Every time I board the public transit in Seattle, I have to give myself a little mental shake. It’s just a reminder, hey remember, this isn’t London.
It’s lot like I don’t know it’s not London. I know every day, from the moment I wake up until the moments when I can’t fall asleep at night. The noises aren’t right, the smell isn’t right, the small part of my soul that I didn’t know could be so contented isn’t contented. I get it, it’s not London. Don’t remind me.
But I take the bus in Seattle because I don’t have a car, don’t want a car, don’t need a car. The bus system is actually remarkably efficient where I live: at least three buses go from very close to my flat, er, apartment directly to a stop outside my work building. At least eight buses come back to a stop near my flat. We picked a good part of town to live in, from that perspective. But, there are just so many things that are different within the microcosm of the Seattle Bus from the London Bus.
Gone are the diverted glances lest anyone actually realize how close we are to one another. Gone are the efficient seating charts and double-deckers. Gone is the soothing but real English voice, replaced by a computerized attempt at the same thing but with an American accent. Gone is the satisfying beep of they Oyster card reader.
Interestingly however, there is one remarkable thing present on the Seattle buses that isn’t present in London. Part of the reason for this is logistics: in London, everyone embarks the front doors, and debarks the back of the bus. In Seattle, everyone comes on near the driver, but you can go out either the front or back doors, depending on which is convenient. So, far more than in London, people pass the driver when leaving. Despite this, I still can’t explain how nearly everyone says goodbye, or goodnight, or thanks, or have a good evening as they get off the bus. Everyone gives the driver gratitude for a safe ride or wishes him or her well.
Maybe this shouldn’t be so remarkable; after all, English people are known for being stiff-lipped and stuffy. The reality is they aren’t. English people are totally friendly and nice, about as often as everyone else from every other country I’ve visited or lived in.
In Seattle though, the driver gets a special accord. The driver is well-regarded and appreciated, even when the bus is late or hits traffic or there’s nowhere to sit or the crazy homeless guy is still talking to the little ambient space in the bus.
That makes me proud to be a budding Seattlite, even if I’m technically not allowed to consider myself such after just a week here.