Last week I had to take the bus to get my car from the mechanic and I found that bus riding and bus taking in an upscale enclave like the Hamptons (unlike the city) is a sub-culture activity.
No one that I know takes the bus or would think of the bus as a way to get from one place to another. They would think taking the bus would be (at best) quaint - odd in an old-fashioned kind of way. At worst, they would think of the bus like the reduced produce rack at the supermarket - not for them
I pass by the bus stop whenever I go to the supermarket. I see the people waiting. These bus riders are often holding take out dinners. They lounge against the wood fence with a plastic fork in their hand, stabbing at their food. Some sit on a little embankment and listen to their music. Many carry a lot of stuff in shopping bags.
Each time, involuntarily I have the same group of thoughts.
1. If you take the bus you are not a driver. If you are not a driver, you don’t make enough money to own a car.
a. You are probably a dayworker.
2. Or you are a habitual drinker whose license has been suspended.
3. Or maybe your friend who got you to move here because there is day work can’t give you a ride today.
4. Or you are a teen-ager who doesn’t drive and whose parents are not able to pick you up because they are working.
5. Or you are one of the seniors who lives at the Windmill Village Trailer Park or the Affordable Senior Housing.
6. Or your wife/husband/son/daughter needs the car to go to a regular job far away.
I could probably extrapolate a bunch of socio-ecomic truths that follow but let's just say these bus regulars are not participating in the upper portion of the American Dream.
There are implied rules on the bus.
1. The bus need not be on time and there’s no talk about it when it finally arrives.
2. The bus will let you off wherever you like as long as it is safe.
3. A few “regulars” have a camaraderie with the driver. They greet him both boarding and leaving. They converse in single sentences followed by long silences.
“Look at the funny way they angled that new house.”
“Some drunk will drive into it.”
The regulars don’t discuss sporting events but they do discuss other regulars or other drivers who aren’t there.
“Jimmy’s not here today.”
The rest of the riders say nothing. There is no intra-rider conversation except if you ask a bus question and then everyone weighs in. The driver knows the habits of each regular and accommodates them. Some don’t have enough change that day and they put in whatever they have.
I can’t tell you why but I felt safe and comforted on the bus. Even though it was shabby, I liked the simplicity of it and that I had no responsibility. All I had to do was sit, look around, look at the passing scene and get off.
If you took away the Public Relatiobns deficiency, the bus is a wonderful resource. My fare was seventy-five cents. If I wanted to go all the way to Riverhead - about forty miles - it would still be seventy-five cents.