Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mum's the Word

I took the bus to work yesterday. It took seven years of driving to work in LA for me to finally see the light. I have always heard the following lie: "There's no public transportation in LA". Hogwash! Poppycock! All one needs to enjoy the conscience-soothing, pocketbook-friendly joys of public transportation in LA is the will to get up a few minutes earlier and access to an online trip planner.
I did spend a loooong time planning my maiden voyage. Unsure of myself, I studied maps and timetables for two solid hours on the day before my trip. I do not know how a person who is willing to hop on a bus in a foreign city without having an understanding of where it might go or how to ask for assistance can be so afraid of a town where she could navigate blindfolded through the streets! But she was.
I ended up catching the 92 to downtown LA, where I hopped off at Spring and 7th. A woman with silver teeth sold tamales from a styrofoam cooler and I felt alive! I hopped onto the 51, which was to take me to the doors of the learning institution in which I work. Mysteriously, two blocks later the driver turned a corner and called out "End of the line!" Was he ill? Did I catch the wrong line? All of the passengers got off of the bus and, with unsurprised expressions on their faces, walked half a block to another bus stop and began to wait, quietly. I followed, of course. I may have remained forever in the dark if it wasn't for the appearance of Mr. Barton, a Santa Clause-esqe special education teacher at my school who happened to be riding the same bus. We had "caught the wrong 51" he explained. Apparantly some of them only go so far. I could have been annoyed, but recognized that I would have thought the event quaint if I had been in Rome, so I continued to enjoy my morning. A few minutes later the right 51 came along and Mr. Barton and I were on our way. He comes in from quite a distance, he explained, leaving home at 4:25 in the morning. An experienced traveller by my side made me feel confident and pleased with myself.
A few miles before we reached the school, a boy got on the bus and sat down across from me, next to Mr. Barton. I recognized this boy as a student from our school. He avoided my gaze, hunched over, and looked at his feet. This is a teenager, I reminded myself; perhaps he would not be pleased to receive an energetic greeting from the school librarian so early and so far from school. Did he know who I was? He must, or how would I know him? DId he know Mr. Barton? Is it rude to say nothing, or is it exactly the right thing to do? I couldn't decide, so I kept mum. I rode this bus all the way to school and said not a word to this boy. Afterwards, I regretted my choice. Teenagers are perpetually embarrassed as it is. One more little unpleasant moment would have amounted to nothing in a day's worth of teenage agony. I should have said hello, should have made that teacher-student connection that is so lacking in our schools, should have shown that I knew his face and cared who he was, should have wished him a good morning on this fine, bus-riding day. The greatest thing about riding the bus is, as I now know, that I will have this chance again. I feel better already. Bus-riding is very therapeutic.

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