Riding the Bus: A Beginner's Guide
As I have been living in Chicago and riding public transportation for 15 years now, I have decided that it is time to share my expertise with new users of public transit. I am sure these suggestions will help you climb what can be a steep learning curve.
Paying Your Fare
Wait until you board the bus before you begin your search for dollar bills, coins, or farecard. Having your money or farecard in hand while you are standing at the bus stop gives other commuters the impression that you are a show-off. Look how superior I am! the too-prepared commuter cries. Worse, holding $2.25 in your hand makes you a target for thieves.
Choosing a Seat
Always look for a seat near the front. Often, the handicapped seats will be available. Under no condition should you venture to the back of the bus in search of a seat, for the back of the bus is as death, the undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveler returns.
Standing versus Sitting
You may choose to stand because you do not like sitting next to people that you do not already know socially. This is normal. Fortunately, the bus is equipped with poles and straps for you to hold on to. Stand as close to the front door of the bus as you can, no matter how many others are doing the same. In the event of an emergency, you may need to get off the bus at any moment, and you will want to be first. If the driver, or other riders, ask you to move toward the rear of the bus, you are under no obligation to comply. We live in a free society.
You may also choose to stand in front of the rear door. This little-known alcove can provide a quiet place for contemplation or even the opening of a broadsheet newspaper. Standing here also provides a service as, in effect, you are directing other riders toward the front.
Protecting your Seat
If you do choose to sit, protect yourself from unwanted contact with strangers by filling nearby seats with bags. Then, pretend the bags do not belong to you. This will prevent you from having to move them. If you do not have bags, a newspaper laid flat will give the impression that it is covering something wet; a useful improvisation.
Etiquette while Riding
Once you have boarded the bus and the bus is moving, you are now a captive, having surrendered your body to the socialism of public transit and the capricious whims of a bus driver whose employment references you have never seen. But while those who would redistribute your wealth may have temporary possession of your body, they do not own your mind.
Assert your values by reclaiming your commute as productive time, via your cell phone. Personal calls are fine, but business calls are better: if your fellow commuters know how important you are, they are less likely to encroach upon your personal space. They are also more likely to respect the fact that your calfskin briefcase needs its own seat.
Many riders have missed their stops and become hopelessly lost in undesirable neighborhoods because they didn’t leave their seats soon enough. The best time to begin working your way toward the door is immediately after you have boarded.
I hope this answers all your questions.