The following is a true story.
When you think about taking a bus, what immediately comes to mind? Inconvenience? Sitting next to deodorant-challenged and/or featured guests from the Jerry Springer Show? Well, sure, taking the bus encompasses all those things, but regardless of the negatives, and provided that you are up for the challenge, you can make public transportation work for you. Case in point: Multi-modal transportation to interview for a job.
Yours truly recently had an interview with an employer located less than ten miles away from home. Now you would think that a destination that close would be relatively easy to get to, even via the bus, right?
Wrong. Not so easy when the local public transportation authority that runs the show consists of a bunch of overpaid, inexplicably, self-congratulatory bureaucrats. But that is another matter. I’m here to tell you about my multi-modal transportation experience to a job interview.
Once I was able to ascertain the correct bus route to the interview, transport was fairly straight-forward. But then getting that information was the furthest thing from easy. First, I called the bus transportation authority for help with scheduling the trip, but it was an exercise in futility mostly because the people answering the phones are not always knowledgeable or helpful. Secondly, I checked the bus website to plan the trip, but that wasn’t very helpful either for several reasons, mostly because I have to travel to a library to use the high speed internet connection as I do not have it at home anymore. But it wasn’t travelling to the library that was the problem -I make this trip all the time- It was the library’s internet connection.
If you happen to be there any time after 2p.m. during the week, and, your trip was to use the internet to say, plan a bus trip from the website, then you won’t be able to because of too many people trying to use the connection all at the same time. The end result is that the connection is depreciated to slower than dial up. I was shit out of luck that day, but fortunately, I had a friend who accessed the bus’s website for me from her high speed connection at home and had better luck getting the correct bus route information. Thereafter, I contacted the bus transportation authority to confirm, and this time, spoke with a rep who was helpful.
So now I had the necessary bus routes and times. Follow along with me now as I walk you through what you’re in for if you take the bus. My interview was at 11a.m. on Monday morning during the second week of January. Although I reside in Southern California, contrary to popular belief, the temperature here is not sunny and 85° year round. In fact, on this particular day, the temp was 40 degrees with some wind, which made it feel like 20 to me when I was on the bike. Disclaimer: I am from a cold climate and have been used to four seasons, but something happens when you move to a warmer climate -your body somehow forgets that you once functioned in freezing cold, snow and sleet.
The first bus was set to leave shortly after 8a.m., but published departure times and what time the bus actually shows up are two very different things. Sometimes, the bus is right on time, but most times, it runs 10-20 minutes late. Sometimes it doesn’t even show up at all. Delays can be attributed to various things such as mechanical failure and/or traffic, but that is less frequently the reason. In my experience, delays are due to certain passengers that are not able to board the bus in a timely fashion.
While it’s all nice and politically correct to have those with mental and physical disabilities out in the general public and riding the bus along with everyone else, the reality is that it takes time to get these people seated, and, in some cases, it takes the driver a long time to securely belt the wheelchair to the bus. It would be one thing if everyone on board was set to be leisurely transported to say, a museum, but it’s quite another when you’re relying on the bus to get you to your job and you’re delayed by passengers with special needs. Twenty minutes late is not looked upon favorably by most employers. It could cost you a job. And anyway, why are there even special needs people on the regular, fixed route bus in the first place when the county has a paratransit van in operation that will pick up these people from and then drop off at their own front doors? I don’t pretend to understand why this wasn’t the case that day the group home boarded bound for a day-trip, no doubt, but OK. I’ll just grumble about it here since if I dared to express it to the bus transportation authority, I will probably be called a cruel and inhumane asshole.
Another reason why the bus will run late or not at all is attributable to death. Yes, passengers have been known from time to time to drop over dead en route to wherever they were going. It’s unavoidable, and, what’s more, if that should happen to your bus, then the scheduled route will be disrupted. It just won’t show for the time it was supposed to and you will have to wait an hour, or however long it takes the bus transportation authority to remove the body and get back on track.
But let’s return to my story. I took the 8a.m. -ish bus when it arrived and was dropped off at 9a.m. relatively close to the connecting bus I had to take to the actual destination. (Please note, an hour is about right when taking the bus even to destinations within 10 miles of the starting point.) I was unsure as to where the connecting stop was and so when I exited the bus, I was in a mad scramble to grab the bike off the rack and then haul ass up or down the street to find the correct bus stop. Eventually, I did find it, worried the whole time I would miss my connecting bus, but as it turned out, the bus was running 10 minutes behind. Lovely.
When the connector bus finally showed, I secured my bike back up on the rack, boarded the bus and ran my day pass through the ATM-like machine located by the driver. Travel time approximately 12 minutes to my destination. Time of arrival: 9:30a.m. My interview is not until 11a.m. So what do I do now? Normally, I would find a place to relax outside -a food court, a smoker’s court, a shopping plaza, etc. but all that was available in this instance was the smoker’s court. OK, not optimal, but not like anyone else was outside in the freezing cold sucking on a cancer stick.
