Bus rider

Published on: 6/7/2012

Except for trips from the Park-and-Ride to the Summerfest grounds, I've avoided the bus for a couple years now.

Aside from the scary reports of wilding and violence on the city buses, there were those awful TV screens streaming endless loops of ads and health propaganda. Even as a law abiding citizen who is inclined toward good health messages, the ernest repetition made me long for a cigarette. And I've never smoked.

Political campaign ads of every sort have the same effect, but I digress.

But a communication glitch had me dropping off the fleet car downtown and needing to take the #10 home.

I checked the Web for the fare and was a little shocked: $2.25. But when I compared that to the mileage reimbursement rate for driving the same distance, bus fare came out a little ahead.

So coins in hand, I stepped into the maw of the beast when it stopped at 12th and Wisconsin.

The bus was crowded. I had to stand. And suburban-cautious, I pulled my phones -- work and personal -- from my pockets and tucked them in my purse, because, well. . . pickpockets? That fear, all those fears of the unaccustomed, always at the ready.

A woman got off, vacating a seat. "You want to sit there?" a ridiculously handsome young black man with diamonds in his ear lobes and a Bluetooth thingie in his ear asked. "Well, you were here first," I said. "No, please, you take it," he insisted. So I did.

I started to relax. The sound level was surprisingly low, although people were talking to each other. And the damn TV screens were gone. Breathing more easily, I could smell a faint odor of hair product and potato chips, nothing unpleasant. No bad smells, and it was a hot and sweaty day.

A woman got on with a stroller. People juggled themselves about, shifting places, making way, until she made it to a gap spot the aforementioned gorgeous young black man vacated for her. She sat down weary and grateful, and the other grandma-aged women and I shamelessly tried to flirt with her baby, who slept through the entire event.

Each time a passenger departed, they thanked the driver. It's been a long time since I've seen that much civility.

By the time we reached Froedtert Hospital, most of the passengers had left. I got off some four long western Tosa blocks from home, for a pleasant walk and time to really notice my neighbor's houses. This would have been less fun had it been raining. But as it was, I understood why people who ride buses tend to weigh less than people who don't. They walk more. And maybe they are calmer. There's a real sense of freedom in using public transportation.

The midday ride meant I'd avoided school kids, who tend to be unruly. And the #10 route tends to be full of people going to work. Maybe it's not a representative experience.

But I'll do it again, gladly. You might try too.