Public Transport is a series of waiting. Short pleasant phases interspersed with seemingly unending ones. Like a morse code message. This realization dawned on me two weeks ago when I committed to run some errands using Public Transport. I resolutely embarked on my promise, taking the F bus from the Ferry building which trundles along Market street, passes the Financial District, pauses in the Tenderloin, makes a few stops near Hayes Valley and I get of in the Castro.

And so began the waiting. I read that the NextBus website (and their corresponding bus stop alert signs) has not been working for the past few weeks. And sure enough that was the case with the website refusing to load on my phone and the bus stand signs resolutely blank. The F bus was my only way of getting to my destination. I had no alternatives except using Lyft or hailing a taxi. The latter are swiftly becoming an extinct species, (an event i’m not terribly upset about), and taking a Lyft was against my once a day Lyft quota (I had taken a Lyft to get to where i was).

Waiting for public transport is at odds with our usual perceptions of time. With the natural expectation of waiting time to decrease as we wait longer, the NextMuni timings can slip and slide in time. As if time were a rubber band being alternately stretched and relaxed. An “expected time” of 5 minutes can turn 10 minutes and then a minute later, drop to an expected time of 6 minutes. Keeping time with a signboard is really aligning the exhaustion of expectation (of the bus to come at the mentioned time) with a countdown of the time to wait. But with these infernally unreliable timekeepers (the Muni signboards), the wait has three nasty heads: the wait by my watch, the wait i’ve perceived (the most bloody real) and the wait on the shame faced lying Muni signboard. When you’re the only one at the stop, you cannot wait until the next person gives up and walks away. There is no combining of hope, or joint prayer, or community wailing at Public Transport, all of which might appear to make the wait shorter, or serendipitously, end with the sighting of the bus. No, alone I stand, with possibly my watch to look at (and if a watch was not handy (;), then what? Watching the setting sun? Listening to one’s internal monologues? Wait for the the lizard to move?). Waiting for the bus is like watching the river flow by: one is not waiting for anything to happen. Because if you do wait for it to happen, surely you will reach a point of where you forget what it is. Wait as the street lights turn on, wait as the last office goer passes by (taking the BART which is better but can have its own unique horrors), wait as the joggers breathe in the crisp dusk air, kick yourself and wait as the cyclists swiftly approach their destination and wait as you see your bus go in the opposite direction.

And the bus is sighted. Two stops away. But we must wait a bit more till the cake reaches our plate. The stop light turn red, the pedestrians cross the road, the straggler ambles by staring at her phone, her child runs after her. The light has turned green but the bus driver must wait for them to cross. The mother must wait for her son to reach her the other side of the road. She reads her phone while she waits. The bus driver stares at his thermos while he waits. And i stare at the bus as I wait. The light has turned green, the bus makes it way to me, it’s solitary pickup, and it turns out one of the two reasons it stopped. To drop of person in a wheelchair. The bus stops, the driver gets of, switches on the ramp, the ramp gently lowers, the passenger wheels away, the ramp rises. This is an ethical wait. In fact all waits in Public Transport are ethical waits. I cannot begrudge the elderly person who slowly boards or the sluggish 33 that picks up every human being in san francisco. The public transport serves everyone. I’m a cog waiting for my turn to turn.

I’m on the bus! And we wait. Wait for an altercation between the driver and an unruly passenger to end. As we slowly make our way forward like a mechanical snake (the mUNi busses are flexible in their design), I watch the evening sky make way for night as it settles over the Ferry building. Thankfully no rain today or else the waiting would have nine rings to it. As we move forward, waiting for the lights to turn green, waiting for the police to give us way, waiting for the snarl to pass so that we can offload passengers at the stop barely 5 meters away and once we do reach, we wait for the stuck doors to open, I muse.

Why did i take the bus and not Lyft? Was it really a quota? A car too has to stop for most of the above scenes. But in a bus, we’re all in this together. Most of us realize the bus driver and the organism that is city evening traffic bear us no ill will. We can mutter, stare at the phone, huff and puff, pray but we all whine together. There is community if not hope, and community can engender hope. And I muse more.

Why the bus and not the cycle? A cyclist doesn’t wait. But a cyclist is alone. I am in a bus with 30 others, we are in bus with tens of other busses. All of us want be somewhere else. And we are all alone and together. Breathing, frustrating, sweating,standing,talking, waiting. Together. Some of us crossing our fingers. Crossing our fingers for the next light to remain green; it does! I get of the bus in a trice and lo, my next bus is around the corner. And i didn’t wait this time. I sprung to action. My life in my legs, i sprint to the other side. My commute on the wings of my spirit. I dodge the car who comes to a stop and waits, I stand en pointe as the cyclist abruptly breaks for me, ask for forgiveness as i run in front of drivers who just started from their sixty second wait at the stop light. I am the first person to board the bus.

The traffic is getting dense, the absent rain eventually made its appearance, the weary passengers are bathed in a red hue from the wet reflections of choc-a-block brake lights. A girl kisses her partner and rests her head on her shoulder. Her eyes closed, a smile hanging on her lips. The smile slowly fades as her body falls asleep. Their bodies come together and they too wait. But their wait lies beyond the perceptions of time. With all that running, i need a place to rest and recover my breath. I find a seat and settle in for a long ride home. I look forward to the wait.