The day was very bright, very sunny and very cold. Although the sun was warm, the temperature was not very accommodating. Ah yes, I remember when 40 degrees was a balmy winter day. Not so after you have acclimated to a warmer clime. I resolved that I would wait til 10:30 then go inside the building to the restroom to change into my interviewing attire. (Yes, it is possible to transport just about anything if you have the right bag on your back.) But even though it was only an hour’s wait time, it felt like 3 days. I hadn’t brought anything along to occupy my time, it was freezing cold, and the outdoor furniture was exceptionally uncomfortable. I’m thinking this furniture could easily have doubled as a water-boarding device.
At 10:30, I went inside to change. The restroom was very warm compared to outside. A few employees on the first floor used the facilities, but restroom usage was negligible at this time. I selected the handicapped stall because of its size, and then changed out of my bike clothing into my interviewing attire. It took just under 20 minutes as I also had to fix my hair, which had become mussed up due to the bandana I wear under my helmet to catch sweat and to otherwise keep the heat from rising out of the top of my head on a cold day. I was way ahead of schedule and even had time to mess with the electronic directory located in front of the elevator banks which featured a map overview of the immediate area. I was looking for the shortest route to the stop to take a return bus home.
The interview itself proceeded without incident. About as well as can be expected. I wasn’t thrilled to have to haul my bag containing my bike clothes, sneaks, seat post, water bottle and helmet, the latter of which always takes up a great deal of bag real estate, but it couldn’t be helped. If the interviewers noticed my back or even gave it a second thought, it was not evident to me. Approximately an hour later, I had thanked them for the time and was told they would let me know one way or the other as to the success or lack thereof of my application.
I proceeded back downstairs to the warm restroom to change back into my bike clothes, and this time, I’m not sure what the deal was, but it seemed to be peak shitting time in this particular restroom. Had people working in the building chosen this restroom instead of the ones on their own floors because it was warmer? Or was it more like they needed to drop a load and assumed the first floor head was going to afford a lot more privacy? Some people, when forced to shit in public restrooms, will deliberately seek out a disused head. I have no idea why that is – maybe they just don’t want their fellow co-workers to know that they shit? Whatever the reasoning, it was bowel movement central at 10 of 12 noon that day in the restroom I was changing in.
Once back outside, people were in a big rush to get to the shopping plaza where they would purchase a fast food lunch. It took me approximately 20 minutes to bike to the next bus stop, which was a different bus route from the one that brought me. The return trip bus was not set to leave again until 3p.m. But no matter. I’d rather bike 2.5 miles than walk to another bus stop in order to take another route.
I arrived at the next stop 35 minutes ahead of schedule and decided to pass the time on the comfy, wicker chairs at an outdoor food court. During warmer weather, this is a pleasant way to pass the time because the cushions are very comfortable. (Or maybe my standards have been lowered so exponentially that anything other than concrete seems comfy to me.) Although the sun was shining, I was definitely not digging the cold temperature, which seemed to be getting a lot colder compared to the A.M. commute.
At approximately 13 minutes before the bus was set to show up, I left the food court to head to the bus stop located nearby on the corner, but as I was pressing the walk button to cross the intersection, I noticed there was another biker waiting on that corner. If you don’t bus-bike then you have no idea why this is noteworthy. But if you DO bus-bike, then you know that if another biker is waiting at the same stop you are, then the possibility exists that when the bus comes along, there may not be a space on the rack for your ride as the rack only holds 2 bikes. Oh hell no, I was not going to be shit out of luck that day if I could help it.
Determined NOT to have to wait another hour for the next bus to swing by because of a full bike rack, I hauled ass 400 feet down the sidewalk to the bus stop located before the one I was planning to wait at. The better to head off the biker at the other stop and snag a spot on the rack. I doubt the guy noticed when I turned and pedaled off from the intersection, and, even if he did, I doubt he realized what I was doing. Some might say that I “stole” his spot on the rack, but I don’t see it that way. I didn’t swipe a spot on the bike rack simply by going to another bus stop anymore than someone who shows up at the ass crack of dawn to shop to take advantage of holiday bargains is “stealing” anything. The early bird gets the worm, bitchez!
As it turned out, there was a spot on the rack for both my bike as well as the other biker’s, but I was not going to leave that to chance. I was caught once before on another trip having to let two buses go because of a full bike rack, and, I have resolved that I am not going to passively let that happen again if I can help it.
I exited this bus without incident and had to wait an additional 20 minutes for yet another bus to get back home, but overall, the events detailed here are typical for a multi-modal commute.
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