Robot’s Useless Reviews – The Bus
The metaphors abound. In one, I am the minnow, squiggling and wriggling along, minding my own business with both eyes peeled for danger. The bus is a great white shark sluicing through the school its terrible, gaping maw open, ready to eat me whole and not even notice. I’m pretty sure great white sharks don’t eat minnows though, no matter what that awful kids’ game implied.
Or perhaps I am the frail kicker, forced to pick up his own fumble, with 300+ pound linemen bearing down on me, my bones fairly humming in anticipation of being snapped and crushed beneath the sheer weight of my pursuer’s malice. Cycling isn’t football though, and if you’re reading this from another continent, what even is football? That’s right. It’s a game with a round ball, played with your feet.
So maybe no metaphor is necessary. The bus is a great, lumbering mass of glass and steel, and I am a soft, carbon-based life form. We sometimes share a physical space, or put more accurately, I am sometimes required to share that space with the bus. The bus itself, is entirely oblivious to my existence, and that often goes for its driver too.
I am in harm’s way. The bus is late.
The average city bus weighs 15 tons. I weigh 0.0825 tons. Visualize, if you will, a wrecking ball swinging through a pillar of Jell-o, or a bird flying into a plate glass window, except it’s the window moving and not the bird.
And so, the bus and I are frenemies. Where I live, in many places, the bus lane and bike lane are the same lane. This has meant many things for me in my transportational life. When I was a young man, reckless and dumb, I might drift up on a just departing bus and catch hold of it just at the back of its rear wheel well, hitching a ride down a city block. Best to be on the driver’s side for this trick though, so as not to get squeezed at the next stop, and on Boston busses the non-drive side has a vent there at the back, so you get a ride, but you also get blasted with hot, noisome air, likely carcinogenic, certainly unpleasant. Also bears saying, not a lot of drivers thought this move was “cool.”
Once I’d come to my senses, Darwin having allowed me to survive long enough to procreate, probably against his better judgment, I had a short spell where I’d just draft the bus, using it as the ultra-wheel-suck-opportunity, but then once or twice I had to swerve to avoid flattening myself against its broad ass, and that was both dangerous and potentially embarrassing.
I dialed it down another few notches.
Look, I’m not advocating any of this behavior, but I think it’s important to call it out, and to include it in my estimations of the bus more broadly. If you’re a lunatic with a death wish or at least a penchant for entirely unnecessary risks, then do as I did. I came around to the view that big will always squash small eventually, and that I’d ridden my luck rather farther than I’d any right.
Around the time I began actively putting a foot down at every stop sign and light, I began giving the bus a much wider berth. The drivers seemed to appreciate this rather more than my aforementioned hijinks and given the amount of time I’ve spent fording city traffic, I developed a sympathy for the bus driver that had been entirely absent in my frivolous youth. Sometimes, when presented with a choice, I’d even slow down and wave the bus back out into the lane in front of me.
This felt like a maneuver of karmic redress.
Our relationship, such as it was, evolved to a cold neutrality, perhaps a grudging respect. In the fine tradition of a century of US foreign policy, I began to view the bus as the enemy of my enemy, i.e. the car. The bus, on a good day, replaces 1000s of cars on our local roadways, and cars are the worst. The enemy-of-my-enemy policy has produced so many catastrophic backfires, I’m not sure I would call my thing with the bus any more than a detente.
But even the good drivers are hopelessly in the way. Even a Prius or a Nissan Leaf commits the sin of space pollution, occupying too much real estate for the one person ensconced within. The bus, by comparison, is the most efficient beast on the road. I’d swap a bus for 1000 cars any day.
When first I saw a bus driver loading a bike into a quixotic front rack, the rider tromping up the steps and swiping their card, I thought, “We’ve come a long way now, haven’t we my friend?” I myself will never hand my bike over to a civil servant in a polyester uniform, just on principle, but I like the bus now. I stay the f#*k away from it, but I like it.
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