Monday, January 24, 2011

Ride that Bus: A Motivational Tale Told With Words

"I missed the bus"
- Kriss Kross

The only thing lower in quality than the items on sale at Wal-Mart are the people shopping there. But I don't mind. It's a big space with plenty of room for B.O. and secretive farts to wander far away from my snobbish nostrils. Now imagine all of those people crammed inside a small rectangular box. Place that box on wheels. Pencil in a door, and lastly install a row of windows so everyone rich enough to own a car can see that you don't. There are lots of kind-hearted, honest, good-looking folk who ride the bus, I've just never seen any.

But that's the bus in America. Now imagine a community of quiet obedient people in respectful clothing (minus the 50 year old in fish net stockings) transporting themselves through the town because there's too much snow on the ground. Welcome to 青森市/Aomori, a city in Japan annually averaging 233 inches of snowfall (compare that to Buffalo's 93.6 inches). Since I don't own a car, bicycling becomes my primary mode of transport. But when those snowflakes launch their attack, I look to my wallet to spring for a taxi or to my feet to traverse the whiteness. In other words, I stay home a lot. 

But being a new year, it's time to make an excuse for change. I thus decreed the time had come to ride the bus. Don't get me wrong, I've ridden a bus before. Talk about a mistake. You can study the kanji characters for as long as you want, but when no bus arrives at the time listed on the schedule, it becomes impossible (for an idiot like me) to know if he should board the next bus. See riding trains in Japan is a breeze. Each one always (99.9%) arrives on time, so one has just to use the departure/arrival times. Buses in Japan are punctual, but in the snowy horizon of Aomori all bets are off. 

Regardless, a cheaper alternative to access downtown was needed. For two years I had been wasting 1800yen ($20) on a taxi ride or trembling for 20 minutes in the cold to the nearest train station. It was worth the walk when the train was only ¥180, but when it increased to ¥250 for a one-way trip, the ¥300 bus seemed the logical choice. 

Thanks to a helpful friend and a fearless girlfriend, I was able to overcome my fear of buses. We began the process with the simple task of learning how and when to get downtown. We walked a mere 50 yards to the nearby Sakuragawa-Rokuchome bustop. Only one line feeds into it, meaning every bus that arrives is the one we want since conveniently they head directly downtown to 青森駅/Aomori Station. 

My Stop

It pains me to think how many times I forked over the cash for a taxi when I could have just hopped on the bus. Looking at the schedule below, it looks easy enough. But I was too scared of all the characters and the mysterious 4th column, which turned out to just state "weekdays" or "weekends/holidays." So once the basic characters were learned, it became second nature.

The Downtown Path

I'm happy to report that I'm riding the bus with ease. I take great pleasure of scaling the stairs in the middle doorway, grabbing my slip of paper, and sitting nervously in the back of the bus (I'm a minority) as I count my coins to make sure I have enough to cover the ever-increasing fare. But this is just to Aomori Station and back. Let's see how long it takes me to navigate myself to the cinema.

Happy bus riding everyone.


Katherine Lee said...

Hi Crave, reading your blogs is always so fun. I have been here since three years ago. I went to work by bus this afternoon and when I was about to get off, I didn't take the balance and I had my coins fallen! :S I couldn't pick them up at once cause everybody was waiting for me. (sigh.. ) :D

craveVSworld said...

Howdy Katherine!

Thank you for your kind words! I appreciate it.

I'm sorry to hear about your fallen coins. Do you miss them? Don't worry. Maybe some of them are having great adventures around the world.

Good luck with the bus next time. If I see you on the bus, I will help you pick up the coins.