My Small City Bus Adventure

sunny sailing

Monday through Wednesday, I attend a GED preparation school; within the past few of weeks, I’ve ridden home on the bus by myself twice. My first bus ride was an experience to say the least, from which I learned a variety of small lessons. Now I’m sure people have had worst experiences then this on the bus, but for being my first bus ride alone, it was an experience enough for me.

Of course it doesn’t help that my school is not in a nice part of town. However, in a big place like Phoenix, bad neighborhoods twist like veins throughout the entire city–there’s almost no avoiding that problem anyway. City life is not as glamorous as one might think.

When I’m by myself, I naturally walk very fast–mostly from walking the neighbor dogs. So, I was briskly trotting along down the street with my heavy school folder pack in my arms. It was quite warm (yes, it was a warm week for an AZ February), and I had several blocks to walk the right bus stop (a five to seven minute walk from the school to the stop, if you walk really fast).

black anchor

An African American guy on his phone passed me, then doubled back calling after me. He spoke in smooth compliments and huffed along to keep up with me. Then he tried to give me the tiniest fold of paper square you’d ever seen–he called it a souvenir but I was pretty sure it concealed a phone number for drugs. I said no thank you and he immediately stopped following me, which made me feel relieved but uneasy at the same time.

I skidded up to the bus stop and sat down on the shaded bench. In a laundromat parking lot behind me, about twenty Hispanic gentleman mulled about waiting for work, which did not make me very comfortable. Already at the stop was a man sitting on his bike, enthusiastically speaking Spanish to his phone but he didn’t bother me.

I fished about in my pack for a book but a Hispanic homeless-looking man, who appeared about seventy, came roaming up the sidewalk. He sat himself next to me, not close but still right there in my company. Between bits of silence, he told me his name, that he could understand what the man on the bike was saying and that I was pretty. I responded as naturally as I could but I turned my attention to my book so he would get the message that I wanted to read.

Old Man By the Sea

About ten minutes later a guy in a khakis and button up shirt came huffing up the sidewalk, the stop obviously his destination. He loudly asked if I had two dollars he could borrow for the bus fare (he swore profusely for his boss calling him in on overtime). He asked the bike guy then darted around to the parking lot to ask the people in the parking lot.

The old homeless man, Pueblo, said “Why give him money? I wouldn’t give him money. You won’t see it again!” And I nodded in agreement while flattening open my library book with frustration and checked to see if the bus was in sight. The guy soon came with two dollars and continued to swear up and down the sidewalk in front of me about how unhappy he was (he literally did not stop talking about it even after the bus came some time later).

For the thirty-five minute wait  my reading was disturbed by small remarks by Pueblo and the F word. I felt both uneasy and serenely calm at the same time–not sure how, exactly. The bus AT LAST pulled down the street and stopped. Pueblo said goodbye to me as I nearly pounced on the bus steps. I scrambled into the bus, double checked with the driver that it would pass my stop, and sat down as fast as I could near the closest woman.

Dangerous Voyage

The bus took off and I stared holes out the window to watch for my stop, even though it was ten minute drive down the road. I yanked the cord just before my stop and jumped out too fast.

As I began my trek into my neighborhood, my frustration began to emerge, now that I was alone. By this time, the uptight wait for the bus combined with the heat (and the stress I was dealing with over my computer issues), had worn me down. By the time I reached home my arms were exhausted from my heavy load and I was very hungry and hot (as I’d walked too fast downhill).

My mom let me complain at the kitchen table. Getting home is usually a quick process when she picks me up. Having missed the bus at noon and then the bus being late, coupled with the walking: It had taken me a full hour to get home on my own, while avoiding a drug dealer, busy traffic, homeless people, and a very germy bus ride in a heat that had come too early even for Phoenix.

Sail Peacefully

The moral of this story is that if things are bad the first time, they probably won’t be so bad the second–you just have to try again. Nowhere to go but up, right? My sister, who is a bus veteran, informed me that if I wore headphones, people would be more likely to leave me alone–apparently she’d never had my experience in any of her bus taking trips.

So, the second time I took the bus, I carried things in a backpack; what a help that was. The weather had cooled and there was a breeze. I wore my ear buds and played an unabridged audio book of Winnie-the-Pooh; the trashy street was a little less scary with Pooh and Piglet trying to catch a Hefflalump in my ear. While all the Hispanic men were still there looking for work, the homeless guy waiting there left me alone and stood about eight feet away.

