Take the bus!

Community Connection

| Staff Columnist

I was born and raised in Brooklyn. Because of this (and apathy), I find myself lacking a driver’s license. Not having my own vehicle (or the ability to legally drive someone else’s) is a great conversation starter. “Why don’t you have a car?” “I’m from New York City.” “So?” “I use the subway.” “And? I mean, like, how do you get around St. Louis?” At this point in the conversation, I generally smirk. “It’s called public transportation,” I say, in my above-the-fray manner that is oh-so-tactful.

Indeed, there are many benefits to public transportation in St. Louis (known as the Metro). For one thing, it’s free for us to use. If you have the urge to go somewhere, you can go to the Metro Web site and use the trip-finder feature. You can get as specific as typing in, say, “St. Louis Bread Company on Delmar.” Now, I don’t know why you’d want to take the bus somewhere that is a five-minute walk, but hey, we’ve all got our lazy days. And what if it is snowing really badly and you just need that Sierra Turkey without onions (they always keep the onions on mine!)?

I also hear the best stories on the bus. There was the woman from New Orleans who talked about the best way to cook alligator. “If you’ve ever had frog legs, it tastes something like a cross between that and pork.” There was the guy who bought cologne in bulk. “I just go to the thrift store and buy $100 bottles for $10. I buy 20 bottles at a time. The guy thinks I resell them, but really I just douse myself in it.”

You learn the best things about St. Louis from bus drivers. Well, sometimes it’s the worst stuff. But you can always get great recommendations on activities, restaurants and places to relax. The older the driver, the more they know. The best ones to talk to are the old guys and the younger women. That’s just the way it is.

Now, there’s etiquette in talking to bus drivers. If you’re getting on an empty bus, you need to sit next to the driver. Not behind the driver—you have to be right next to the doors. That way, you can see and speak to the driver. How awkward is it when you get on an empty bus and move to the middle? This guy is driving a bus with just you, and you’re not even going to give him the time of day?

In starting conversation, the weather is a safe go-to. “When’s the last time you’ve felt heat like this?” It’s always good to reference the past. That gets them talking about history, and that’s when you learn the juiciest St. Louis information. You don’t want to say, “Man, do I have a lot of work!” This puts the focus on you. You will end up talking the whole ride about what you do. You need to inject yourself into the conversation about three minutes in. This way, the driver learns your politics and what he or she can or cannot say.

You’ll be surprised to learn how much you have in common with bus drivers. They might be from your hometown. They might be taking a University College course. One driver had been a substitute teacher at the school at the Juvenile Detention Center, where I spend much of my time.

I hope this guide has been helpful to you. Don’t be shy about taking the bus, and remember: Target isn’t the only place it goes! There are many buses and countless destinations!