Humans of Public Transportation

A few summers ago, my husband hit a raccoon with his car.

The car was small, and the raccoon was large, so it waddled away from the incident while he stood on the shoulder staring at his smashed front end. The resultant six weeks in the body shop combined with his long commute (and my short one) meant I was taking public transportation to work for a while.


Noun: a large motor vehicle carrying passengers by road, especially one serving the public on a fixed route and for a fare.

Early 19th century: via French from Latin, literally ‘for all,’ dative plural of omnis.

The bus stop was a short half-mile walk from my house, the bus came frequently, and it passed right by my office building, so easy enough. I’d bring headphones and a book, maybe watch Netflix.

But. But the people watching! And the conversations! (sorry for eavesdropping, not sorry)

Day 1: The woman across the aisle chatted pleasantly at me (I say “at me” deliberately, I didn’t say a word for ten minutes) about the hourly wage and the challenges of raising children forty years ago.

Day 2: I arrived early at the bus stop, and enjoyed a lecture on techniques for planting a large Portuguese vegetable garden and recipes for using a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes.

Day 3: The bus stopped at a red light about 15 feet up from the bus stop. A woman waited patiently at the stop for us to pull forward. The man behind me slapped me in the elbow (seriously, OW) and grumbled, “Look at that. Think she could just walk up to the bus while we’re stopped? No wonder Obama got elected.” Huh?

The word bus is a shortening of the early 19th century word omnibus, which in turn derives from the Latin meaning, quite literally, “for all.” Public transportation, there for the use of all.

I won’t continue with the next thirty-ish days of my bus rider experience, but I’ll remember them fondly. How often do you get to be surrounded by dozens of people who are all so different from you, and all so different from each other? We should all be so fortunate as to have daily exposure to our neighbors (because, really, we probably all live within twenty miles of each other) with a diversity of races, religions, classes, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical abilities, education, hobbies, interests. All of us. All.

There you have it. The key to world peace. Ride the bus.

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