Some days you’re the passenger, some days you might as well walk.

So this is my sad, sad story: it was a Thursday evening and I was trying to get home from work. I walked to the train station as usual to catch the train to get to the express bus. I was a minute or two later than usual, but since I only had to take the train for one station I figured I would still make my connection with plenty of time. After a week of starting work early and staying late, I was looking forward to a nice, normal bus commute home so that I could get some Christmas cards done. 

Man plans and God laughs, right?

The train platform was crowded, which was a good sign/bad sign. On the one hand, it meant the train hadn’t come yet. On the other hand, it meant it would be twice as crowded when it did. But again, I only had to take it for one stop. A murmer of rumor went around: no power on the tracks- the train would be late. I decided to wait while an eager fellow, newly transplanted from South Bend, Indiana spoke at some length about his plans and his dreams and the people he’d met and the script he was writing and the complex philosophical ideas expounded in the film Waking Life. I listened for about thirty minutes, before I realized that, obeying Newton’s First Law, the conversation was an object in motion and was not going to stop or be diverted unless I acted upon it as an external force. 

Excusing myself, I decided to try to give the local bus line a shot. I’d never taken that particular bus route, but it was a straight shot, and I had tried walking before. The distance wasn’t impossible, but the route that I’d taken had involved crossing some difficult, busy streets, and I’d never done it in the dark. Now seemed like a good time to learn a new transit line. 

I walked to the bus stop. I waited for fifteen minutes. No bus. I consoled myself with the fact that there wad no train, either. I texted the information line to see if I could get an ETA. Seven minutes. I waited. Seven minutes passed. No bus. I waited some more. In the distance, I could see the lights of a bus approaching at a snails pace due to traffic. The train came, at last, but it was too late to change my mind now. The train left. The bus approached. I waited. 

When the bus finally crossed the intersection, I could see that it was packed full: standing room only. 

Just one stop.

I would make it work.

The bus didn’t stop at the sign where we were waiting (by this time, I wasn’t alone). It pulled past as if it didn’t plan to stop at all, before finally grinding to a halt ten yards down the sidewalk as if it were washing up on a distant beach. We, the waiting, walked towards the door. A single passenger squeezed out the front door like a watermelon seed being spat out. 

“Too full.” The driver said. “Can’t take any more, sorry.”

The driver closed the door. 

By now, it was seven o’ clock. I’d been standing at the same intersection for a full hour. I’d missed my connection. Hell, by now the express bus wasn’t even running anymore: even when I got there I’d have to take the local. Again. And time was burning away one of my last free evenings for me to work on my holiday preparations. 

Fuck it. I would walk. 

I started down the sidewalk, at Chicago commuter pace, fueled by anger and a day spent eating sugar cookies. If I followed this road, it would intersect with the road that my connection ran along- I could catch it along the way without having to backtrack to the terminal end. 

Within a block or two I passed the overcrowded bus with a sense of vicious satisfaction: if they wouldn’t give me a lift, they could watch me pass them on foot. So there. I expected that it wouldn’t last- that the bus would quickly overtake me and my satisfaction would be short lived, but I had the advantage of not having to compete with traffic. I fell into sync with the traffic signals and quickly left the bus behind. 

On foot, in heels, the trip took about half an hour. It was probably a distance of about a mile and a half. I passed under the highway and arrived at the intersection that I recognized from having seen it from the window of the bus on a daily basis. There was the 7Eleven. There was the shoeless busker. There was the bench at the bus stop. 


I’d seen it a thousand times- this was the stop where someone always came running up from behind, banging on the windows as the bus pulled away. Which meant that it stopped. Right? I didn’t see a sign for my route, but it had to be there, right? 

I didn’t have long to dither- I could see the bus I was looking for on the far side of the intersection- surely, this nightmare would soon just be a bad memory. 


The light changed. The bus approached. The bus passed without even slowing down. 

So that was that, then.  I called the Curmudgeonly Lion. 

“You want me to come pick you up?” He asked. I didn’t want to make him go through the trouble, but by the time I found another way home, it would be none thirty or ten before I actually got there. 

“Yeah I guess you better.” I said. 

“There’s a Chinese restaurant near you.” He said, consulting Google maps. “Why don’t you wait there and I’ll meet you- go ahead and put in an order and we’ll eat there.” 

I made my way back to the intersection and crossed back to the far side from whence I’d come on my walking route to find a Hop Woo. As I approached, I had to pass a bus stop, where the overloaded bus was just, finally, pulling to a stop. I’d had time to walk the entire distance, cross the intersection, get blown off by my connection, call the Lion, figure out dinner plans, and cross back to the restaurant in the amount of time it had taken the bus to arrive. So there’s that. 

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on December 18, 2017.

One Response to “Hop”

  1. This is why I never take public transportation anymore.

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