Whenever I visit a major city, I am struck by the resourcefulness of its residents when it comes to getting around. They employ every available means of transport: skateboards, scooters, bikes, rollerblades, cars, taxis, buses, subways, trains. If it has wheels, they use it.
I admire such ingenuity, especially the way class distinctions dissolve in the use of public transportation. (Someone posted an iPhone photo of Helen Mirren riding the New York City subway. As if she wasn’t totally cool already). We’re all just a bunch of people trying to get where we’re going. Cars, on the other hand, are a different story. Status is conferred depending on the automobile one drives—or at least that’s what car ads would have us believe.
Walking is my preferred means of getting from point A to point B. Second choice: a bus. It’s cheap, for one thing. And the view from the window is generally scenic (and occasionally comic if you look down and see just what people do in cars besides driving). By and large, it’s safe. Best of all, as a passenger and not the driver, I’m free to daydream, read, or snooze. It’s nice knowing my fellow bus riders and I represent fewer cars on the road contributing to pollution (hopefully the exhaust from one bus is less than the cars we represent).
Unlike subways and trains, the bus driver is visible and very much a part of the experience. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the politeness of most passengers, engaging the driver in friendly conversation, thanking him or her when they get off.
In a car you’re in your own private bubble, which some might argue is preferable. But consider this. Insulation muffles the world, isolates you. If you’re not listening, if you’re not paying attention, seductively easy to do in a bubble, you’re missing out.