When I left to start college at the mature, responsible age of 18, I decided to live off campus, in an apartment, with two roommates from high school. Dorms were so small and depressing. An apartment had so much more space and light! I moved out a month before school started, so I could set myself up and be all nice and organized.
As wise as I was in my thinking, I neglected to recognize the fact that I did not have a car. Therefore in order to get to campus, I would need to take the bus. Ergo I would need to figure out bus schedules all by myself, something that absolutely terrified me.
Why does the idea of public transport scare the bejeesus out of me? Possibly because I had a Mom-taxi most of my pre-driving life, but really there are so many things that could go wrong: What if the bus never comes? What if you miss your stop and the next one is not for a very, very long time? What if you get off at the wrong stop? What if you get on the wrong bus??
Being the mature, responsible person I was at the time, I hid my head in the sand as long as I could. School was still a month away, and there was no need to rush things. I could walk to the grocery store and back, that’s all I needed to do. I spent one whole month watching TVland’s ‘Bewitched’ and ‘I Dream of Genie,’ laying out at the pool, and walking to the grocery store when I got really bored.
By the way 3 out of 4 of those situations did happen to me:
Number one happened twice actually. The first time was when I was 14 and my friend and I had decided to take the bus to the Tucson mall, because at that time it was way cooler than Park mall. We missed the last bus home and had to wait, at night, with some very dodgy people, until our parents came to rescue us. The second time was en route to my very first retail job in college, at Ann Taylor Loft. I had to walk two miles to work, in my work clothes and shoes. I was sweaty and had an insane amount of blisters when I arrived, not particularly retail-friendly.
Number two caused me to miss a Spanish exam in my Freshman year of college. Again arrived sweaty, out of breath, and very close to hysterics.
Number four was also when I was 14, in my first year of public school, consequently my first year taking the bus to school, and nearly caused me to have a heart attack until I saw a classmate. Then it ended up being a very happy accident because we just hung out at her house, and ate junk food until my parents could come and get me.
Now that we are here in Barcelona, I am forced to face my fears once again. We have a car, but my husband uses it to drive to work every day. Even if he didn’t, it’s a manual, so I can’t drive it. Even if it was an automatic, the traffic here is insane. It stresses me out just being a passenger, so I can’t even imagine having to be behind the wheel. Public transport it is.
You are probably thinking that now that I am older, a parent, much wiser, and more mature I faced my fear head-on. Wrong! Again, most everything is within walking distance here. If it isn’t I wait until the weekend when my husband can drive us. Walking 3-6 miles a day is cool, because I don’t have to risk situations 1-4 getting me stuck, or lost somewhere I don’t know how to get back.
Yesterday, however, a friend was in town and wanted to meet up someplace that was definitely not within walking distance. It was during the work week, so I was going to have to get Esmé and I there by ourselves. The time had come to figure out this whole bus thing.
My husband took me to buy a ticket on Sunday that allows for multiple rides, and I google-mapped out the routes I needed to take. We left a little early to give us some time and we made it on the first bus all in once piece. So far, so good, I thought to myself as I followed the little blue dot on my phone to make sure I didn’t miss our stop. When the bus stopped where it showed we were supposed to get off on my phone, I gathered up Esmé and all our things and headed for the door.
Right when I got there it closed. Panic started bubbling up, and I pushed the stop button several times. A few of the people seated by the door started asking questions I couldn’t understand, because they were speaking Catalan. Instead I just looked at them like a panicked deer in the headlights, pointed to the door, and said ‘I have to get off!!’ They started to shout to the driver ‘Abre la puerta!’ but we were on one of those super long buses, so he had difficulty hearing us. More people joined in the shouting and it got much, much louder ‘ABRE LA PUERTAAAA!!’ and finally the doors opened. I thanked the people over and over again as I very shakily clambered off the bus. SO embarrassing.
I took several deep breaths, and tried to slow my thumping heart as I walked to the next bus we had to take. ‘Ok,’ I said to myself, ‘No big deal. We just have to make sure we are at the door before our stop, so we can be quick enough to get off the bus at the right stop.’ On we went to the next bus, and I made sure that we were by the door ready to get off for our next stop.
I was still not quick enough, unfortunately. I nearly got stuck in the door as the driver closed the door, and some nice older lady helped hold the door for us. I set Esmé in her stroller down on the sidewalk and turned to thank the woman, and stared in horror at a hand sticking out of the doors. Yes it was as scary as it sounds. It’s like those horrible Halloween tricks people play on you with limbs falling off.
The doors did have those cushy, rubbery layers in between them, and when the driver opened the door for her she shook her hand as if to say ‘don’t worry about it! See? It’s fine!’ but the damage was done. I now have a new ‘what-if’ to add to my list of why I don’t trust public transportation: What if you aren’t quick enough for the Barcelona buses and you lose an appendage because the doors shut on you? Or worse your child??
I arrived at my destination shaking, heart-thumping, and very, very sweaty. The journey home was, thankfully, not as eventful. But I made sure we ready to get out the doors as soon as they opened, then raced through them, before they could claim a body part of mine, or some kind, helpful stranger.
To answer the question, who’s afraid of a big bad bus?… I, my friends, most definitely, still am. As such, I’m happy to announce that today I walked everywhere :).