On Public Transportation

I have an irrational fear of public transportation. I don’t have any qualms about riding trains or subways – I’ve done that before in Boston, in NYC, in Chicago… it’s just buses that freak me out.  I haven’t regularly ridden a bus since the early days of grade school when I had to trudge down our quarter-mile country gravel driveway in the darkness of the morning, awaiting the arrival of the school bus.  We were always the first ones on and the last ones off.  That bus ride took forever, and for the rest of my life whenever I think of school buses I’ll remember the smell of peanut butter, dust, and hot vinyl seat coverings that have been baking in the sun.

All things considered, I didn’t have to ride the bus for too long.  Once I was in the 4th grade, my older siblings had their driver’s licenses.  They were told that if they wanted to drive to school, they had to drop off and pick up their little kid brothers and sisters, too!  I had one other friend in the 4th grade who was regularly picked up instead of riding the bus.  It was hang out in the special “parents’ pick-up” area of the school and wait.  When I think of how unmonitored we were compared to how things are now, it makes me shake my head in wonder!  No crossing guards, no teacher’s aides, no older students with safety badges – just us waiting out back of the school in the middle of a small, suburban town in the Midwest.

Coming from a small town in the Midwest meant that any further experiences with public transport were practically nil.  We drove everywhere because we had to.  My parents’ home was {and still is, come to think of it} surrounded by fields.  There was no public bus service out there.  It didn’t change much when I went to college.  Pretty much everything I wanted to do was within walking distance, and I only used a car occasionally to run errands or make the 2 hour trek home to visit family.

When we moved to New Zealand, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to have to get over my aversion for public transportation.  I had my first experience with it a few weeks back, when I needed to take the bus to the HR offices of my soon-to-be-new employer.  I thought that maybe I could walk it, but then I plugged it into Google Maps.  Estimated walking time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.  No thanks!

I’m fully aware of the fact that this fear is absolutely ridiculous.  Sure, give me a person who’s bleeding, has a stab or gunshot wound, is going bat-crazy-out-of-their-mind off a drug trip, and I know what to do.  But riding the bus?!  Yikes.  Whoever said fear was a rational thing, anyway?!

Still, I like a challenge, and I don’t ever want to be held back from doing something because of a fear.  I looked online, mapped my journey, located the closest bus stop… and then told my husband in no uncertain terms that he was taking the bus with me.  His job is flexible and he can take off in the middle of the day if needs be.  Besides, I moved to New Zealand for him – I think he can ride the bus one time for me 🙂  I rode the bus, figured things out, and it was fine.  I don’t know what I expected – that people would laugh at me with my American accent, that I’d get confused over the Kiwi currency and drop it all over the floor, that I’d end up taking a bus to the North Shore and be stranded in a foreign country… who knows!

I found that I liked the ease of public transport.  Mind you, I’m still not crazy about it.  I miss having a car.  But I’ve come to terms with it.  In fact, I was feeling so good about my bus-riding skillz that a few days later, I managed to take the bus to St. Heliers, an Auckland suburb, to visit my friend E.  It was so convenient!  It dropped me off a few steps from her door and I didn’t have to worry about traffic, parking, or driving on the left.  I was able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view of Waitemata Harbour and Mechanics Bay while on Tamaki Drive.

Go figure.  I guess this is a good reminder that no matter who you are, where you are, how old {or young} you are, there’s always opportunities to overcome your irrational fears 😉

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5 comments

  1. Priscilla says:

    hehe good on you!! i haaaate taking the bus anywhere and have barely taken it much here (or anywhere for that matter). Christchurch has a really great bus system though.. Auckland needs to learn from it!

  2. Erin says:

    Cheers to facing fears. I’m so glad I’m not the only one out there fearful of riding the bus.

    But you’re right, it’s not too bad. And I even dropped the change on the floor too, but no one laughed. At least not out loud.

  3. Kate E. says:

    I was scared to ride the bus too when we first moved! And I also made Brannan ride it with me the first few times. I’ve found that the bus drivers are really helpful most of the time, and if they aren’t, just ask the people sitting around you about where you are trying to get to. Good job for conquering your bus fear!

  4. Tami says:

    Your school bus trip as a child sounds exactly like mine! My sister was only 2.5 years older than me, so we had to ride for a LONG time before she had her license:( Ugh, it was horrifying!

    Good for you for conquering your fears!

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