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Riding the Bus

You get the best view from a bus window.

When I lived in Dublin, I'd take the bus up from campus to the city center to go grocery shopping or work on my thesis in a coffee shop. I'd get a seat by the window if I could and stare at the people strolling down the street, the cyclists crossing the canal bridge, and the green and yellow and blue doors on the brick Georgian buildings sliding past. I liked to lose myself in sonder and wonder about the lives of the people out on the street: this one going to work, this one heading home, this one walking to a new life. I think it's easier to imagine others as having vast and varied lives when your life - as mind did during graduate school - sits on the edge of possibilities. Perhaps if I could imagine their lives, I could try them on for size.

The backs of the buses used to be open, an older man told me at one of the writing groups I went to. People would jump on and jump off, dropping their coins in a collection bucket. But it was also easy to hop on and off without dropping your coins. Besides, people could fall out the back if you weren't careful, so they closed the buses up, he told me. The back of the bus was where Bang Bang used to ride, he told me. The Dublin character would ride around buses shouting "Bang! Bang!" and stage mock fights in the style of his favorite Western movies with anyone who would play along.

Even my dad recognized the joys of bus riding.

When my family visited me in Dublin over the holidays, my dad quickly learned how much he liked looking out bus windows and suggested we ride the bus at every opportunity. On one ride, he took the stairs up to the top and waited until the front row seats opened. Then he took my mom's hand and rushed up to the front, so he could peer down on the Dublin streets from the big, wide front windows.

My dad was right, of course.

Riding buses are some of the best ways to see a place. Whenever I travel, I love taking public transit. It's always confusing and frustrating and I always get lost or end up on the wrong route along the way, but that's some of the best parts. I always manage to get where I was going somehow. Like the time I took a night train from Hamburg to Salzburg and shared the equivalent of several Lay-Z-Boys shoved into a car with three other people. Or the time I watched the German Alps rise up before me while I took a bus into Bavaria. Or the time my friend and I rode a rickety, bumping bus that sounded like it might all apart any moment from the airport to our hostel in Cusco. Or the time my roommates and I almost missed our train from Vienna to Prague when, in a scramble to find a last minute printer for our tickets, we lost each other in a busy train station.

I always got where I needed to go.

Perhaps the reason I love buses so much is the same reason I love airports and driving and trains. I love that in between, the going and the coming, the possibility of the somewhere you're about to be. And I love watching the world through the bus windows.


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