What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

21 March 2012

All Aboard!

Last week, I spent quite a bit of my time on the bus giggling.

You see, South by Southwest was in full swing, so many Austinites heeded the sage advice to take Capital Metro to the festivities instead of trying to drive downtown. Quite a lot of out-of-towners did the same, with the result that many of my usual routes were full of first-time bus users. And that's where the giggling began.

Not that I in any way look down on new bus users, of course. On the contrary: I wish we could get more people into public transportation, so that the agencies responsible would have more money to run the services more often. And set up more express routes-- I'm just far enough away from the city center that my commute is 30-45 minutes by bus, but unfortunately that's not far enough away to justify a flyer or express route in my neighbourhood at Capital Metro's current funding level. (Or at least, that's what they tell me.)

And of course, I do remember my first bus ride with unfortunate vividness. Well, it was my sort-of first ride. I rode Lubbock's Citibus a few times when I was a student there briefly in '97-'98, before I moved to Scotland, but I really don't remember it. In Britain, you pay for how far you travel on the buses, and you get a printed ticket each time to prove that you've paid the fare. I had learned just how far I could travel for 50 pence, or a pound, or how much to pay if I wanted to go both ways.

After two years of this, I considered myself a seasoned bus rider, and so I was not prepared for the shock awaiting me when I moved back to Lubbock. To begin with, the woman at the bus plaza assured me, we don't have "timetables" in Texas. They're called "schedules."  Okay, call it what you like, I say. Furthermore, it's $1 every time you get on the bus, no matter where you're going. (I later found out this was not 100% true.) Well, that makes it easy, right? So the first morning of my new job, I got on board, paid my fare, and waited. The bus driver stared at me. I stared back.

Driver: Do you need a transfer?
Me: (A what?) Um... no?
Driver: Okay, you can take a seat.
Me: Oh. Thanks. (Wait! What about my ticket?)

I was really nervous, those first few days, about riding with no ticket in hand. And that, by the way, is a good snapshot of culture shock: Things that seem familiar are actually quite strange, no matter now normal they once were, and you have no way of explaining to those around you that you've undergone a personality change and you have no idea when you'll be back to normal. It's an adventure.

So, my giggling last week was not without sympathy, but more out of remembrance. Most of the struggles seemed to be with how to pay-- where do the bills go? What about change? How do I swipe my ticket? And there was some trouble signalling for a stop, too. In other words, I'm really happy not to have to relive that confusion. However, if you are looking to start using public transit soon and think you might have trouble, I do have a handy guide to riding that might help.


Angela Felsted said...

Excellent illustration of culture shock. And, of course, there are often people around you who look at you as if you've come from another planet because you don't just KNOW the right way to do things.

Su said...

Yes! So true! I had another one tonight... My accent and pronunciation have long gone back to American, except the word "medium". And it always throws people off when I say it, and I CANNOT say it in American.

Liz said...

I'd be totally clueless if I tried to ride the bus. Perhaps that's reason enough to do it.