Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When the Bus Takes a Learning Curve

They say that if you stay in learning mode throughout your adulthood and old age, you can stave off Alzheimer's, dementia and just plain being a boring person who never gets invited to parties. If that’s true, then I’m golden.

The person who moves a lot is in a constant state of learning. We spend the first year doing it wrong, the next year learning how the locals are doing it, and then the rest of the time settling into auto-pilot, until it’s time to move again. And then we have to learn all new bus routes and how to pronounce everyday household objects in an all new way.

Because I’ve lived in the Midwest, the Northeast, the South, the West Coast and the in-a-league-of-its-own-Florida, I’ve spent my entire adulthood learning.

Moving here to California last year, I finally got over my fear of buses. My experience with buses was spotty until then. My only childhood bus ride (besides school buses for field trips) was a trip into Youngstown with my big sister to meet my grandfather. I don’t know why my mom would put us on a city bus by ourselves, but she apparently didn’t have the same fear of buses I had when I was her age. In college, I rarely rode the campus loop bus, because the first time I tried it, I got on the wrong one and ended up out of town at the mall. I explained to my professor that I was sorry I missed class but to make up for it, I would never ride a bus again for 10 years.

What was the learning curve for you during your moves?

But when I moved out here to the city, it made too much sense to take the bus. I had to face my fears and learn how to ride a bus again.

Of course I did it wrong.

I knew where my stop was, thanks to my iPhone GPS. I knew to pull the cord when my stop was coming up. I made my way to the back door, where there was a big sign with red letters that said DO NOT STEP DOWN UNTIL THE DOOR OPENS. The bus driver stopped and then continued on, never opening the door for me to get off.

“What just happened here?” I turned to a woman standing near me. She said, “You have to step down so that the driver knows you’re getting off.”

“But I pulled the thing! It made a ding! And the sign says DO NOT step down.  See? It’s right there.”

“Yeah,” the woman said. “You gotta step down.”

Well that doesn’t make sense. They’re doing it wrong, I thought. But in the end I had to concede that even though I was following the rules, I was the one who was doing it wrong. I learned, though, and now I take the bus often. And bonus - I’m not afraid of any buses now and I never end up at the mall.

There are all kinds of unwritten rules that you have to learn when you move to a new city. Also new customs, pronunciations, and do’s and don’ts. Learning how to ride the bus may have added a year or two to my life of not putting Comet in my coffee and calling my daughter by my sister’s name.

What was the learning curve for you during your moves?


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

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