Why do I love transit?
It all goes back to my little red wagon and the joy of my body being powered by a force other than my own. With the wind in my hair I watched the world go by with a singular focus as my father pulled my weight with ease. When I board a bus or the skytrain I feel that wonder; the power of the wheel, the forward momentum, the ease of movement. I am a spectator of the world.
Sometimes I read or listen to music while riding. I have even been known to wear a headlamp for long rides at night in order to read in the dim light of the bus. If I am with someone we have the freedom to talk without interruptions. Often the conversation turns to long-term plans and ideas, the discussion of the journey of our lives paralleling the journey of the bus.
Sometimes I meditate or stare out the window catching a glimpse of Hollyburn Peaks, a bank of blooming cherry trees or a red-tailed hawk on a telephone pole. Sometimes I watch and listen to fellow passengers as I relish the diversity of cultures represented or the amazing ease of entry for wheelchairs and strollers on our kneeling bus.
Little kids love transit. When my own kids were small it was a time for asking questions, playing games and singing songs. Talking with other passengers seems natural with small children.
I have witnessed many small acts of kindness on transit like the Chinese grandma offering a banana to a hijab-clad mom to quiet her crying son, or an Asian man offering me his seat: “Not because you are old but because you are hot!” he joked. A friend tells me that once a bus driver got all the riders to sing happy birthday when he found out it was her birthday.
Some of the interactions are disturbing, of course, but I have a special transit radar that alerts me when things are brewing. I move to another section of the bus or another car on the skytrain when I sense something amiss. Or I sit and bear witness to a slice of life I would never encounter in a car.
What I am not doing on transit is:
- Burning as many fossil fuels
- Negotiating traffic jams
- Enduring the persistent semi-conscious knowledge that at any moment I could kill someone or be killed by a hurling hunk of metal of which I am in control
I prefer the ease and sleek beauty of transit as I relinquish control and enjoy the ride in my enlarged red wagon which I share with a diverse community of people.
So if I say I am taking transit, please don’t offer me a ride. I have a car and could use it if needs be as I do when lack of time and energy dictate. Allow me my first choice: Transit.
By Mary Lage