Most urban transit systems post the rules for riding on the buses and trains, usually in both English and Spanish. Don’t touch the driver; don’t harass the other passengers; no radios without headphones; no eating; don’t take up the seats for the old folks, and such. We all want a clean, safe bus ride and as someone who has extensive experience with four different transit systems, I consider myself uniquely qualified to offer some additional rules beyond typical Metro boilerplate. So many more of you are riding our buses now because of high gas prices and environmentalism, I would hate for you to commit a faux pas by breaking the unwritten rules.
1. Have your money or pass ready. You know you’re riding the bus. You know it costs money. Why do you seem surprised when you get to the driver and some sort of financial transaction is expected? You have been waiting, I am certain, because everyone waits for the bus. Take that time to prepare yourself.
2. The driver works for the bus agency, not the tourism agency. Asian women, listen up! The driver cannot help you plan out your entire vacation itinerary, nor does he memorize every single transfer and route in the system (that’s what us veteran riders call the entire group of routes covered by a specific bus agency). While you hold a map in your hand, please refrain from asking the driver how to get to the museum that you plan to visit next Monday.
3. Go the right way, it’s a one way aisle. This really only applies to “articulated” buses, those buses that look like accordions and have an exit at the front and back with a defined center. If you are sitting to the front of the defined center, you MUST exit the front door. If you are sitting to the back of the center, you MUST exit the back door. For those who don’t know, the defined center is, you guessed it, the articulation. Those who are brave enough to sit on the benches in the articulation zone out of a desire to feel like they are riding one of those whirling rides at the fair receive special treatment: as you are inhabitants of a strange, yet neutral, land you get to choose either exit.
4. Mind your own business. I’m not generally embarrassed by what I am texting, tweeting, or reading on the bus, but I feel that authors deserve to be compensated for their work. If you are that interested in what I am reading, you must know the title and author by now, feel free to buy your own copy.
5. Take a cough drop. Coughing is disgusting even when you cover your mouth. I am unsure as to why I can go an entire day off the bus and not encounter a single coughing person, but once I board the number 218, the Black Plague has broken out. And those who are not coughing are clearing their throats or sniffing loudly. Are people’s bodies really this noisy? You may ask, doesn’t your iPod drown them out, Megan? This leads me to…
6. The point of ear buds is for others to not be able to hear your music. I know you may like 80s music like Golden Tate likes a Maple Bar (he returned my phone to me in the Hesburgh Library once, I love him despite his doughnut pilfering ways), but when I can make out the words of the song, three rows away, and you are wearing ear buds…it’s the chicken and egg for 2010. Did you go deaf due to the loud crappy music or is the crappy music loud because you are deaf from some other reason?
7. Mind the girth quotient. I don’t take up much room in a bus seat; the Census Bureau has certified that I occupy 38% of the total standard width of two seats. On many buses, there are also sections with three or four seats side-by-side where one or two people will be in the middle. I am happy to yield 62% of space to someone else, but not everyone has as much to give. If you are the 380 pound woman, and there are twos (sets of two seats) available, please let the 110 pound girl sit next to the 550 pound man. It saddens me to see the two of you. Even on a short trip, I don’t believe that we were meant to live like this. Your discomfort cries out to heaven; please help each other out. I would offer to swap places, but wouldn’t that be embarrassing for us all?
I love the bus. My dislike for driving, lack of car ownership, and regular absence of someone to chauffeur me around ensures that I will continue to love the bus. You will love the bus too, I believe, so long as you obey my seven rules. Perhaps even print them out and cover up the generic bus rules. We will all be happier when you pay quickly, you can touch the bus driver all you want.