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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Bus


It's a big city, but it's well served by its intricate train and subway system. So far, so good, but how to get to the subway station?

If you don't fancy a stroll (subway stations are maybe an average of 300 yards apart), you may be able to take a bus. Depending, a bus will come along in ten to twenty minutes, and so everyone can know exactly when to leave home it will surely be on time to the minute.

If you board at the start of the run, a digital display at the front of the bus will count down the minutes before the bus will start. The uniformed bus driver in peak cap and white gloves will thank everyone everyone as they board and swipe their pass over the reader. He will often greet old customers by name. 

In time, the driver will announce that he is about to start the bus's big rumbling diesel engine, then you're off. (Time was when most buses, even those on rural routes, had conductors to collect the fares from everyone seated, but now this is done automatically at the machine at the front which reads everyone's pass; money is rarely exchanged.)

During the ride, a dulcet recorded female voice will announce name of the next stop, and the stop after that.

The back roads are so narrow that buses going and coming cannot pass each other except at places where one bus can pull over to get out of the way. Because the schedule is so carefully maintained, there's usually a wait for the other bus to come by of no more than a minute, but nevertheless the driver will apologize for the inexcusable delay.

At the end of the line, which will be in front of a train station, the recorded voice will thank everyone for taking the bus and wish everyone a good day. The bus empties in half a minute. 

The bus then goes to the bus-parking area next to the station to wait until it's time to make the run back. Some of the runs along the back roads are extraordinarily circuitous, the better to sweep up passengers from as many neighborhoods as possible.

- Jean-Claude Folgaritsen 

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