Plus, I only waited ten minutes before the bus arrived on time!

colorful sea

The bus ride was also better now that I’d had an experience using it. Pooh and Company were now preparing to form an “Expetition” to the North Pole but sadly they weren’t able to make the bus feel more clean. I jumped out at my stop and bathed in hand sanitizer I’d remembered to bring. Roo fell into a stream while I, more slowly, walked into my neighborhood. Pooh discovered the North Pole by the time I got home.

That experience was so much nicer than the first one.

The lessons I learned? Experiences are always going to be different, even if you end up at the same bus stop with the same bus and bus driver. Life is full of people, from all walks of life, who we’re just going to bump into along the way. Winnie-the-Pooh makes things a lot better. A backpack makes a heavy load easier to carry. Ear buds keep drug dealers away from you (well, I’ll test theory again the next time). Walking slowly downhill won’t leave you huffing and puffing (and a breeze always helps).

anchor with flowers

But really, Pooh helped a lot. “After all, it’s more friendly with two.”

~Jamie

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13 thoughts on “My Small City Bus Adventure

  1. I hate walking places on my own. My mom got me pepper spray when I started going places on my own and that helped me feel much more at ease. Sometimes my friends tease me about the pepper spray, but hey, you have to be careful when you’re a girl!

    Stay safe, Jamie!!

    ~Emily

    1. When I walk my neighborhood I take pepper spray with me, more on my mon’s instances but I should probably take it with me when I ride the bus; thanks for the reminder! It makes me sad, though, that we have to be so careful though. 😦 Thank you, Emily, I will! ❤

      ~Jamie

  2. “I felt both uneasy and serenely calm at the same time–not sure how, exactly.” When you don’t like the situation, but you really don’t expect anything to go *wrong*, when you’re aware you can’t really control what’s happening, and when it’s not a bad day in spite of the moment’s weirdness…I think that’s how. I’ve had that feeling before 🙂

    Writer to writer, darling, this was a delightful read. And hey, latch on to that weird afternoon! You never know when you’ll need some random homeless dude to come talk to your main character!

    1. Yes yes! Something like that!! Thank you! It’s like my survivor instincts kicked in and didn’t allow me to freak out till I was in a safe place. 🙂

      Thank you so much!!! I had a lot of fun writing about it–it’s still a very vivid afternoon. And yes, that is what I thought. I also now have a wider selection of character types to choose from. XD

  3. Woah! That first Bus trip sounds like it was certainly full of adventure. 😉
    I’m glad it was better for you the second time round. 🙂

  4. Hi again!

    I’ve been taking the bus to school since October. My first time was almost as scary; there was this guy in a leopard-print unitard who stared at me the entire ride.

    My bus rides are about 45 minutes to an hour, give or take. The bus I take to school isn’t so bad. It’s mostly business people and other students, and I’ve even made a few friends. However, my bus ride home can be interesting. It goes through a sketchy area of town, and when I go home in the middle of the day there are sometimes drunk people on the bus. It can be kind of scary. What I usually do is pretend to be asleep or listen to music. I’ve also noticed that if you sit near the back of the bus (but not all the way in the back), they are less likely to bother you. As for homeless people, I carry extra granola bars around and I offer them one. If the person doesn’t want the food, then I assume they don’t need your money either. If they do accept your food, then they’re probably honest.

    Anyway, I really wouldn’t worry too much. You’re a sensible person and you’ve already shown that you know how to avoid a potentially bad situation.

    Stay safe and rock your classes,
    -Everyone’s Favorite Composer

    1. Omg hi EFC!! ❤

      YIKES! That's so creepy! 😯

      THANK YOU for writing all that; it was really good to hear how you handle bus rides, thank you for all the tips and ideas! I'll try sitting closer to the back of the bus and see how that works. Hopefully I'll get better handling the whole experience with more practice. Again, it made me really glad to hear how you handle the bus, so thanks for sharing!

      ~Jamie

  5. That sounds like my experience in Richmond over the summer. There were some really sketchy people all over the place, but I was in a group so I didn’t feel that uncomfortable. I wouldn’t want to be alone in that situation, though. I guess one gets used to it after a while, but my town is too small to have busses like that so I wouldn’t know.

    Anyways, stay safe!

    1. Yes I know what you mean; I’d ridden the bus before with my sister and it wasn’t very intimidating at all with someone else. It’s definitely a different experience alone! Thank you, I will!

      ~Jamie

It always makes my day to see your messages! Don't forget to check back, I try to write back to you too! <3

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