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There are many things in life that I thought would be awful and nearly impossible to overcome. Now, most of the things I was afraid to do were pretty laughable, but the fear was real. I hope one day the things I am still afraid of will feel that way too. I’ll keep you updated as far as that goes.
A big part of learning to be a good human is taking part in activities that make you uncomfortable. I’ve learned that most everything I spent time stressing out about, falling into existential crisis over and convincing myself that I would never be able to do the task at hand, ended up being a piece of cake. At least after I did it. Typically, I black out of fear and adrenaline while doing the thing and come to after. Whatever gets the job done I guess.
So here is a new post series about things that I was certain I could not do, but did in fact do them. With a decent amount of success, I might add. Today, we discuss my overcoming buses and trains.
Please tell me I am not the only small-town person who was afraid to ride public transportation. We have a bus system in my hometown in Northern Michigan, but I have only ridden it once when my mother & a friend’s mother decided they were sick of driving us and forced us to ride it to the barn we rode horses at. It was awful (it probably wasn’t, but 14 year old me could not think of a worse punishment than riding the bata at 7am). Even worse, the friend I came with would not be joining me that evening in taking the bus home.
To those who have always ridden public transportation, this probably sounds dramatic and unnecessary, but you don’t understand. Nearly everyone drives everywhere they go in this town. Unless it’s summer, then biking is a fantastic second.
After a day at the barn, a different friend assured me that her father could drop me off on the way home to her house. Now, this bus has placed our barn on.his.route. so this meant that he was to drive up the driveway to retrieve me. Yes. That’s how small town this system is. When he arrived, my friend and I hid in a stall for 15 minutes while the driver honked and honked and honked until he finally gave up and drove away.*Phew*.
I am not kidding, we were terrified.
Testing The Waters
Graduating from both high school and unconsolable fear of taking public buses, I moved to college where free bus rides around campus and to downtown for GVSU students were a commodity and well-accepted amongst the student body. One day I gathered up the courage and hopped onto the Rapid. It wasn’t so bad…
The only issue I had was deciding whether or not I actually needed to pull the stop bell (not sure what the official name is of the line you pull when you need to get off, but you know what I’m talking about) when I was approaching my stop. When the bus was on campus, I just assumed it would stop at every stop and that if I pulled the bell, I would look like a grade A needy and novice imbecile compared to the obviously experienced frequenters of the Rapid.
Turns out, you do need to pull the bell every time. When the bus flew passed my stop, I sat silently and tried to look confident when I exited the bus one stop passed my destination. Act cool. Act cool.
I can assure you I probably looked something like this:
Overcoming Obvious Doom
Eventually, I did master the Rapid, but my anxiety about public transportation was still strong. While preparing to live in a different country for a year, there was nothing I feared more than trying to get from the airport to my apartment. New language? No problem. Unfamiliar culture? You got it. Convenient methods of transportation? Ah crap.
I was certain that I would get on the wrong train as soon as I landed in Norway and end up in a different country. For some reason, the idea of flying across the world alone did not seem daunting at all. In fact, I looked forward to the excitement and independence of the adventure. It’s a little harder to accidentally get on the wrong plane, so I felt a bit more confident in my ability to clear that hurdle.
When the time came, and after four hours of waiting in arrivals for my luggage to make its way from Arlanda, I headed to the train station in the Oslo airport. I successfully, as far as I was aware, purchased a ticket to downtown. So I sat bug-eyed and trembling at what seemed to be the correct platform.
While waiting for the train, a girl around my age asked me in English if this was the train going to central station. I said that I hoped so and we laughed. She was from Austria and was also on her way to the university. We clung to each other the rest of the day.
Skipping to the end of the story: I made it to my apartment. But not before three terrifying train rides, one bus ride and a long walk up a hill with two suitcase containing my belongings for a year’s worth of living. Getting a handle on the transit system in Oslo took some time, but I learned to love it.
It was not hard to understand, but it definitely took some trial and error. I was late to several get-togethers during my first couple months. I once rode the train in a full circle before realizing I was on the wrong one. Google Maps was always my knight in shining armor.
During the first week, a group of us went to Tim Wendelboe’s – gee I wonder who’s idea that was..- but one of our friends had to meet us there later. I am a huge fan of riding public transport with experts of the system, so going out in groups was not only more fun than being alone, but I got to relax and trust that my friends knew what they were doing. While we sat in the grass in Grünerløkka, our friend hopped off the tram by us.
I was in awe at her ability to find her way to exactly where we were all alone. Granted, she was a German who had a lot of experience traveling, but at that moment I decided I would conquer the most foreign part of this new country: their transit system. & dammit I did! If you drop me blindfolded anywhere in Oslo, I can bet you I would be able to make it back to Tim’s. Please don’t though. If I am going to be in Oslo, that’s not how I want to spend my day.
As a once truly horrified person, I can tell you that public transport ROCKS. Get over the fact that you might get lost. Embrace the adventure when you do get lost. Always give yourself enough time to get lost – or to wait a ridiculous amount of time for a train that is always late. I’m lookin at you, Forskningsparken.
When in doubt, ask the closest, sane-looking person if the train or tram or bus was going to the desired destination. They may look at you like you are a) an idiot and b) a psychopath to have disrupted their commute, but you’ll get to where you need to be. Most people are super friendly and helpful.
So there you have it. Public transportation is not that hard. Here are just a few short tips to take away as you embark on your new life as a frequent public transit-er.
- Please don’t sit next to someone if there are perfect good open double seats. Please. Don’t.
- Try not to talk too much. Especially in the morning,
- If you bring a speaker on the train, you are likely dead to everyone around you.
- It’s just best for everyone if you don’t try to make conversation with the person next to you.
- LET THE PEOPLE GET OFF THE TRAIN OR BUS BEFORE YOU SHOVE YOUR STUPID SELF ON. If you try to do this to me, I will elbow you with all my might or say something impolite.