Getting onto the bus I am struck by the large open space directly in front of the doors. Goodness, are there usually that many standees? Maybe during rush hour, certainly not now.
I choose a seat on the side away from the sun. Two old ladies proceed in a determined manner toward the first seats bordering the open area and teenagers festooned with iPods congregate at the back. A couple in hiking shoes and anoraks pour over maps, a young man concentrates on his laptop, young women are absorbed in their cell phones, typing in an SMS or conversing with unseen partners.
At the next stop a woman boards with a stroller slung about with bags and hold-alls and one sees the purpose of the open space. Oh, and now here is yet a second stroller, easily pushed aboard, as the floor of the bus is only about six inches above the road, there are no stairs and the door side drops a few inches while at the stop.
One mother sits on the convenient fold-up seat, the other stands, and behind her comes a woman with a two-wheeled shopping cart. She finds just enough space between one of the strollers and the rail, and the bus trundles on. A couple with wheeled suitcases climbs aboard and dispose themselves behind the strollers.
At the next stop - oh, no, this can't be - yet another stroller. No room, surely, but yes - everyone shifts just enough to fit this one in front of the door. The mothers smile and chat, the children are entertained by the old ladies in the front seats. The other passengers comment cheerfully on the stroller convention and peer ahead to see if yet another such conveyance, a few suitcases or a collection of shopping carts awaits at the next stop.
Upon arrival at our destination, the teenagers, travelers and hikers rush off to catch the train, the shopping carts and the strollers are trundled to the supermarket and the old ladies head for the coffee shop.
I marvel at a system that makes it perfectly easy for those without a car to schlepp themselves and their baggage - be it ever so cumbersome - onto public transport and find there a welcome. Both the mechanical setup and the accepting attitude of the other passengers are expressions of an admirable sense of community and public responsibility.