love on the #13 bus

I really love taking the bus in Seattle. I do. I know that’s not a popular opinion, shared by many. After all, we’re the Left Coast, and we drive, dammit. It’s amazing to me how people on this side of the country seem to regard cars as another appendage, given to them at birth, like toes or ears. I grew up in Southern California, where everyone drives to the grocery store, even if it’s 100 yards away. Twice, in one day, when I went for a walk in Malibu, cars pulled over to ask if I needed a lift. They both assumed my car had broken down and I was walking to a pay phone. (This was several years ago, before cell phones were ubiquitous.) I was just going for a walk, but in So. California, that’s unheard of.

But I lived in New York for years afterward, where mass transportation is a way of life. The subway is the city’s great democratizer. Everyone rides it, with the exception of Donald Trump. Where else are you going to see Chinese acrobats, doo-wop groups, hip-hop kids, 80-year-olds, and me in one small space? I love how mass transportation forces us to deal with each other, to see each other, to recognize that there’s a world beyond our small sphere. I miss the subway, strangely. I don’t miss the rats on the tracks or the smell in the middle of August or waiting in the station late at night by myself. But I do miss the enforced camaraderie.

People talk about how distant the citizens of Seattle can be with each other. And I agree. I think it’s because we’re always in our cars.

So I’m happily riding the bus back and forth to work these days. Sure, I want to save money on the gas. And I want to be a good environmentalist and help diminish the pollution. But it’s more than that– I really like the fact that someone else is driving me every morning. It may be a slower way to my workplace, but I can read the New York Times, sip my coffee, and listen to my iPod as the world goes by. Not bad.

And besides, when you don’t ride the bus, you miss scenes like these:

I’m coming home on the #13 this afternoon, up Queen Anne hill. Something goes wrong with the clutch at the steepest incline, and every time the driver tries to push us forward, we lurch backwards. The guy in the car behind us can’t have been enjoying this much. Finally, the driver fixes the mystery problem and glides up the hill. We all break into applause. At the next stop, this middle-aged guy heads toward the door, a guy who looks like he’s right out of the Sopranos. (A guy far too little seen in Seattle.) I can’t hear what’s being said between him and the driver for a moment. But as Mr. Passenger leaves the door, the driver shouts out: “I do love you!”


So come on, people. Let’s support the paltry mass transportation system we do have in the hopes of something more. And if you do, you might just get a little love on the #13 bus.

5 Comments so far

  1. native (unregistered) on September 14th, 2005 @ 7:17 pm

    “we” are not from california and “we” don’t appreciate being lumped in with them (ala “left coast”); “we” especially do not like southern californians.

    “we” are not in our cars “all the time” – “we” take the bus every day to and from work and “we” walk a LOT because “we” choose not to own a car. “we” also use flexcar.

    metro transit has won awards. it is not “paltry”, it is robust.

    if you are looking for “camraderie” or even to get a little “love” you should probably take off the iPod and read the LOCAL newspaper.

  2. shauna (unregistered) on September 14th, 2005 @ 7:38 pm

    Oh my. I seem to have hit a nerve.

    I’m glad you walk and take the bus. So do I. But it really is fair to say that most people on the West Coast, as opposed to the major urban areas on the East Coast, are pretty chained to their cars. If not, we wouldn’t have such traffic problems.

    I only meant paltry in comparison to places with mass transit like New York, San Fransisco, and Chicago. Even LA has a subway system now. And I have heard more Seattlites than I would care to remember say that they don’t like taking the bus because they have to deal with homeless people. That’s just sad.

    If you read my post again, I was actually promoting the bus system. I’m not sure why it made you so upset.

  3. skye (unregistered) on September 15th, 2005 @ 2:53 am

    I never ride the bus anymore because of a few issues I won’t get into here. But I often let busses cut in front of me when they have to change lanes, and once when I did that, the bus driver flicked his hazard lights a few times, as if to say thank you. I was instantly charmed. 9.5 out of 10 people that I allow to cut in front of me, take it as their due.

    I love you too, bus driver!

  4. C Ro (unregistered) on September 15th, 2005 @ 8:28 am

    I love the bus too. Not only for the reasons you mentioned, but also, have you seen how much it costs to park in this town? Holy Cow!

  5. eldan (unregistered) on September 15th, 2005 @ 9:36 am

    Having recently moved here from Cleveland, I find it funny reading about how the citizens of Seattle are distant from each other because we all drive. It’s exactly what I thought in Cleveland, and one of the things that I’m loving about here is that I actually encounter people walking around, and it makes me feel much less isolated, even though so far I don’t know many people in this city. I can see how NYC would be more so, because it’s simply not practical to drive around Manhattan, but we’re still worlds away from LA, and I’m grateful for that.

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