Monday, February 22, 2010
The Perfect Bus Ride
For many years I have been fascinated with the extent to which some people go to, to travel as painlessly as possible. A friend once told me a story about how his father would not leave the parking lot of his employer until a very specific minute because that was the only way that he could travel from work to home without having to stop at any red lights while driving the proper speed. Surprisingly this story has infiltrated my brain and I think about it almost every two weeks. First of all, that is impressive. Second to what extent did this man study his drive home from work. Was it just one day he managed to look at his clock as he pulled out of his parking space and was pleasantly surprised by his quick ride home? Or did this exact timing come from countless months or even years of testing? Leaving work every day at a different minute, sitting in the parking lot for 5, 10 or even 20 minutes after he completed his last task in the office.
Then the idea of additional variables comes into play. What about the speed at which he was traveling? The story took place in Michigan where if you are not comfortable with traveling 5 mph over the posted speed limit you are most likely going to become a victim of road rage. Was he traveling at that speed? Did he need to change his speed in different stretches of road? Did he completely lose his mind when someone was traveling too slow in his lane to time the lights?
That brings up the idea of how he would react if he was stopped at a red light. This man most likely spent months mapping out a plan for himself and that plan would get tested every single weekday. How hard would it be to see such a painstakingly executed project fail just as much as it succeeds? What sort of impact would that have on your self esteem? When your plan work in your favor it would feel amazing, not only did you masterfully travel from work to home but you also get to experience that wonderful feeling that we all experience when we get home from work noticeably earlier than expected, that has to feel good. But the opposite?
The drive this man has orcastrated often confounded me, until I experienced riding the bus this winter in Minneapolis. More often than not travel is an extension of the environment we are going to or coming from. When you embark on your travels to or from work doesn't it feel like you are already at work? It does for me. The moment I lock the front door of my house I am at work until the time I get to unlock that door again. When you leave for vacation doesn't everything already feel like you are on vacation, even though you may have an arduous journey ahead of you? Doesn't the ride home make you feel like the vacation is already over, to the extent that you can feel each and every inch of that ride?
You can imagine how upsetting it was when, during the first major snowfall of my first Minnesota winter, I was forced to wait 45 minutes for a bus that is scheduled to come every 10 minutes. It was as if the entire city of Minneapolis had forgotten which latitudinal plane it existed on. It was as if they could not imagine that a foot of snow could fall in late November. The roads were all a mess and because of this the bus system seemed to be running so far behind that I still cannot wrap my brain around it. Since that point in the year riding the bus has been a trying task. Each an every time I set out on that journey I am greeted with biting winds and unsure footings. Due to this poor weather, my elation upon experiencing my first perfect bus ride was increased dramatically.
Leaving my house with much less that a glance at the bus schedule has more than once made it possible to get to the bus stop with in 2 minutes of a bus arrival. At the bus transfer point my transfer is waiting, it seems just for me. And my return trip is timed equally perfectly. The sheer joy that I experience when this happens, compared to the grating frustration, makes me finally understand the mindset of my friend's father. Experiencing that every weekday (or even half) would most likely keep my mood perpetually on the up swing. It makes me feel like I should wall paper my room in bus rout pamphlets to better plan my travels.
Image curtesy of Tom Prete