If I were like most members of my socioeconomic class, I would exclude utilizing the bus from my transportation plans. After all, I do not have to take the bus. I own a vehicle (more than one, in fact), so I can easily drive to and from work. And although gas prices are high, happily that is not the deciding factor in how I get to work. The truth is I like to take the bus. And this makes me a very fortunate person.
As an Albuquerque native, I grew up viewing the bus system with a measure of disdain. Buses, after all, are for people who don’t have a choice. As an adult, I now have the experience of having lived in other cities, cities where public transportation is a choice, not a socioeconomic hardship. And making the drive from the Westside to Uptown each day as the lone occupant in a vehicle got me thinking about things like hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. So instead of shunning the bus, as a lot of Albuquerque residents do, I have embraced it.
I’ve been taking the bus to and from work for more than two years. All types of people ride the bus with me; people who are often not like me. Sure there are people with questionable personal cleanliness, people who are noisy, even people that must be, in my unprofessional opinion, crazy. But riding the bus is a reaffirmation of the marvel of the human experience. Riding the bus is a continual lesson in ditching stereotypes. Riding the bus has taught me that goodness has little to do with where you work or live or how you dress.
If I didn’t ride the bus, I’d miss seeing the scary-looking teenage skateboarder jumping up from his seat to assist a young mother and her child wrangle a stroller through the aisle. I’d miss the high school students on their way to another day of learning, joking and laughing with each other, hopeful for the future and the world, and giving me hope at the same time. I’d miss chatting with the man who took the bus so his daughter could drive the family car to take her best friend to lunch on her birthday. I’d miss the child snuggled in her father’s arms, eyes full of wonder, riding home from a visit to the doctor. And I’d have never met the new friends that I have made.
Yes, riding the bus saves me about $2,500 a year in car expenses. Yes, I cause less air pollution. Yes, I don’t have to deal with traffic on a daily basis. But most importantly, riding the bus lets me experience the benevolence of strangers first hand. It lets me view life. And for that reason, it’s a privilege.