Many things have changed drastically for me over the last few weeks, but one of the bigger changes in my day-to-day life has been in my commute to work. Previously, my commute was only a 10-minute car ride, and parking was always free and usually plentiful. There were even times at which I walked or took a bike to or from Apple because I lived only 3 miles away.
Now, it’s a 35-mile trek each way, no matter how you slice it. What used to be a total of 20 minutes a day is now over 100. However, I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining! My commute has become one of the most peaceful parts of my day.
When I first started commuting, I assumed I would drive. Then, being the cheapskate I am, I looked at what it was costing me. When I realized it was about $11 in gas each day and added the $7 in daily parking on top of that, I knew something had to be done. (Note to Al: if you want to make people passionate about their carbon footprint, don’t appeal to their morals or sense of eco-justice. Appeal to their wallet.) I discovered that a new “express” bus route had opened in Forest Lake only a few weeks ago, and a round-trip fare was only $5.50. Bingo! The travel time is almost identical to driving, but I don’t pay for parking and I don’t have to watch the road. I try to ignore the fact that my commute to the bus stop is now three times longer than my entire commute used to be.
I’m enjoying my bus time far more than I thought I would; it gives me a little while to read news, listen to podcasts, and write blog entries. Like this one! Which was mostly written on the bus this morning. I don’t have to disconnect from the Net if I don’t want to (Yay iPhone!), but it’s pretty easy to do so if that’s what I need that day.
The interesting thing so far has been learning about bus etiquette by observing the other folks on the bus. These are a few things that are totally new to me:
- Greet the bus driver when you get on the bus, and thank him when you leave. Almost everyone does this. Part of this could simply be the local “Minnesota nice”, but I think another part of doing this is purely functional: you want him to recognize you and not drive right past you. If you’re not at a standard bus stop, but at one of the in-between ones instead, it could easily happen.
- Speaking of non-standard bus stops: if you’re not at one of your route’s pre-scheduled stops, you have to be pretty aggressive about stepping out and waving an arm to flag down your bus. Mine almost left me once. On the flip side, if your bus isn’t the one approaching, step several feet back from the curb and look disinterested, or the driver might stop for you. And then you’ll feel dumb.
- When you’re paying for the bus, a non-obvious rule is in effect. In the morning, you pay as you board the bus. In the evening, however, you pay when you get off the bus. I have no idea why. It might have something to do with tracking each person’s point of origin and final destination. That’s all I can guess.
- The strangest / stupidest rule of all: when an express route bus stops at its final destination, the bus is still 95% full. In this case, do not stand up and prepare to disembark unless you’re in the front row. Wait for the row in front of you to stand, get their stuff together, and step into the aisle. Then you can stand. The first day I rode the bus I ignored this completely, treating it more like an airline. I just grabbed my stuff (assuming all the while that everyone was just being really slow), walked past a dozen or more rows of sitting people, and got off the bus. I probably cut three minutes off my commute just by doing that! The second day, I began to do the same thing, noticed absolutely no one else was standing up, got creeped out, and went and sat back down. Only since then have I bothered to notice the rhythm they’ve got set up. No one enforces it. No one has ever spoken of it. It’s just what everyone does. Honestly, I’d prefer we all treat it more like an airplane and just get our stuff and stand up, but apparently that’s somehow bad or foolish, and I don’t want to be a jerk, so I’ll play along. Perhaps that’s what everyone else is doing too.