Whenever I tell people I live in the heart of downtown and I commute by bus or walking, I usually get this sort of look, as if they’re wondering how I haven’t been murdered yet. I once had someone ask that as a question — a fun one to answer when you’re getting to know your classmates.
When they finally ask what I think about my daily commute from an area most regard as a hotbed of crime, I shrug my shoulders. I don’t love it and I don’t hate it. In freeway-invested California, commuting by car is a necessity. But, many like me don’t have the luxury, so our feet and public transportation are our only means.
With spring quarter almost halfway finished and many yearly leases ending as well, some of you may be looking to for new living quarters somewhere downtown, but asking, “Is it worth the commute?”
I don’t have the answer, but maybe the following recounts about my ups and downs of commuting will help inform your decision.
Down: Sexual harassment
Well, let me get this one out of the way, because I never like to begin on a happy note.
If you’re a woman, you may be sexually harassed at least once during a daily commute, especially if some portion of it involves walking. If you’re on the pavement next to a major street like University Avenue, catcalls from out a zooming car’s window may happen, ranging from calling you odd pet names to straight-up vulgarity.
Once I had the great pleasure of realizing men can indeed drive with a steering wheel in one hand and whack off with another, after a guy drove up next to me in a parking lot I walked through to get home, said, “Hey I like your sunglasses” to get my attention, then quickly drove off when I noticed his fapping motions. All in broad daylight and me in unflattering sweats.
I hope this never happens to you no matter where you are, because fearing whether a guy in a car is going to do something upsetting is never fun.
Up: Meeting and talking to new people
While waiting at the bus stop or riding on the 16 or the 1, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking to fresh and familiar faces.
Most of these encounters are always brief, since I usually only stay on the bus for 10 or 15 minutes, but some are sentimental to me. Whether it’s teaching a grandfather how to fold a paper crane for his granddaughter even with a language barrier to exchanging travel stories with a woman from Canada, public transportation offers a chance to meet new people.
As we grow more acclimated to our surroundings, seeing the same faces in class every quarter, it gets harder to have this opportunity. Although it’s only for a moment, there’s something refreshing about meeting someone new every other week.
Down: Waiting, and waiting
Sorry to say, the RTA busses hardly come on time, but that’s not unique to our local bus system. However, that doesn’t mean it’s fun.
Although downtown takes only 10 to 15 minutes with regular traffic, I advise that you leave for the bus station at least 30 minutes earlier, because you never know if the bus will come super early.
I’ve had times where a bus came 20 minutes early, leaving me to wait 40 minutes for the next one. During the quarters I had morning classes, I regularly cursed the last hour of sleep and prayed for my quick return to my bed.
But, in retrospect this is just a small inconvenience that I slowly got used to as the quarters went on.
Up: Time to relax
You know when you had a long day? Filled with events like hurrying to your classes, taking frenzied notes because your monotone professor doesn’t believe in slideshows, hurrying to your short two-hour shift at work with mind-numbing tasks, stressing over the nonexistent moolah in your bank account, talking to only acquaintances about what classes you’re taking for the third time and eating only a sad lunch of boiled broccoli that was left in the staff fridge for three days?
With the great equalizer, the quarter system, being quick and merciless to all, I would be surprised if you didn’t end a day feeling spent of all your energy. (If you didn’t, how are you human?)
On days when I only had stress on the brain and no free time on my schedule, riding the bus back home became welcomed. Depending on the hour, there was nothing to do, but stare out a window and zone out. At times, they were my only moments to collect myself without stressing out that I was wasting time.
Overall, commuting without a car is cumbersome. But, with any long-term situation, you find ways to cope.