Friday, December 11, 2009

Learning Experience

Just after I moved to the Twin Cities I had my first independant big city bus experience. In an effort to save gas money I have decided to only drive my car to and from work. On this perticular evening I had signed up to take a class on blogging oddly enough. This class was not with in walking distance from my house and my rule about driving forced me to take the bus.

Taking the bus in a city that you are not firmilar with is a difficult task. The bus driver will announce the next stop with as much vigor as they can but if you do not know the intersection of your destination then this isn't much help. On this pirticular evening I was heading to a destination that I had been before but not by bus.

Crusing down University Ave in the #16 bus I was trying to keep my eyes on the things around me, thsi is a technique taht I use when driving that does not translate to riding the bus. When I saw a building that looked like my destination I simply got off the bus. Since I didn't really understand the wonderful Minneapolis Transit System transfer policy I was overcome with the feelings that I was doomed to walk the remainder of my trip. About a mile of walking later I arrived at my destination. The class went well, I left motivated to enter the world of blogging.

The day happened to be Monday, which is the day I play pub trivia with some friends. I decided that I would use the bus to get to my favorite social environment. Luckily the bus that took me from my home to the Rondo Library would also take me to my next distination. This time I was dead set on getting off the bus at the right place. I sat in the front of the bus and kept my eyes on the road, passing through the University and over the Mississippi river I came to the last University stop. Much to my chagrin I got off the bus one stop too early. This was a great improvement from my last attempt at riding the bus but still left me out in the rain walking much farther than I had hoped to.

I guess the moral of this story is learning the difference between modes of transportation. Public transportation is geared much more to the street by street driver, those of us who use landmarks are at a bit of a disadvantage when traveling. Since this fateful day I have only gotten off the bus early on one other trip and can safely say that it shouldn't happen again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My bus stop

Last night I missed my bus by 1 single minute... walked 2 miles in the cold, reafferming to me that buses are awesome, much more awesome than walking.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Drunk People

While the culture of bus riders is predominately autonomous. There is one individual who can bring us all together. There is a chance that this individual can push the riders apart, most of the time he/she creates connections. This person is the drunk guy. I am not talking about the mildly buzzed guy or the passed out guy but the guy who has been drinking far too much and has decided to get on the bus.

The bus that I ride the most in Minneapolis stops directly in front of a Burger King. This stop creates the perfect environment for this kind of interaction. I have dealt with the individual on two occasions since I have moved to Minneapolis, and both times it has given myself and my fellow riders a common bond.

The first time I met the drunk guy, I was riding the bus to my weekly trivia night. I got on the bus and the drunk guy was already riding and his existence was obvious. The first thing I noticed was the large amount of milk on the floor and smirks covering my fellow rider's faces. Shortly after I took my seat I discovered what was so enjoyable about this bus ride. A tall gentleman sat down across the isle from me and, even though I had my headphones in, started talking to me about what it means to be a man. He explained in his incoherence how much of a man he was by pulling out his wallet and waiving around a small stack of single dollar bills. His actions and my weary looks to my fellow riders prompted exclamations of "you should have seen him before you got on." Connecting us as a group with a common bond.

At the next stop a new group of riders joined our club. One of these individuals had the mind to speak up to our connector. Prompting a very interesting conversation. When the drunk bus rider confronted the new patron's manliness he did not take very kindly to that. This situation could he could have gone two ways, the way it did not go was the aggressive semi-violent way. Thankfully this gentleman was intelligent enough to realize that his confronter was on in his right mind and proceded to have a quite comical "intellectual" conversation about what manliyness was. Sadly the bus stopped at Burger King before their conversation could reach a climax and we all moved back into our ignorant persona for the rest of the bus ride.

I have encountered 'the drunk guy" (a different person than the first) one other time at this point and the scenario was much less eventful but still provided a common ground to connect with my fellow bus riders for a brief period of time. I am hoping that this interaction could be a much more common occurrence in my daily travels because I like the idea of a culture of public transportation riders and would like to see it blossom.

Friday, November 27, 2009


In the summer of 2006 I attended the Alternative Breaks Citizenship Schools at the Hosteling International building. Each ABCS has a theme, ours was Women's rights. During the week long conference we learned all about issues that negatively impact women. The conference took place in the same week as July 4th so the city of Chicago was abuzz with activity, between fireworks displays and the taste of Chicago.

During one of the sessions about women's issues we discussed domestic violence at which point I had never witnessed any domestic violence so my perspective completely revolved around what I had seen on television. Little did I know this would change.

On the 4th of July we took a group trip to Navy Pier to watch the City of Chicago's fireworks. We all, about 40 of us in all, walked from Grant Park to Navy Pier for the show. We got to our destination a little early so we started playing a game of ultimate Frisbee. During this game I managed to tear up my ankle so walking had become a bit of a problem.

After watching the program on an extremely packed Navy Pier, the 40 of us started to walk back. Me being slightly injured I fell to the back of the group fairly quickly. One of the conference staff saw that I was having a bit of trouble so he bought me and a couple of my fellow conference goers bus fair. This but was much larger than the one I was used to living in Kalamazoo, it was one of those buses with a joint in the center.

While riding the bus back the the HI to meet up with the rest of the group a group of young men and women got on the bus. Two of these new riders were not getting a long to well. They were arguing about something not quite apparent but it got physical extremely quickly. More than 3 years down the road this memory is quite vivid. The physical conflict started when the female started punching her partner in the chest. He obviously was not excited about this and responded by shoving her out of punching range. Eventually he became so upset he grabbed her hair and held her down to the seat and jerking her around.

So there we were, 5 people sitting in the middle of the bus, who were in town to try and make the world a better place for women, watching a domestic dispute right in front of our eyes. All of us are stunned, no one can speak, and our faces are covered with guilt. At the next stop the couple and their friends were asked to leave the bus and we were left with a conversation to have back at the conference.

This experience was brought into my life all because we got on the bus.

My first bus ride

image courtesy of Dave Sizer
Growing up in a small town in Michigan, a state so dependent on cars that public transportation is extremely infrequent, I didn't ride a bus until I was 20 years old. I was living in Kalamazoo Michigan at the time attending college. Students at the local university were allowed to ride the bus for free. Due to a slew of parking tickets and a job as at the college radio station I was unceremoniously thrown into the life of a public transportation rider. Kalamazoo's bus system was extremely unreliable yet uncomplicated.

My time riding the bus in Kalamazoo was my first introduction to the odd culture that exists while riding the bus. My first thoughts about this culture were that it was unique to Kalamazoo, I would later learn that it was not, this culture is not native to a single location but instead the space contained inside of public transportation.

This culture is a combination of of curiosity due to boredom and attempts to go unnoticed. Travel is such a private activity that when it is shared with strangers we all seem to become uncomfortable.

This blog will document my experience riding the bus and the observations about its culture.