Sunday, October 15, 2006

My Bus Redeemer Liveth

The bus is a harsh mistress.

There is nothing worse than trying to use a public bus in a new city. No matter how prepared you are, no matter how many maps you study and internet planning thingys you consult, there will be some local custom that messes things up--especially if you are like me, and refuse to ask for help. A few years back, I was in Seattle to give a paper at a conference. Being my frugal graduate student self, I attempted to take a city bus from the airport to my hotel. Getting from the airport to downtown was easy, and I successfully boarded a second bus that looked like it should take me right by the hotel, up by the space needle. I had memorized the names of a few cross streets to look for, and as the bus made its way uptown, I carefully noted that people seemed to be pulling the stop cord in the normal fashion.

So when I saw one of my cross streets, I reached up and confidently pulled the cord, doing my best impression of a jaded Seattle-ite commuting home from a long day at work, albeit with a suitcase. As soon as I pulled, every single head in the bus swiveled around and looked at me like I was an alien. What had I done? Somebody had literally pulled the cord in the exact same manner one block earlier, and yet somehow, I had done something different that made me the object of bus-wide scorn.

About thirty minutes later, when the bus had, instead of stopping for me, made its way across a body of water, left the city, and seemed to be entering a forest, I sensed that perhaps I might be on an express. About forty-five minutes later it finally stopped, and everyone got off, looking at me sympathetically. I tried my best to pretend like I had intended to get off in Alaska, but soon had to slink across the street, still in full view of all the other passengers, to catch the bus coming back the opposite direction to Seattle.

Actually, the whole point of this post was to brag that today, en route to do some reasearch at Northwestern, I managed to navigate by public transportation from Midway Airport in Chicago to a cheap little motel in Niles, Illinois, via two subway lines and one suburban bus line. And this time, I pulled the cord, and the bus gracefully coasted to a stop right in front of my motel.


enchantress said...

Congratulations! How is the motel?

bbound said...

Well...there is a bed. And a TV. Although it is a prety lumpy bed, and the TV is remote-less and has about five channels.

On the plus side, it is next door to a full-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, no joke. I'm going to take a picture of it tomorrow.

enchantress said...

Wow! Can you take it home with you? ;)