Standing room only

Parking is far too expensive in downtown Seattle for me to justify driving to work every day, so I take advantage of one of the benefits offered by my employer: a bus pass. Public transportation can be a hassle at times. With all the stops figured in, it can take longer than driving. Depending on what bus you take, it may not run frequently enough to be very convenient.

And then there are the other passengers, like the lady who commutes with an unhappy cat in a stroller, or the guy who smells like a combination of Wild Turkey and stale cigarettes, or worse yet, the loud and unrepentant gal who has her ear glued to a cell phone and gabs about what should be private business so a whole busload of people know all about who cheated on whom and when the divorce papers will be signed.

Don’t let me forget the bus drivers either. Some are great. But then there are the crotchety ones who yell at passengers and other drivers. There’s also my favorite, the passive-aggressive bus driver who insisted on posing a trivia question-of-the-day despite numerous complaints. He prefaced his spiel by asking people to raise their hands if they objected, but it sucks being put on the spot like that and one can’t dodge the implication of being a spoilsport. (For those of you in the Seattle area, if you have a serious problem with a bus driver, you can submit a report here.)

Really, these things keep life interesting, so I’m still a die-hard proponent of commuting via public transit. Besides, it’s good for the environment, right?

I’d love to hear how you all make sure your commute goes smoothly and you don’t let any bus-driver-induced guilt trips or headaches from breathing too deeply of the Eau de Wild Turkey ruin your day. Here’s what’s in my travel kit:

Entertainment:

Reading

I always carry my Kindle with me, fully loaded with escapist literature.

  • I went through a phase of reading every Georgette Heyer book ever published (I’ll never tire of novels set in the Regency era, especially when they’re as witty as Heyer’s books).
  • I followed that phase up with a bunch of zombie apocalypse books, favorites being the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant. It’s hard to find a well-written zombie novel, unfortunately, but those were pretty good.
  • One of the best things I’ve read recently is the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey. It’s classic science fiction in that it makes you think all sorts of deep thoughts about human nature, the meaning of life, etc. It even recalled for me Plato’s allegory of the cave…excellent stuff!
  • iPod

    I tried listening to my iPod on the bus, but it just didn’t work out for me. My hearing isn’t what it used to be and there’s just too much ambient noise with the engines rumbling, horns honking, sirens sirening and that WOMAN ON THE CELL PHONE.

    Knitting

    Sometimes I’ll work on a knitting project. I like to carry a small project with me like socks or a cowl. It’s a relaxing hobby for me. Unfortunately, it sometimes draws unwanted attention.

    In my Bag:

  • I always carry a compact umbrella in my purse. Seattle weather is generally wet and it pays to be prepared. That’s been especially true this summer.
  • I put my bus pass and building key card into a card holder and attached them to my purse with a lanyard so I will never lose them again. It’s a bit like having your mittens tied together and strung through your coat sleeves, but nothing’s more inconvenient than losing your bus pass or simply not being able to locate it quickly.
  • In the old days, I used to carry a copy of the bus schedule and map in my purse. Now, I can can look up maps and check on arrival times using an app for my iPhone called One Bus Away. It’s available for a variety of other platforms as well. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.
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