Thursday, May 3, 2012

People watching on the bus

Working in a big city, it’s much more convenient to use public transportation to get to work. Surpassing the snarled traffic, the bus happily cruises down the shoulder and drops me at the front door (or damn near close) much faster than any other alternative. And my bank account thanks me for the money I save not spending it on gas or exorbitant parking fees.

The benefits that accompany this mode of transportation are abundant. Every day I can count on at least 40 minutes—20 minutes each way—of “down time.” I can read, browse the Internet from my phone, or simply get lost in my own thoughts. Or, as was the case yesterday, I can use the time for a quick nap. I swore I’d never be one of those people, but after being up all night with the dog, it didn’t take much more than the soothing hum of a quiet bus to lull me to sleep, even amidst strangers.

I’m lucky in that my bus route is typically clean and conservative. Unlike the horror stories—or more like, comedic relief—of many fellow coworkers, I rarely encounter loud and drunken passengers, fist fights, or puke (all true stories). It’s the benefit, I guess, of a route that only connects a small but vibrant neighborhood with the bustling business district of its sister city.

But one of my favorite parts of riding the bus has to be the people watching. Maybe it’s a Minnesota thing (or maybe not), but most people I know appreciate a good people-watching session (that’s what places like the State Fair and the Mall of America are for!).  

It’s funny, having ridden this route for more than 6 years now, how I can see total strangers and feel like I know them. The woman who just came back to work after her maternity leave (her second baby since we’ve shared the same transportation). The boisterous older gentleman with a fat diamond in his ear who starts his car remotely as soon as he’s exactly 1 block away. The man—a bus driver himself heading home from his shift—who brings a mint every day for a woman who gets on a few stops after him.

I may feel like I know them but the truth is I really have no idea at all. I can write their stories in my head, make assumptions from their passing conversations, but they’re strangers nonetheless.

I wonder sometimes who I am to them. The girl who landed (literally) in a nice gentleman’s lap after the bus stopped abruptly?  The one who can sometimes be seen chasing the bus down with her car to get one stop ahead and catch it just in time? Or the quiet girl who stands out like a sore thumb among the polished professionals when she wears jeans to work 2-3 times a week?

Then again, maybe the curious observer in me is one-of-a-kind. Maybe no one else thinks beyond the kind smiles and gentle hello’s we share with familiar strangers.

Tell me, do you like to “people watch?” Or am I alone on this crazy train?


  1. I love this post and I love to people watch! I was a tiny bit disappointed when I found out that my new job was in the suburbs and it wouldn't really work out for me to commute via public transportation... I've always wanted to do that. And you make it sound so fun!

  2. Oh my gosh - I personally think ALL blogger are PEOPLE watchers! hahah I love to people watch....esp at the airport. If I can eavesdrop on convo too... that is even more golden!