I will never forget the bus ride to Manila, Philippines, back in 1980. I was traveling the world and always tried to take public transportation as a social experiment. There is no better way to learn about a country or to have an adventure than to ride mass transit in a place where you don’t speak the language.
The air was conditioned, but it was conditioned by the open windows and the retched musty smells coming from the humid jungle. Added to this, were those smells coming from the tightly packed mass of humanity inside the bus and the over two dozen more small brown bodies stacked on top of it. Don’t forget the half dozen chickens and the one pig which ran around underneath our feet during the entire eight hour trip, and the smells they produced, of course.
Every time the bus slowed there were vendors shoving anything you can imagine through the windows. Getting a beer was easier than getting one in a bar and they were colder. On that bus were many young, beautiful country girls, this is a trend on buses worldwide it seems.
The subways in Tokyo were the most packed mass transit vehicles I’ve ever ridden; they were filled with short men in black suits and beautiful girls with slanted almond eyes. There were people standing at every door at every station, they were like shoe horns for people; it was their jobs to pack in, addition people after the trains were full as people.
The trip to Victoria Peak on the island of Hong Kong was so steep you could barely stand on the train, but was the most beautiful ride I ever took. There is something truly lovely about breath taking scenery when it is filtered through polluted air. The pollution mingles and mixes with the sunsets and sunrises and even with the falling dew of the morning and evening, to create uniquely amazing, unforgettable scenes.
There was the open air train somewhere in amongst the beer and some Middle Eastern country I can’t quite remember the name of. It rocked along with a mountain rising up on the left side of it and a beautiful desert on the right. The tracks were in such poor shape that it occasionally jolted so hard it threatened to jump the tracks, and when it did, dust cascaded through the air, turning the world tan for a few moments. The beer was not only for recreational purposes, but a requirement to quell the underlying fear involved in the ride.
So I realized it was costing me over seven hundred bucks to drive across Miami, to work each month. Don’t you love parking and tolls? Paying for parking is like paying the dentist to hurt you. Tolls are taxes the government doesn’t call taxes. It’s like the lottery; you can’t steal it if it isn’t there. This seems to be the mantra for governments everywhere.
I decided to relive the adventures of my youth and take the Miami-Dade transit system to save a little money. First I needed to pack a bag and grab a book, then I mounted my trusty bike and ride about ten blocks to the nearest bus stop, the furthest south western stop in the system. The trip takes about a hundred and twenty minutes, and it requires me to haul the three b’s up three escalators, down three flights of steps, from one bus to a train and then from that train to another bus, getting off at the furthest north eastern stop of the system. I get to read a lot, and it saves me over six hundred bucks a month, I’m not complaining. It actually only takes about fifteen minutes more than it did when I was driving, and there are no traffic jams to contend with.
Bike racks have replaced the pigs and chickens, and the air is conditioned. The scenery is as beautiful as any in the world, face it Miami is beautiful. There are still the smells of tightly packed people just getting off of work and the sweet icky stuff they use to hide such smells, but it ain’t bad. There are still the vendors selling anything you can imagine you want and many things you don’t want at Government Center in the heart of Miami, but I’ve outgrown wanting or needing most of their wares. There are still the homeless moving from where they don’t live to where they won’t live.
There are still more people who don’t speak English than do and young, pretty girls from all over the world. In the afternoons there are hundreds of colorful skimpy bikinis packed tightly with those girls, coming from the beach. Life is still an adventure and riding the Miami Public Transportation System has proven to be a good experience. Life continues to be good.