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ROC Transit Day: Overheard on the Bus

by Joe Orman

This is a story about a fairly regular experience to many of us in the city- a ride from one stop to the transit station to another stop on the other side of the city. The ride was nothing special- it was an uncomfortably hot Saturday afternoon on Monroe Avenue. I planned on taking a bus from the Spokes and Ink Art Festival, to Pittsford Plaza to see a movie, back to U of R. It would take approximately 10 minutes to get to the plaza, and over an hour to get home. I prepared myself for a bus ride like most people, running a mental check as I stepped out of my dorm room.

Phone, Wallet, Keys, Bus Pass, Headphones

I then made 2 mistakes.

The first was missing my bus on Monroe. When I was born, I was graced with my mother’s terrible vision and my father’s abhorrent sense of direction, which makes traveling in the City my daily source of puzzle-solving mental simulation. I was lost in an article on phone as the bus slowly creeped by on the opposite side of the road, and I felt several IQ points leave my mind as I registered what had happened. One short call to my Uncle later, I found myself in another car, discussing movies and how I was going to get home later. I told him that I had already found a bus that ran later that day (which was a lie), and said my goodbyes as we pulled into the plaza. I found myself standing outside the theatre a few hours later, with just enough time to grab food and rush to the bus stop. I sat next to several Wegmans employees as I ran another mental check.

Phone, Wallet, Keys, Bus Pass… Oh no.

My second mistake was forgetting my headphones, or so I thought.

If you are anything like me, you always have a pair of headphones on you. It’s the perfect way to make a walk pass by, a voicemail private, or- in many cases- to block out background noise. As a regular rainy day commuter and user of RTS, I join the ranks of many who choose to block out the daily conversations of the Rochester Community and listen to some of the terrible sounds that make up my music choice. As I boarded the bus, I was prepared for the next hour to feel like a decade, but what I found was exactly the opposite. Here are a few things I overheard and saw on my ride that made me seriously rethink why I chose to block out the sounds of the City while getting around:

  • A child subjecting his father to a barrage of “Why?” questions. Things like:
    1. Why does that man have no hair?”
    2. “Why is that lady sleeping?”
    3. “Why are you covering your face?”
    4. “Why is that boy trying to hide his laugh?”
  • A bus driver telling a young woman which door to exit from to avoid a massive puddle the size of Ontario.
  • 2 buses honking playfully at each other, trying to play “chicken” at a stop sign.
  • 2 childhood friends catching up on their lives, discussing everything from their mothers to jobs to who would make a better parent, they both decided it would be the other.

That Saturday, while sweaty from the sun and with the taste of stale popcorn still in my mouth, I learned an important lesson about public transit. RTS connects neighborhoods, communities, and most importantly, people. I chose to ride the bus to remind me why I chose to call Rochester my home, a place abundant with culture, industry, and character. So I challenge you as you read the thoughts of an idealistic 20-year-old as your bus bounces along the road or as you eat your unhealthy lunch in your office, to unplug, and look at our City with fresh new eyes.


Joe Orman is a Central New York native studying Anthropology and Legal Studies at the University of Rochester. This summer his he serving in the Rochester Urban Fellows Program under AmeriCorps Vista at Refugees Helping Refugees on South Avenue. You can find him regularly at the Highland Park Diner, The Little Theatre, Pittsford Cinemas, Java’s, and on the airwaves at 10pm on Mondays as a student radio jockey for WRUR 88.5FM. He fell in love with Rochester once he discovered the accessibility of art and music in the city, and as one of the many members of the Rochester community without a car, he hopes to explore as much of the city by bus and bike as possible.