Thursday, 23 May 2013

Buses and Me

I don’t know why it is, but I find buses to be the most complicated type of public transportation on earth. I’m pretty sure mapping the trajectory path to the Moon is easier than finding your way around a city on a public bus. This personal problem of mine is further intensified by the fact that I’m living in a city roughly estimated to have a population of 20 million people. What this means is I can cover a fair distance, going in the wrong direction, before reaching the last stop and realizing my mistake.

I would like to blame my lack of mapping ability on growing up in a small town where most things were close enough to walk to, but even then I easily got lost. The real reason I never know where I’m going is because I have so much more important things going on in my mind. Wasn’t it Einstein who said in reply to a reporter’s remark, why should I remember my own phone number when I can look it up in the phonebook? It’s the same sort of idea but more stretched out to encompass e-mails, Birthdays and University campuses. Now you see Mom why I didn’t what you to move houses on me, it wasn’t for any silly sentimental reasons it’s because I will now never be able to make it home for dinner.

Back to Beijing though, I have been trying out new ways to get to my campus. I usually take the subway and then walk for 10 minutes, but those are precious 10 minutes. What I thought would be a far better idea is to get off the subway two stops before the usual, and take a bus directly to the gate of my University. What instead happened was first me going to every exit, except the one I was supposed to go out of. Once I got down to the last three available options I decided to practice my Chinese and ask for directions. This didn’t work out as it usually does since the man I asked didn’t really want to answer and instead passed me off to two old ladies, who hemmed and hawed, until they were pretty sure I was going in the wrong direction and needed to turn around and cross the road.

I wasn’t too confident in their directions so I decided to use the call a friend option. This turned out slightly better, other than having to admit I didn’t remember the bus stop she had accompanied me to just a few days earlier. She said the exit was “B as in Bob” which made me wonder why he gets picked on so much and wouldn’t it be better if we had a Canadian list of words just for occasions like this. It could then get annoyingly stuck in everybody’s mind and people will go around muttering “A as in Alberta”, “C as in Canucks”, “D as in Doughnuts” and, “P as in Puck!’”. I tell you there are many similar strains of thoughts running through my mind and this is why I must not be disturbed.

I finally found the bus stop and thankfully only had to wait 5 minutes for my bus to arrive. The stress factor came in having to alight on the bus without knocking people over or being taken down myself; I have at least learned a few good self defense moves this way. My notion of a comfortable ride home, where I could sit and think, was ruined by the timing of rush-hour. I instead stood for the entire time trying not to fall over at every jolt and screeching halt the contraption made.

The good news is it didn’t take too long and I remembered when to get off. Once I was one stop away I did the everyday “prepare to get off drill” which goes a lot like elbowing people out of the way until you are so close to the door your nose touches it. Once the door opens you cross your arms in front of you, like a dead man’s pose and jump off. Ideally you do this once the bus has come to a stop but you could try it mid-traffic (let me know how that goes). So once off the bus it’s a short walk, or more of a jaunt to my dorm.

Even though it’s difficult to weigh the pros and cons, the truth is I might never do that again, ever.
Instead I will revert back to my normal habit of taking the subway, which has a nice map and colour coordinated dots that don’t move. I see no reason in fixing something that isn’t broken, and it is 60% more likely that I will have a chance to sit down on the subway for the 40 minute ride home than on the bus. Just so you know I did that calculation based on my time here so it is completely accurate.

So though I applaud the fact that as cities get larger and larger, they are making faster and more convenient transit systems, I for one will take a bullet train or subway any day over a bus. Those things are dangerous, and programmed to make you more lost and confused then when you started.

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