When you travel to a large city that has a storied public transportation system (think New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., London, etc.), riding the train or the bus is part of the travel adventure. I have traveled to New York City a number of times, and each time I have found it to be a thrill to ride the subway to various points of interest on my itinerary.
Riding public transit in your own hometown because it is your only transportation option – now that is a different sort of adventure.
I currently have no other transportation options. I have no vehicle at the moment, as my most recent set of wheels has gone to the great salvage yard in the sky. I am saving up to purchase another vehicle, but it will take some time. So for now, the bus is my main mode of transportation.
I am grateful that my city has a decent public transit system. Canton’s SARTA has buses going to most places that I need to go, and it is not very costly to ride. There is a stop 2 1/2 blocks from my house and a bus that stops there on the hour.
But there is no way to spin it nicely. I seriously doubt that SARTA would be anyone’s first choice if they had other options. Riding the SARTA bus is not the most convenient way to get around, and it puts you in close contact with people who would not necessarily be your first choice of riding companions.
Most people who ride the bus are quiet and just biding their time until they get to where they need to go. Others, however, feel the need to share their angry phone conversations with everyone on the bus. They shout into their phones, hurling expletives and dramatic emphases as they implore someone on the other end to show them RESPECT.
Other times, there is the guy who tells you his whole life story in a 5 minute wait at the bus stop, or the woman who feels the need to tell you her latest drama with working for the “man”.
Having two Master’s degrees and a Bachelor’s degree probably makes me more educated that the typical Canton bus rider. And I will be honest. I struggle with this. Not that I look down on people who are less educated – far from it. But I have to be real – it puts me in a different mode of experience.
I have a tendency to look at the experience as an anthropologist would, studying people and their way of life as though it was something completely separate from my own. I act as a participant observer who has inserted herself into a different culture in order to understand that culture’s way of life. And that truly is arrogant, I know, because this way of life is my way of life.
When I chose to become a full time professional artist, I chose a way of life that dips into unglamorous poverty at times. I agree with Ann Rea and Cory Huff who work hard to dispel the myth of the “Starving Artist” – it does not have to be this way, and I am moving towards a prosperous career as an artist. But every entrepreneur will tell you tales in retrospect of the sacrifices and struggles that preceded their success. I am simply telling you about mine in real time.
Riding the NYC public transit system is nothing to be ashamed of. People from all walks of life share tales of riding the NYC subway as part of the world’s romance with NYC culture. But riding the bus in Canton, OH? There is no romance to it. It is a sign that you have fallen on hard times, or that you are in that socio-economic group that is on the bottom rung. And for the time being, that is me.
I do see myself as different than others who are in my situation. I chose this, whereas others did not. Others are stuck because our culture has little else to offer them. Despite this, they are proud, and they find ways to enjoy life and maximize their experience. I admire that.
I also am different because I have opportunities to move out of “hard times”. I have ambitions, networks, skills, talents and an education, all of which give me reason to believe my experience of “hard times” will be temporary. I am grateful for that. I am sad that others have much more limited opportunities. Everyone should have access to opportunity, in my opinion.
I, like everyone else, though, simply has to do what I have to do to get through the slog of life. It is not easy for anyone – we all have rough spells. I have no shame about mine, so please, don’t throw me pity. I ride the bus without shame or pride. It is just a way to get me where I am going.
And have no doubt, folks. I am going places.
Life is an Adventure!