Let us take a moment here and talk about the modes of transport available in the where I live. Oh yes, we have the huge swanky cars with umpteen cylinders – the gas guzzlers – zipping down the highways. And we have superb motorcycles that make heads turn. You can even spot Amish buggies clunking down the lane. Yes siree, I live in the only American state that has Amish settlements.
But nothing prepared me for the scarcity of public transportation here.
“Buses? Who would wanna take that?!”
“Umm – me? I don’t have a drivers’ license yet.”
I always get the deer-in-the-headlights expression when I say that sentence. They are ALWAYS unprepared for that one.
So, I thumbed through the yellow pages and found a couple of cab numbers that I could rely on. Reliability is not their top priority here – for these cabbies. I live in a suburban area where every household owns a car or two. Who the hell would want to take a ride in a stuffy taxi? Well, I definitely could use a ride!
Here are some hard facts. There are FOUR cabs serving this county. And there are four cab companies and there are four drivers, namely, Grumpy Lady (GL) Driver, Indifferent Guy (IG) Driver, Chatty Dangerous (CD) Driver, Rehab Relapse (RR) Driver. Not much of a list to choose from. And it is difficult to keep track of who works for whom because they quit a company overnight. I used to call up IG the most because, well, he is indifferent. But then, one day I called him to hear this: “I don’t drive no more taxis anymore lady. Call some other bas***d”.
GL was rough and terrible to even sit next to. I moved into my apartment a day before Halloween (that is Americanized… a day after Diwali is more like it…) I dragged in three boxes past the door and tried to put them into the car’s boot. She didn’t flinch. She sat in the driver’s seat and solved her daily crossword. I hated her instantly. And I swore never to call her up again.
CD is not too bad, if only he would stop turning around while chatting and driving at those dangerous speeds. My eyeballs would go deep into the eye sockets every time he revved up the engine, and would pop right out when he slammed the brakes. I am just newly insured, with no desire to visit the hospital or lie in a pristine coffin in a fancy funeral parlour any time soon.
And that is how Rehab guy and I met. Not very romantic, I admit. But this is how I got to work. I would sit in the backseat while he drove and spewed hate literature about discrimination and monologues about how life isn’t really as pretty as it seems on TV.
Television, I thought, now there is a neutral subject I can bring up with this chap.
“I don’t watch TV. Just too much violence. I have a life equally violent. I don’t need to watch it for entertainment.”
Over the course of five days, I got to know that he is a sketch artist with no money thanks to the economy. They all love to blame it on the economy and I have trained myself to nod sympathetically and make the appropriate grunts of disapproval. Gosh, I sound like a husband! Coming back to the Rehab guy. So, he goes for classes to a de-addiction centre and is “graduating” next week. I asked him if he has managed to stay clean and he told me that this was his second session after relapse.
After a week of being driven around I wasn’t too sure about continuing this. Money wasn’t much and frankly, I was beginning to worry that strange people knew where I live and where I work. That is when I turned my attention to the second mode of public transport – the bus.
* * *
Allow me to introduce you to the quaint ways of the Rabbit Transit, in other words, the county’s mode of public transportation.
York County has a series of buses plying its roads crisscross, from the suburbs to downtown and back. You can never get lost if you take one of them, because they all go in loops. The bus stops are marked with a bunny picture and a helpline number that will help you identify what bus goes where.
These huge buses are red in color and have–get this—a BUNNY TAIL PAINTED ON THE REAR END OF THE VEHICLE. It is almost always empty and it almost always makes a stop at all the major shopping complexes and similar such outlets. Most of the drivers are women. Not that there is anything wrong with that. They are a chatty lot and they love to read while at work. A very dangerous trend, I have to note.
So, you think you can get a ride on the Bunny Bus? It is not as easy as it sounds. They are so hard to spot. When you are sitting in a car and going some place and when you are not particularly looking out for a bus… that is when you spot the maximum number of these buses. I chased the evasive bunny for days.
One evening, I was determined to hop on to one of them buses. Hop on… that’s a nice way to say that you are boarding a bus. Not to mention, a Rabbit Transit bus. I walked out of the office building and walked in the direction that one of the Rabbit maps directed me to. I did not see any bus stop for yards and miles. Just when I thought I would die of exhaustion, I got to one stop. While catching my breath I noticed what a desolate little spot it was. Not a single human in sight. Why would someone board a bus from here?
I stood there for an hour, it rained, the Rehab Guy ditched me, and finally, a colleague came and got me. She dropped a sad, cold, wet, and stinky me home. That night, while munching on a midnight snack (yes, one of those American vices that I developed), I decided that I HAVE to get on one of those Rabbit buses. Sunday would be a good day, I decided.
I went through the complete drill of waiting for an hour-and-a-half and got a bus. No, in fact, Rabbit Transit rewarded my wait with TWO buses. Oh, I get a choice of routes. I am delighted. I take in the musty ambience inside the bus. The lady behind the wheels gives me a guided tour of the area, since I am new in town. How did she know? I did not know the bus fare and I fumbled with the quarters and nickels and dimes and dollars.
I got back home after three hours.
No points for guessing how I got to work this morning. Oh and did I tell you about the survey I had to fill out, at work? Funny Lady and Funny Man came up with a strange little survey that I had to take. Sample these questions:
1. Does the bus you are riding have a bunny tail, or not?
2. Are the seats clean?
3. Is the bus hostess friendly and serving you complimentary cocktails?
4. Does the person sitting next to you smell?
5. Do you have a sworn affidavit of your identity while traveling on the bus?
I should stop, for now. My bunny ride is here.