Words by: Mandy Tu
Since my friend and housemate got a car, organising transport has become significantly easier. Consequently, I haven’t been as reliant on public transport as I have been. Bear in mind that I used to get on a bus at 6:20 am from Balga, switch buses at Mirrabooka Bus Station, and then again at the then Wellington Street Bus Station, and from there arrive at Curtin Bus Station—an hour and a half each way.
But then—two weeks ago, I got on the 102 from the Esplanade Busport to the University of Western Australia, and that one ride was enough to make me reminisce about all the things I had unwittingly missed about public transport. So here are the top three things I miss about public transport: come, reminisce with me.
#1: Human interaction
Whether or not you are greeted by a smile and a ‘hello’ when you get on the bus by the bus driver can make or break your day. Sometimes you might strike up a conversation with someone sitting next to you, and it just makes your journey that much more worthwhile. For example: this one time in September, 2013, I was making my way home in Balga from Canning College with a bouquet of white lilies (for a friend’s birthday the following day). When I got on the bus at Mirrabooka Bus Station, the bus driver greeted me with a smile and asked, jokingly, ‘Hello! Are those for me?’ pointing at the lilies. I answered, ‘If you’d like them, sure.’ He laughed and shook his head. When I disembarked, I pushed a lily through to him, and I like to think I made his night a little brighter.
On a bus ride from Curtin to the city, a young man sitting next to me started a conversation. I had never seen nor spoken to him before and I would never see nor speak to him again, but we talked the entire ride through about the weather, classes, work, and what we liked about Perth. We went our separate ways when we arrived in the city.
Last year in August, I was on the bus, holding two balloons that from the aftermath of the day’s events—it was a friend’s birthday, so we had organized a small party in class. On one of the balloons was written, ‘Happy birthday Ida’. Now, I was exhausted, and was looking forward to getting home and crashing. A few stops away from Curtin Bus Station, a gentleman tapped me on my shoulder, snapping me out of my exhausted reverie, and said, ‘Happy birthday!’ before giving me a thumbs-up and tagging off. I said thank you, feeling that it was redundant to tell him that it wasn’t actually my birthday, but the gesture in itself was lovely and it made my night that much more bearable.
#2: Listening to other people’s conversations, or “creative fodder”
You may call it eavesdropping, but when you’re in a bus with twenty other people, most of whom are not talking and some of whom don’t have the outside world blocked out through earphones, you can be assured that whatever conversation you’re having with another person will be picked up on by almost everybody. And unless the people talking aren’t fifteen year old schoolchildren, the conversations might be fodder for a good story (leastways as imagined in your head).
This once, on my trip from the city to Balga, I encountered two high school/college friends meeting up again after what I assumed was a long while. They didn’t recognize each other at first, but when they did, they plunged straight into a ride-long conversation, catching up about their lives and asking each other about what had become of their classmates. I was rather sad to see them both disembark around Alexander Heights.
#3: Alone time
Let’s be frank, bus rides, if you’re taking them alone, are the best time to sit back and contemplate and re-evaluate all your life decisions. Okay, well, it doesn’t have to be all that serious; it’s as easy as letting your mind wander and staring out the window, pretending you’re in a music video. I relished the relative quiet of the bus rides, and the scenery was a welcome distraction. I also found that it was a good time to write poetry; this once I finished three sonnets on the bus ride home, and I thought to myself, Wow, even bus rides can be productive! Alternatively I would read, and get books read, because otherwise there were far too many distractions. (My copy of Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man is mourning its existence on my table currently. I’M SORRY, I’LL GET ROUND TO FINISHING YOU, I PROMISE.)
And there you have it, folks. Think of me next time you’re taking public transport. And maybe get off your phone once in a while, and look at the people around you.