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February 22, 2024

  • Danez Smith at AWP
    Richard Saker/Contour by Getty Images As we end Black History Month, here is one of my favorite poets, Danez Smith, who writes on intersectionality between their Black and Queer identities. At the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Kansas City, MO, I had the opportunity to personally meet Smith, and they are […]
  • Lying in Memoir
    Lauren Slater crafts diligent, depictive metaphors in narrative, and I hate her writing, simultaneously. Should there be lying in memoir? In her book, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir (2000), Slater crafts lies from epilepsy to nunneries to doctor visits and proposed peer reviewed theses to AA meetings. However, within these lies, she allows us to question […]
Spring Housing Guide

The trials of public transportation for American tourists

With Earth Day last week, it was difficult to go anywhere or watch any television program without being reminded that everyone needs to ‘go green.’ One way to go green is to spend less time in your car and utilize public transportation whenever possible. While they may possess drawbacks, these systems provide an effective and occasionally fun means to discover what cities offer. My line of thinking is that buses or trains are likely going to operate whether or not you patronize them, so why not make operating costs worthwhile and utilize the services? It’s not necessary to waste your own gas money or put extra mileage or damage on your car (especially on roads that resemble Willard Street in Bowling Green and will require you to get new shocks and tires on a regular basis).’ Sure, they can be somewhat inconvenient with limited operating times and overcrowding, but I’ve found that as long as you provide some buffer time, you will usually be set. In most cases, the schedules are solid barring any unexpected circumstances, such as the time I stood outside in the freezing cold waiting over an hour for a train in suburban Chicago, delayed because it hit a car.’ Public transportation’s usefulness really shines when you are out of town and acting as the dreaded tourist. It can be easier to reach destinations you want to see if you can figure out a bus or a subway route that will get you close. I can’t imagine driving on crowded highway systems in cities such as Chicago, New York City or Los Angeles without getting incredibly lost or being stuck in traffic for hours. The public transportations in these and other major cities are rather extensive, and whether through direct routes or connecting points, you can get where you wish. One of my favorite aspects of public transportation, at least with above ground systems, is that they give you a chance to see attractions and interesting locations you may not see when traveling on a highway or when you’re too busy trying to navigate the streets to see. I love sitting on a bus and discovering new neighborhoods or attractions I keep in mind for my next visit. Many times I’ll ride a bus or train route with no destination in particular just to explore the area and see what’s around. These explorations are possible if you buy fare cards that provide you unlimited rides for a flat rate, which I recommend since they are easier than counting out exact change on every bus and cheaper with multiple rides. Just make sure you don’t accidentally put your card in the slot where the cash goes because you’ll annoy the bus driver and lose any money you saved by buying the card. What tends to highlight my experiences, however, is not what I see when I travel, but the people with whom I share the ride. There’s always the bunch of people who feel the need to share their cell phone conversations in a ridiculously loud and usually hilarious fashion (the book ‘Overheard in New York’ is a perfect example of the random bits of conversation one can discover), but it’s usually direct contact with people that’s most memorable.’ My most recent experience with the unusual bunch of people who use public transportation was in Chicago. We encountered a man on a bus who kept repeating ‘Obama’ over and over, offered us energy drinks he decided to save for his ‘old lady’ and discussed how Michelle Obama ‘makes his blood pressure rise’ (and I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t the only thing rising). Those who pray and preach (especially in foreign languages) to those in close company are common, and those who talk to themselves or those around them in a scary tone are always fascinating as well.’ I look at experiences such as these as badges of honor. The mere fact that I survived encounters with America’s finest without getting stabbed, robbed or harmed in any way is something that makes me very proud, and makes me feel I could survive in a big city. I hope my loving ode to public transportation can convince you to give these services a chance the next time you travel. Every city is different, and you can have different experiences from trip to trip, bus to bus or subway car to subway car. Even if you have a bad experience, you’ll still gain a fun survival story to tell.

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