I suppose seatbelts are a moot point.

7 Nov

I can’t believe I lived in DC for 14 years without taking the bus. I love it. It’s always an adventure.

Why, take Thursday morning, for example. I usually walk to work for the exercise (1.5 miles each way, thank you very much), but that morning I was running late. (Let me qualify that: when I say late, I mean, I might have arrived only 45 minutes before my co-workers, rather than a full hour. And because I’m OCD, it’s important to me that I get there an hour before anyone else. STEP AWAY FROM THE LEDGE.)

So Thursday morning I hopped the bus to save time. Now, I don’t know if it was the chilly weather, or if the bus had been delayed, or what – but the bus was PACKED. It was so full that half a dozen people were standing in front of the yellow line that says “stand behind this for your safety,” and lining the steps; my face was pressed against the windshield for at least three stops.

I was appreciating my unique perspective – somewhat akin to the scene where Kate Winslet is stretched out over the bow of the Titanic – when the driver yelled, “Are there any cars on my right?”

How a packed bus can react with stunned silence is beyond me, but we did. Everyone glanced at each other uncomfortably. She yelled again. “Any cars there? On my right? I can’t see!” And everyone on the right side of the bus craned their heads to look out the windows, acting as her mirror, and some guy yelled back, “All clear!”

Without a beat of hesitation, she started merging into the right lane. Fortunately, whoever her spotter was, he was accurate: we didn’t hit anything. As we executed this maneuver, suddenly all the puzzle pieces fit together. All those times my car was almost side-swiped by a bus? I always thought the driver was just ignoring me or figuring that in a game of chicken, he’d win.

Turns out? Maybe he couldn’t even SEE me. And maybe his passengers were sadistic and just wanted to see if a Volvo performed as well in a real crash as it did when driven by a mechanical dummy.

So I’m not a luddite. But really? Crowd-sourcing lane changes doesn’t sound like a good idea. Call me old fashioned. (And issue me a seatbelt, please.) 

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9 Responses to “I suppose seatbelts are a moot point.”

  1. skippingstones November 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    I’ve only been on a city bus once, also in DC. I had no idea what I was doing, so I didn’t pull the cord to indicate that I wanted to get off (this bus was nearly empty). When the driver didn’t stop, I went up to the front and stood behind the seat, not knowing what else to do. I was something like 21 or 22 at the time; now I would just ask how it works. About two stops later, the driver asked me if I needed to get off. Yes, please!

    • pithypants November 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

      It is something of a craps shoot the hinges on how nice the driver is. I’ve had loser drivers who are completely unhelpful, and other awesome drivers who let me treat the bus like a cab and create me own stop. Luck of the draw!

  2. whatimeant2say November 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    I like that – “crowd sourcing lane changes”. Funny! Unless you’re riding the bus, I guess.

  3. Anja@ www.pcprima.de November 8, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    Living in Germany, I was used to take the public transportation on daily basis. Living in SoCal now and taking the bus is a whole different world. You better know where you want to go, remember the directions of the sun and study the time table. If you get lost you need some directions, don’t count on the bus driver. They know their route but they may know where they going.

  4. thesinglecell November 8, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Not only am I fascinated that the bus driver (apparently pleasantly) relied on her riders to tell her what was safe… I’m also fascinated that taking a packed bus actually saved you time. I hate buses because they take forever with all those stops and slow people lumbering about. Win-win for you!

    • pithypants November 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Right? Somehow, even packed to the gills with riders, she was able to turn my 25 minute walk into a 12 minute bus ride. Magic?

  5. Lorna's Voice November 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I never rode the bus when I lived in DC but always wondered about their seemingly daring maneuvers. Now it makes perfect (if not scary) sense. Thank you for clearing that up for me and giving me another reason to be grateful that I live 9 hours away from that city! 😉

    • pithypants November 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

      Lorna – where’s your sense of adventure?!

  6. An Observant Mind November 9, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    I have wondered this myself – insanity! I’m going to keep well away from buses now I know the real reason for the terrible driving!

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