Riding the Skybus

Have you ever ridden a bus? Either a long-haul trip or just a local. Even a school bus experience will do if that is all you have had. When you get on the bus that’s it, you are on the bus until the next stop. Long or short that’s it – you are stuck until you stop and you are not in charge of when you stop. I suppose, because it is a bus you could always tear a door open and leap onto the ground but you are by no means assured of living if you do that, and certainly you can count on at least some discomfort. But when we ride the bus there is a sort of resigned acceptance of your fellow passengers. You’re stuck with them and they are stuck with you and you live with it.

But when we get on an airplane, which at least if you are flying Southwest is basically just a bus in the sky we have a more entitled attitude about what he bus should be like. Granted it is generally a longer ride than your standard bus ride, but not necessarily. Yes I know it is more expensive, but you are also moving a lot faster and getting where you want to go much more quickly so cost to value is about right.

I was standing in the airport waiting for my connecting flight, looking out the window at the incredible efficiency with which planes were being loaded, unloaded, reloaded and moved and was really impressed with the dynamism of the process. Everyone knew exactly what they had to do, they did it quickly, responsively, aware of what the people around them were doing, and at least from what I could see of the positive gesturing everyone involved seemed to have a great deal of respect for each other. As someone who does process engineering it was really terrific to watch.

I get rather grumpy about flying. I don’t like it, I end up tired and sore, and I like to move around in a way that I can’t on a plane. But watching the process and watching the planes made me appreciate a lot more the miracle of getting in this machine and zooming through the air so that I have the ability to spend a half day in the office on one side of the country and be home in my own bed on the other side of the country by late evening. That is amazing.

Then the man next to me in line made a snarky comment about the number of cranky babies about to get on the plane with us. It wasn’t an unkind statement, I don’t think he was a baby hater. There did seem to be a lot of tiny people who needed snacks or naps or something about to board and five hours of crying can be a lot to listen to. And I have been that person, I am sure I will be again someday too, low on patience with small children running amok though of course that is what small children do. But today I responded by saying, ‘well it’s basically just a bus so whatever, you just deal with it.’

Back a long time ago when I was in law school Chris and I only had one car. He worked far from where we lived and since he was our primary source of income he got the car to go to work, and I rode the bus. It was about an hour all together with a transfer so not awful, and I could study on the bus. Though on more than one occasion I missed my stop as a result (that for sure doesn’t happen on a plane). There was a man who would ride the morning route for the first bus I was on who was probably homeless. The bus was warm and safe so I get why he would want to be there. But he had this hacking, wet cough that made me fear for tuberculosis and I would sit with my hand over my nose and mouth as I hunched over a giant book, trying to focus on the case while being repulsed. I know that is not the best person I could have been, I’m reporting here not judging.

So you know, here on the skybus they just gave me some crackers and club soda. There is a baby crying but I have more sympathy for the stressed mom than irritation at the noise. Maybe I can learn, maybe gratitude grows. Things are pretty good and even when I am tired and cranky I am old enough to know that it is always better to be a little nicer, a little more understanding even when it is easier to just be grouchy. And someone always has more going on that what I am in a position to understand, so today I’ll just ride the bus.

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