Thursday, September 20, 2007

All through the town

Today's post is brought to you by the letter B and the number 545.

Ever since I went to London with my mom in 1996, I've had a fascination with public transportation. I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out how to use the Tube there, and that fascination extended to Seattle when I was in graduate school at UW, where I took the Metro bus every chance I got. When I was working for Deloitte in the Bay Area, I tried to use BART when it made sense, and when I visited Munich, Germany for work at Microsoft, I took the train there as well. (Its hip German name escapes me now - Schnellbahn or something like that.) That worked out fine except the one time when I accidentally boarded the express train to somewhere far away, ie the next city or Switzerland or something. (Which, thankfully, had its last Munich stop at the exact station I needed.) The train ticket-taker was not happy with me that day.

Now that I work in downtown Seattle, I take the bus to work, every day, rain or shine. I've even got once of those fancypants passes that I buy monthly so I'm a real public transit commuter. And I love it. I don't know why. I'm not particularly environmentally conscious, and I do hate getting stuck in traffic, but there's just something about the bus *system* that I like: looking at schedules, figuring out what other options I have, and the occasional time I have to go to a different destination and need to find the bus route for that. Wow, I am such a geek. I like the idea (in theory) that I could get anywhere in Seattle using our bus system.

Mind you, I only love public transportation when it's clean, efficient, and the fellow travelers aren't skeezy or trying to talk to me. Which reminds me of the horrible time that my friend Jennifer and I tried to take the bus in Los Angeles(nobody takes the bus in LA!!) from Pasadena to the shopping mall in Glendale, a mere 15 minute drive, but a bus trip that took 2 hours, I kid you not. That was a bad public transit experience.

Anyway, back to Metro. If you are only an occasional rider, or just unaware of bus-etiquette, here are a couple of tips for you:

1. Do not clip your nails while standing in line waiting to board the bus. That's just disgusting to do that so close to another person. At least stand ATM-distance away while you're conducting personal hygiene tasks.

2. If you see a whole line of people waiting for the bus, and you get to the bus stop after them, get in the back of the line and board the bus when it's your turn. Don't just stand up at the front and take advantage of the nice gentleman who thinks ladies should go first if they're standing there. The rest of the people are waiting in line because we got here before you and the bus is often crowded enough that you're not guaranteed a seat. I understand that you might come from a pushing-shoving kind of culture, but we're not that way here. But as Americans, we're also too non-confrontational to say anything to you. And don't pretend like you didn't notice this happens every day. If you're smart enough to work in the software industry, you're probably smart enough to notice this pattern.

3. If you see the bus at the stop and you're 200 yards away, don't start running and make the bus wait for you. Yes, Metro drivers are really nice and will generally wait, but the other people on the bus don't need to be inconvenienced because you didn't consult the bus schedule. If you're not within 50 feet, just give up and wait for the next one.

3. If the bus is crowded and you have to sit next to someone, try not to be touching them, as much as possible. Most people like their personal space. I don't need your leg touching mine, or your newspaper in my face, unless I ask for it, which leads me to the next point.

4. No, I do not want the other half of the cookie you just ate. No, I don't want to talk about where I work. No, I don't need to hear your loud cell phone conversation in whatever language it is you're speaking. If you must talk on the phone, please, for god's sake, do it quietly. I give you a bit more leeway if you're speaking English because eavesdropping entertains me, and no, I can't believe she wore the blue dress when you said it was your color. The nerve of her!

That's all.


  1. Amen! My particular pet peeve is the one about people who sit next to you and end up touching you.

    I am a very petite person. I also have learned already how to compact myself even further, keeping all of my bags and lunch box and such within the confines of my lap. This does NOT mean that people should take advantage of this and lean up against me and/or poke their elbows into me (both of these things have happened to me). At least no one has fallen asleep on me... yet...

  2. Well, having been raised in LA, I can attest to the horrid state of the public transit system there. Or should I say non-existent?! Because of this fact, I am not used to using the metro system here...but have on occasion to save on ridiculous parking rates downtown!

    The ride was always lovely...except for that weird smell...

  3. Someone was clipping their nails in the stairwell at work. I nearly cried. Anyone who thinks it's ok to do that in public is crazy.

    And cell phone users who have no concept of how aggravating they are are the reason I don't answer the phone on the bus.

    (ps: the seller who traded the bobbie pins for a set of earrings is

  4. @jenn - thank you :)

    @dawn - you're way more polite than I am. I figure I'm entitled to my space so I occupy all of it. I don't invade other peoples' but they're damn well not going to take over parts of mine. This is especially true for me on airplanes.

    @imake - I think the smell is pee, unfortunately. :(

    @ambika - I wonder about peoples' upbringing when they do stuff like that. Didn't their mommies teach them better??

  5. Hi Anandi! It is TOtally weird (in the very cool way) that your blog is right after mine in the Etsians who blog ring! I love it when things happen like that :)

  6. I grew up in New York and I really like taking public transportation. It's nice to zone out. However, I HAVE had people fall asleep on me. Yuck.


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