I have never ridden a city bus. There are several reasons: 1) I’ve always had access to a car 2) I’m prejudiced against the bus and see other forms as superior modes of transportation and 3) I don’t understand how it works. I have steered away from boarding a bus for 46 years. Until last week when I succumbed to peer pressure, at this late stage in my life, inflicted upon me by the receptionists in my building. Afraid to be labeled a “typical American,” I did the unthinkable and embarked upon the adventure that I now just refer to as “The BUS.”
It started as a simple request for the location of the Tokyo Hands in Shibuya. I know how to get to Shibuya on the train. I enjoy the train. I have a Metro card which I swipe like an expert. I like watching the people. I read my email during the ride. I feel like a true city dweller while on the subway-dare I say “a New Yorker?” Gasp.
“Are you take the bus?” One of the girls asks me.
“Train.” I say
“Bus is faster,” Her retort is lightning fast.
Horrors. Absolutely NOT.
“I don’t know where the stop is.” Lame…
“100 meters away.” How long is a meter?
She gets out the schedule. Who the HELL can read it?
The Japanese are masters at reading body language. They know I have no intention of getting on that bus but are intent on showing off another one of their mass transportation master pieces. One of the ladies breaks with protocol and comes out from behind the desk to further explain the schedule. She gently guides me through the lobby talking soothingly as we travel toward the front entrance.
“It’s very easy- you will see.” She smiles and bows low. Very low. She’s serious. Humphhhh.I’m still not going on the bus. I bow out of respect, intent on taking the train. I’ll lie when I get back. I wonder if they’ll be able to figure out my body language? Ah- I worked for a Fortune 50 company for 18 years- I’m a master of deception and manipulation.
That out of the way, I happily tuck the schedule in my pocket and head to the train station. A block away I notice a chair by the street. I’ve never noticed a chair by the street. I pass this way every day. What’s the symbol for the bus anyway? This has to be it- I see a marker. Some poor soul has put chairs out so people don’t have to stand and wait. Bless their heart. I look around. No one else anywhere close. This is it. Damn those ladies. They’re in my head. I’ll sit in the chair and see if a bus comes within the next 5 minutes. If it does, I’ll try. Worse case scenario, I’ll get off and take a cab.
Now that I’ve committed to the 5 minute waiting period, questions start to run through my mind,” Is the Shibuya bus the only one that stops here, does it stop at all stops or do you signal somehow, how do I know which is the right bus- is it one of the cartoon buses, small bus, large bus, red one, blue one, one one, two ones”- sorry carried away.
A lady walks up and peers over my head. I wish I spoke Japanese. I’m only to “This is my book. That is your book. Is this my book?” Not useful in my current situation especially since I don’t know the word for bus.
I see a bus coming. I watch her closely- she also sees it. I didn’t ask how to pay for the bus! Damn it! I’ll watch the lady. She watches expectantly for the bus. She takes out her wallet and pulls out her Metro card. I pull out mine. She boards the bus and swipes her card. I diligently follow her every move. I step on to a very nice bus. Or at least it doesn’t look like the movie buses I’ve seen.
The seats are all different, some are elevated for better viewing. I want to take that one but I can’t figure out how to step up in to it. I take another seat. Shibuya station. S*(&%T!!! I’ve only seen that station from the inside! What if I don’t recognize it from the outside! PANIC. Of course I will. It’s huge. I try to settle myself down and enjoy the ride. I’ve never ridden through the outside of this part of my neighborhood before. It takes 5 minutes to get to the huge train station. Substantially faster than the train. Chalk one up for the bus. The bus stops and parks in a parking lot with 10 other buses. My immediate problem is solved in that the bus parks so I know without a doubt this is the station, however a new one has arisen- how do I find my return bus among the dozens parked here? I take a picture of my bus and where it’s location. Bus #14.
Outside Shibuya station is the famous Shibuya Crossing- said to be one of the busiest street crossings in the world. I’m distracted from why I came to Shibuya in the first place by the number people. (I’m attaching a link to one of my favorite blogs at the bottom right of my page- “Tokyoblings Blog”- type in Shibuya. It will take you to some of his amazing pictures of the Shibuya crossing and the street styles in Shibuya.)
Eventually, my errand is complete and now I must decide whether or not to reboard my nemesis. Unfortunately, in my previously life I was a type A personality and some is left. I have to find my way home- on “the BUS.” As I start to head back, I find these things:
These human musical notes advertising the opening of a store distract me as I head to my bus.
This will eventually become one of many bus disasters yet to come. You see, I have deciphered the bus code for getting to my destination, but I have failed at numerous attempts to get home:
Attempt #1: Mistakenly thought the button to push for signaling the driver to stop was the emergency button. Passed stop.
Attempt #2: Decided to catch bus at location other than Shibuya station. Waited at bus stop where Bus # 14 had stopped previously. This time, all 4 buses that stopped were headed to Shinjuku. Walked back to Shibuya station to catch Bus #14.
Attempt #3: Driver stopped at my stop to let on passengers. Since I saw that future passengers waiting at my stop, I did not ring the bell, therefore, the driver did not know a passenger- me- needed to exit and did not open the rear door. I missed my stop.
Quite a quandary-pursue this bus route that further festers my obsessive habits yet potentially negates this prejudice against the bus or abandon this for the tried and true serenity of the train?
My bike did arrive yesterday….If I put a basket on the front I could ride to Shibuya….