Easy As 1, 2, 3
Three full days of the challenge completed and I’m still going strong! As strange as it may seem, giving up my car has been a relaxing and productive experience. If you’re wondering, my schedule has been going a little bit like this:
5:00AM Wake up, get dressed, watch the news & feed the furbabies
6:00AM Arrive at bus stop
6:10AM – 6:40AM Ride to work
6:50 AM Arrive at work
7:00AM – 4:00PM Work stuff (I guess that was pretty obvious, huh!?!)
4:10PM – 4:40PM Ride home
5:00PM – 7:30PM Community stuff (depends on the night)
Since elementary school, I’ve been an early riser, by necessity then and choice now. But, this is the first time in a while that I can say that I’m out the door before the sun rises. I’m not even going to tell you the last time that I’ve been to work at 7:00AM for more than two consecutive days. I’m averaging a full mile walk before and after work. Taking in some fresh air and getting my blood pumping has done wonders for the clutter of tasks floating through my brain. The bus has been pretty quiet so I can get in some reading or people-watching to pass the time. Once I make it into the office, I’m ready to get rolling. Before, it would take 3 cups of coffee and a bunch of pep talk before I could claim that I was really being productive. I’m crediting my improved focus to not having to worry that Sam Cooper will be backed up or if I’ll get caught by the Poplar/Southern train. Let’s get into my observations, lessons learned and goofy moments of the week.
Bus Riders – When people hear that I’m riding the bus, they usually ask me does it smell and am I scared to be riding with “those people”. I’m not sure that I’ve met “those people” but I’ve met some nice people. My morning bus buddies have been pretty consistent with mostly East or White Station High students and a few University of Memphis and Ridgeway Loop hotel workers.
Except for a pretty talkative guy on the 6:07AM bus, the bus is quiet with a few “Good Morning”, “Thank you” and “How are you?” shared between the consistent riders and the driver. Because I’m used to riding alone, it was refreshing to have someone speak early in the morning. It can actually get quiet enough that you can fall asleep. Just yesterday a woman missed her stop because she dozed off. Apparently, she rides the same bus each day over to her elderly mother’s house to take care of her. When the driver realized she didn’t get off, he made an impromptu stop so that she wouldn’t have to walk a great distance back.
The afternoon buses are much livelier! I noticed that afternoon riders either look extremely energized, exhausted or a weird combination of the two. There are more workers than students at this time of day. Because the bus goes from Germantown to Downtown, you get a wide variety ranging from early 20s to mid 50s and Corporate workers to blue collar workers. This is a chance when you really rethink your thoughts on bus riders. In talk with people, some are riding out of necessity because of the high expense driving like gas, insurance and parking. Other people like being able to get to work without worrying about road closures, sitting in traffic and bad drivers.
Timing & Capacity – In my short few days, I’ve figured out a few things about bus schedules. Trust them loosely! My morning bus averages 10 minutes behind schedule, but my afternoon bus runs about 1 minute early to 5 minutes late. I’ll spare you my crazy time calculations just say that I aim to get to the bus stop about 10 minutes early. If I play my cards right, I can catch the bus that was before my intended bus. Tuesday, I left my office around 3:55PM to catch the 4:22PM bus. I soon realized I’d been walking pretty fast and could make the 4:07PM bus. I just need to get up the massive hill/ramp from the loop to Poplar. I was in eye-shot of a lady waiting at the bus stop and was (prematurely) proud of my speed walking skills. As soon as I relaxed, THE BUS PULLED UP! I was about to hang my head in defeat but the aforementioned lady pointed to the bottom of the hill letting the driver know I was coming. He motioned as I awkwardly trotted up the hill lugging my work bag. He greeted me with a “Howdy” as I swiped my pass and settled into a seat. I didn’t say it out loud but I knew he thinking ‘Bless her rookie heart!” The next day, I left a few minutes earlier & the bus was 7 minutes late. Wouldn’t you know it!
In the mornings, there are 10-15 people on the bus. This isn’t even close to capacity so most of us sit on a row alone. Because of the low ridership, we easily breeze by 5-7 stops without anyone getting on or off. This is great for those wanting to get to work early but I can’t imagine how much the city is losing. The afternoon buses have more riders but it depends on what time I catch it. The 4:07PM and 4:22PM buss are about 50 – 70% full. If I have to catch a bus during after 5:00PM, it can reach capacity. I think this is mainly because the buses run less frequently in the afternoons. The gaps can be as large as an hour between buses. I plan to venture out more later to see just how crowded these late buses get.
Rider Accommodations – Chances are the inside of the bus will be comparable or slightly worse than the inside of your car. Let’s not be fooled, there’s nothing luxury about the bus. No plush seating, no automatic windows, no sunroof…you get the picture. But it’s not the (complete) pits either. They are relatively clean depending on the time of day you ride. As people get on & off, they tend to leave behind trash but nothing major. This morning, I noticed a few wet seats caused last night’s storm. We weren’t at capacity so everyone just skipped over that seat. But leave it to me to drape my coat over the seat back resulting in a wet sleeve. There’s a no food & drink sign posted that most people abide by. Some (including myself) carry a coffee mug or water bottle. It seemed to be pretty acceptable to bring on a drink if it had a cover on it preventing you from wasting it on another passenger. Compared to a car, the seats are much closer but not too uncomfortably close. I tried to use my sleek ninja moves to discreetly take my jacket off. Half way through the move, the girl next to me looked over letting me know that I was not being discreet or sleek. I apologized & returned to my personal space bubble.
Overall, my experience has been relatively pleasant. The buses are pretty reliable on my route. I plan to take try some others with transfers to change it up and see if I’ve just been extremely lucky. I haven’t encountered any traumatic circumstances that would force me to rethink taking the bus. In fact, I was flattered that a young cosmetology student tried out a few pick up lines on me Wednesday. I finally figured out the right combination of pleasant objections to halt his attempts at a date. (NOTE TO ALL: MATA is not the new Match.com!!) Beyond that, everyone has been very nice. Even the scruffier guys break the tension with a smile when you make contact.
Now that I’ve demystified the bus, who’s up for taking a joy ride adventure with me?