Paying The Fare

by Matt Benoit

When I think back on my 21 years of existence, one theme seems to jump out at me like a psychotic, ax-wielding murderer leaping out of a dark alleyway. And that theme is buses.

I have ridden a lot of buses throughout my life: school buses, Greyhound buses, tour buses, magic buses, and, last but certainly not least, prison buses. Wait, that’s not it! I meant to say public transportation buses. Really.

In fact, perhaps the most memorable bus ride I’ve ever had was on a public transit bus several years ago, when our attractive female driver, who looked like Sandra Bullock, began speeding through traffic. Eventually, a man who looked eerily similar to Keanu Reeves stood up and told us that there was, like, a bomb on the bus, and it would, like, explode if the bus’s speedometer dropped below, like, 50 mph.

Or maybe that was the plot to “Speed.”

Anyway, I’m a user of this county’s public transit system, the WTA. I take the bus each day to school not only because I don’t own a car, but because it’s economically practical and environmentally friendly.

While many people share this understanding, there are many others who do not like to take public transportation.

The reason for this is that, whenever they get on the bus, they usually wind up sitting next to someone who smells—whenever you get within 10 feet of them—like a large piece of blue cheese stuffed into a dirty sweat sock that was left inside the black-upholstered interior of a compact car in direct sunlight on a 90-degree summer day for roughly 10-and-a-half hours.

The aftermath of such a person having ridden the bus involves—and I’ve seen this multiple times—getting on the bus and seeing a seat blocked off with caution tape like it’s a miniature crime scene investigation. It gets even weirder when CSI’s David Caruso turns up sitting right behind you and The Who starts playing through the bus’s speaker system.

Fortunately for me, though, this only happens occasionally.

But as I’ve said, I’ve ridden not just buses in our own backyard, but abroad as well.

When I went to India three years ago, our travel group toured the country on a couple of tour buses. Everyone there knew they were tour buses because, on the top of the front windshield, it said “TOURIST” in big, white letters.

Our driver was Mr. Singh, whose name is pretty much the Indian equivalent of Smith. Mr. Singh was an excellent driver, letting us sit in the “cockpit” of the bus while he swerved madly around the cows and goats that always seem to meander onto Indian roadways.

Also in India, nobody uses turn signals. Drivers communicate the old fashioned way—using angry hand gestures and excessive profanity. But, they also use horns.

Singh had an entire arsenal of horns mounted on his dash, each containing a different sound and, apparently, a different meaning. I think this could be wonderful on buses here in the U.S.

For instance, a bus of Canadian tourists would have a horn playing the Canadian National Anthem, so that when they drove by you could point and say conclusively, “Look, there goes a bus full of elderly Asian Canadians who are going to either Bellis Fair Mall or a local casino.”

Another thing I notice with buses is the perception of how fast you’re going. When you’re on one, a bus feels as though it’s really “hauling,” and by “hauling,” I don’t mean cargo.

But when you’re in another vehicle stuck behind the bus when it’s slowing or stopped right in front of you, it can be frustrating. Usually, when this happens, I look at the back of the bus (because that’s the view I have), throw my hands in the air and say something like, “C’mon bus, move your…bus butt.”

I say “bus butt,” even though it’s not a real term and in fact sounds like a medical condition you might see treated with a drug that’s constantly advertised on television:

SALESPERSON (climbing on board bus and proceeding to walk to back without paying fare): Hello, I’m a struggling actor who’s desperate for the money this pharmaceutical company is throwing at me to peddle their drugs. Are you one of an estimated 45 million Americans suffering from “Bus Butt?”

(Taking a seat next to an elderly, stereotypical black woman)

ELDERLY, STEREOTYPICAL BLACK WOMAN: Say what?

SALESPERSON: Bus Butt is a painful medical condition that develops from prolonged exposure of your gluteus maximus—(that’s Latin for “Big Buttocks”)—against the hard, uncomfortable seats of city buses. Over time, this condition can make your butt can go from nicely-shaped to resembling an over-inflated balloon animal (cue graphic illustration).

But thankfully, there’s now help for people like (pointing to black woman) her, thanks to Bummedia!

ESBW: I show you “bus butt” in another second you keep talkin’ bout my be-hind!

BUS DRIVER: Hey! There ain’t no free rides today, buddy! You can either pay the fare or you can walk!

SALESPERSON: Dammit!

ESBW: Bummedia’s not for everyone, though, and may result in side effects including nausea, trouble breathing, swollen tongue, and in some cases, the irresistible urge to shake yo’ boo-tay!

DAVID CARUSO (looking over taped-off seat): Hey, anybody got a blacklight?

So there you have it—yet another reason to consider public transportation. Or at least, to consider watching CSI.


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