The Austin public bus transportation is one of the first thing I “fell in love with” once I first came in the city in August 2008. Several reasons could account for this sudden infatuation with Capital Metro Buses. The most obvious was that, I guess, the bus schedule appeared to me so perfect. For the first time in my life, I could wait for a bus and get on it at the scheduled time. Waouuhhh.
Just imagine, I was coming from Kinshasa, capital of D.R. Congo, where there is no reliable public transportation. The few buses that struggle to serve more than six millions of people are so irregular that you never know when the next one would show up. And when it shows up, you never know if you’ll be able to elbow your way in. More than a hundred people at the bus stop have been waiting for the same 24-seat bus. Sorry, the first-come-first-serve rule is not applicable here. The only rule is that of the jungle: The strongest resists, the weakest falls.
Here are few suggestions for a possible survival: 1- Never wear white clean clothes (they’ll turn black). 2-Hold your cellphone and wallet tight in your hand and never keep them in your pocket (you’ll find yourself on the bus with no money to pay for the ride because among the hundred people who are scrambling for an available seat, ten percent are diabolically smarter than you). 3-No gentlemanness to girls or women (you’ll take no bus before midnight).
Now you understand why I could only fall for Austin buses. Punctuality. Could wear my whitest shirt and get off the bus safely. Dozen of empty seats waiting just for me. Free for us UT students. Paradise. In a week, I took all the buses from and to all directions. South to North through downtown. West to East through South. In a week, I discovered the whole city. I might know now some hidden spots of the city better than those who have lived here longer than me. A piece of advice to all new comers in Austin: ride the bus!
Another important reason led me to love Austin buses. Riding the bus exposed me to “the real America”, to what life was for the ordinary American, to what America was all about. When on the bus, I pay now less attention to what is happening outside and more to people who are travelling with me. I look at the drivers… They are all from different horizons. They have different stories to tell I know. White, black, hispanic, men, women, large, skinny, tough, gentle, tattoed, smiling, tolerant, whistling a tune, warm-hearted, greet all riders, How are you doing today?, silent, keep a meditative mode…They are the real America with its joys and with its pains….
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