Expectations about public transport and what to do when you have them

A few listed in random order:

- If in Bangkok, you expect buses not to stop at bus stops but to slow down slightly. You get rather good at running alongside the bus, usually with other people around you and hopping on to the bus. Conductors are rather willing to help, especially if you're a girl (yes, well). Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my dad (who was at Uni at the time and so was not part of the car-owning contingent) pushing/throwing me on to various buses.

- If in Northern Denmark, you expect buses to arrive on time. Well, you don't expect this when you first get there but then you realise they are almost always on time. If you get to a bus stop a minute or so later than the expected time and get on the bus waiting there, you are likely to end up at some other city instead of the place you were planning to go.

- The USA, or TCOTFW at least, is thankfully rather like Nepal. Buses are quite unexpected in their timings and may arrive on time or not arrive at all. I once waited at a bus stop in the wilds of VA (well, about 30 mins from G'town but pretty much the outback in terms of regular public transport) and a bus never arrived. Being quite patient about these things and having the latest Nick Hornby to read meant I waited for nearly an hour and a half for the bus. It never came.

Why all this rambling about expectations about public transport, you ask? Well, because this morning, I went to my usual underground station. For those unacquainted with TCOTFW's underground transport system, the trains usually arrive at either side of a single platform, depending on which direction they are going to. I got to the station, picked up my newspaper, took the escalator down, arrived at the platform, waited for the train on the right side, and got on it. I live two stations away from TUWSNBN. But, before we got to the second station, I realised I had gotten on the wrong train (E, you understand how I figured this out, eh?).

I was quite early for an appointment so I had heaps of time left to make it to TUWSNBN. I got out at this station, waited for the train that would take me back in the right direction, got on it and got immersed in reading my newspaper again. Two stations later, I got off, passed through the turnstiles, got on the escalator and ended up at the top. I then realised I was back where I started. I'd travelled two stations in the wrong direction, then two stations back and had gotten off there. Both TUWSNBN station and this station had similar escalators and all that so I had not even noticed where I was until I reached the top.

I finally got on a train going to TUWSNBN and got there. But, during all this, I thought about expectations. I expected my train to be on the right side of the platform, I expected my station to be two stops after I got on the train and I expected my destination station to have a long escalator. And, I acted accordingly. We orient ourselves to something based on our actions in the past and what has happened before. That's pretty much what I did this morning.

Or, maybe I am just a bit daft. And, massively unobservant. Sherlock Holmes would have been appalled.

At least I can now say I've got the absent-minded part of the "absent minded professor" stereotype down. I just need to work on the professor part.


At 12/02/2005 12:08 PM, Anonymous serena said...

WOW, that sounds about right for most people though. I tend to observe things very carefully when on public transit, and I expect that it makes me quite out of the norm.

I do like the info about buses, etc. in other areas of the world though. could come in handy some day!


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