The St. Louis Metro is your friend, and other transport observations

Rima Parikh | Contributing Writer

It might seem impossible to explore St. Louis without a car. I swear, sometimes I wonder if the people who designed this city purposely plopped down and said, “LOL let’s throw a bunch of highways everywhere and piss off pedestrians!” However, having a car isn’t a prerequisite for venturing off campus. Heck, I still don’t have my driver’s license (sorry, Mom), and I’m still writing this from somewhere other than the South 40.

It’s Sunday, and the MetroLink is packed with football fans. I emulate my inner-sardine and stand to one side of the door, barely clutching onto a pole. I’m from the fringe of Chicago, so I’m no stranger to public transportation. Being cramped in a small space where the awkward, accidental groping of sweaty strangers is inevitable almost feels like second nature.

Thus far, however, the MetroLink has been treating me with a little more courtesy than the Chicago Transit Authority. In the few minutes that I’ve been on the train, no one has a) exposed himself (so polite, St. Louis!) or b) tried to talk me into becoming a Jehovah’s Witness.

I’d say that things are going pretty well. I lurch forward as the train comes to a halt at the Grand stop. I barely get a chance to slip an apologetic smile to the middle-aged, 4-foot-11 woman I just bumbled into. The doors slide open, and almost instantaneously, all of the standing passengers instinctively squeeze to the side to make a tight, albeit impressive, pathway. I step onto the platform and walk my way over to crash Saint Louis University’s improvisation practice (don’t ask—it’s a long story).

Even if you’re not trolling around SLU’s student organizations, using public transportation has many benefits of which the average Washington University bubble-dweller might not be aware. Considering the fact that everyone gets a free U-Pass, you might as well use it. In fact, Wash. U. bailed out the Metro system at some point, hence the reason for the two MetroLink stations and two buses that run through campus.

These routes can easily take you to cool places like Central West End, The Hill, Tower Grove, Manchester Avenue and many more. Recently, I’ve been obsessively scoping out the coffee shops in each area to the point that my body might be on the verge of physically rejecting espresso. And let me tell you, it’s been fantastic.

But enough of me belaboring the obvious—I gather that you figured that public transportation takes you places. There’s something else about the actual journey on the Metro that gives you a new perspective on your surroundings. Sometimes, you might be surprised by what you find.

One of my most memorable public transportation moments took place when the Ray Rice domestic violence fiasco flared up. I heard one person mention it while on the bus, and suddenly four or five people were discussing their opinions on the situation. Oh, and they were all strangers. It was as if the front section of the bus turned into a public forum—it was awesome to see that classrooms don’t necessarily have to exist in the confines of a university setting.

There’s something about just being off campus, of traveling past unknown places and being surrounded by countless faces, wondering what their stories are and wondering where on earth you fit in relation to all of this. Being outside the bubble makes you understand that, in the grand scheme of things, you are so, so minuscule. There are so many things functioning around you that it’s almost incomprehensible that this all can coexist in one universe. It isn’t exactly rocket science, but it still strikes me as beautiful every time.

I’m sorry if this sounds like some Hallmark card or the base plotline of “Eat, Pray, Love.” At the very least, a good bus ride is perfect for wistfully gazing out the window while internally sobbing to Cat Power. There’s nothing wrong with a little (post-)teenage angst, right?

So, what are you waiting for?

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