I usually point to my experience with Pierce County Transit in Tacoma, Washington in 1982 as my introduction to public transportation. I realized recently however that my first exposure to bus riding goes back to the age of fourteen, the summer my girlfriends and I were first allowed to ride the "beach bus" in West Islip, NY. I don't remember how it came about, but we were given permission to take the bus to Robert Moses State Park, field two - the cool beach. Our bus stop was in front of Good Samaritan Hospital. It cost a dollar each way, and we were crammed on that bus like sardines. No air-conditioning, windows wide open, and kids sitting four or five to a seat. We sat on each other's laps and packed the aisle. Loud, rambunctious teenage boys showing off for giggling girls in tank tops and bikinis. Safety? It didn't seem to be a concern back in those days. If we got stuck in traffic, the bus driver rode over the curb and drove on the grass to get around the cars waiting in line for the parking lot.
That same summer my mother decided despite the fact she drove a van with "Mom's Taxi" printed across the spare tire, she didn't need to drive us to the mall. Pulling out the phone book she had me look up the schedule for the regular bus. There were only two options, one ran along Montauk Highway, the other route was on Union Boulevard. And the schedules were conveniently printed in the yellow pages. My girlfriends and I were thrilled, we could spend a whole day at the mall, not just a few hours. And no adult supervision while we decided how to spend our babysitting money! Talk about a carefree summer, suddenly we had the independence to go to the beach and the mall whenever we chose. Add in the range we could travel on our bicycles, and it seemed our horizons were limitless.
Riding the bus as an adult, commuting to work, appointments and food shopping may not be as much fun as riding the beach bus, or heading to the mall with my girlfriends as a teenager. But it's not the end of the world, and it sure beats walking!