Today, for the first time since moving to the DC region, I took the commuter bus for the entirety of my 1.5 hour commute. It was quite an experience, enjoying the ride in the near dark with 50 plus people I live near but do not know. With the tinted windows, the fog and utterly silent, immovability of my fellow passengers I half-expected the bus driver to get on the speakers and in a voice like the step-child of Tom Waits and James Earl Jones announce, “We will arriving at the river soon, please have your obolus ready, Charon can be grouchy this early in the morning.”

I think what really struck me was the existential isolation that seems to be designed into each and every bus ride I have ever taken. There is a sense that while on the bus you should be quiet (presumably for your fellow passengers), never make eye contact or touch anyone if possible. What you get is four columns of individuals riding in silence in their own little bubbles of silent space. To step across that barrier is tantamount to breaking a minor social taboo of intimacy- like drunk dialing your ex-girlfriend on her birthday or accidentally groping your cousin while reaching for the biscuits at Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, driving into work, alone, is the ultimate act of commuter narcissism. You pick the music, you pick the route, you pick your nose, and you get to act like the most important person on the road. The pull toward lone commuting is strong. Feeling like you are in control of your own destiny, your own path, making the choices, being the Decider is heady stuff. We all like to feel this way in our lives, although it is rarely the case. The commuter bus is better metaphor for how most of us live our lives. We pick a route, a route similar to many other people, and we look for the appropriately prescribed next step where we exit this route and pick another. We have some say into where we are going, but more often than not, we follow the pre-established tracks. It is easier, more socially acceptable, and frankly cheaper.

I, am content being on the commuter bus, for now, but know it won’t last. There will come a day, as there so often has in the past, where I will open the emergency exit mid-route and exit at an irregular stop.
Eric In a Word: ullage
Book of the Day: Envisioning Information- Edward R. Tufte
Song of the Day: Kiss the Sky- Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra
Sketch Medium: grape juice & turkish coffee on faded construction paper (actual size 6" x 4.7")

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