Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sic transit gloria

My spot on "Insight" was moved to Friday, October 12 instead of yesterday: here's the link for anyone who might be interested in hearing me pontificate about Southside Park.

Riding the bus and light rail is still pretty fun. I haven't gotten caught in the rain yet. After hearing some other folks' less positive experiences from riding public transit, I wonder how much my past experience on transit affects how I view it now.

As I mentioned a while back, I didn't have a car in high school, or in college. For me, getting around on my own outside walking/biking radius meant taking the bus. The first time I did this a lot was when I was 14-15 years old, taking summer classes at Sac State. For me, the bus represented escape and independence, and being able to daydream and read and stare out the window while I enjoyed that island of reverie. The same bus took me downtown to visit my aunt (who lived in midtown and inspired me to move down here) and let me explore a place that was far unlike Citrus Heights. On the return trip, I could pore over whatever weird swag (typically comic books or records, or used SF novel from one of downtown's many used bookstores) I had picked up on my brief transit-based adventure. So that association with freedom is still there.

Cars, on the other hand, don't give me that feeling. It's work. Other drivers piss me off almost immediately. I may rankle at some other bus rider's behaviors, but somehow it's less infuriating than the people who don't use turn signals while they cut me off, burn through red lights, talk on their cell phone, eat pizza, have bumper stickers I don't agree with, etcetera. People on the bus are encountered at the human scale, and the tendency is to treat other people like humans. When you're driving, you're dealing with other cars, not with people, and interacting with machines is necessarily less civil than with people.

For many people that's a bad thing. I suppose I am fortunate in that I guess I look kind of intimidating, or have some subconscious "I could kill you at any time" vibe, because nobody ever messes with me on the bus. I hear fearful tales of the threatening glares of gangster thugs and the unwanted advances of the homeless all the time, but somehow they're not on my car. I suppose I'm a little more used to interacting with street folks than most, and I imagine that can be unnerving if you're not used to it.

So while the cynical part of myself still awaits that moment when my transit honeymoon ends, the 14 year old part of me that really dug the freedom and independence of taking the bus gets to have his good time, and maybe enjoy a comic book.

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