or another and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

I took the bus a few months ago when my car was being repaired and the ride itself was interesting. It was nice to be able to do some reading and organizing while on the road and there was a certain freedom in not having a car once I was at my destination. It was also pretty cheap, just over a dollar for a ride all the way across town.

There were a lot of stops though. Stands to reason, of course, as it's a vehicle for hundreds of people, all going to different places at different times. It wasn't as bad as the Metro-North train to and from New York City though, regarding the stops. On the train it seems to take hours between stops and it's a lot more long-term for everyone involved. They're carrying more stuff, have bigger plans and they can't just hop off and on like with the bus.

It seems a bit quieter on the bus too. People typically travel alone or with only a companion or two at the most. The critically important cell phone calls that everyone needs to make every ten minutes of their lives aren't quite as prevalent either as quarters are tighter, the ride is shorter and riders don't get as comfortable as they do on the train. I didn't strike up a conversation with anyone on the bus. Since they all looked so unhappy at the stops I didn't want to bother them or make their days any worse than they already were.

One thing that was fun was the electronic sign at the front of the bus, inside, announcing the coming destination with a little ping sound and the sign blinking as the bus slowed to a stop. It seemed an awful lot of resources to announce the arrival of CVS. It would have been a lot more fun and personal if the bus driver had announced it, especially if he had a real thick New York accent like they do on Metro-North. It was equally amusing when the bus was arriving - those at the stop see “Good Afternoon” on the electronic sign on the outside of the bus. It was all so friendly yet so impersonal.

Following my sojourn into public transportation I realized that the wait at the bus stop was pretty uncomfortable considering sitting or standing at the side of the road in front of hundreds of passing cars. It's also awkward waiting with a total stranger who appears to be very unhappy. Add some cold or rainy weather and that creates added gloom in an awkward place. Now that I think of it, I probably wasn't smiling either.

If it's economical travel you're looking for, taking the bus isn't so bad after all.

The waiting is the hardest part.


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