Of all the places I’ve been in Europe, a public bus is the least glamourous. Yet, I might dare to say that it’s one of my favorite places that I’ve been. In Europe, almost everyone gets around using public transportation. In America, there is a little bit of a stigma around using public transportation. If you ride the bus to work, it’s assumed that you’re poor and can’t afford a car. Across the pond, however, people from all walks of life take the bus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

When I get on a bus or tram, I like to play a little game in my head. I look around, pick out one person, and try to guess where they’re going. For example, on my way to the Paris airport, I sat next to an old couple. It was a cool Sunday morning and they sat close to each other but didn’t speak. At first, I wondered if maybe they were angry with each other, but their faces didn’t match that assumption. After about 10 minutes, without words, the older gentlemen took the woman’s hand and they continued to sit in silence. Their eyes bounced around the tram, and I wondered if maybe they were playing the same game as me. At their stop, the man stood up, offered her his hand, and they exited the tram. I liked to imagine they roamed the streets of Paris in silence, just taking it all in. 

In Scotland, the trains are quite busy, so I had to stand on most rides. On one of my last rides there a man boarded the train with his dog. The dog was an older Cocker Spaniel with hair frighteningly similar to my own. He sat down in the seat next to where I was standing, and I tried my hardest not to touch the stranger’s dog. Eventually my self-control ran out and I asked, “Is it okay if I pet him?” “Sure,” the man said in a very thick Scottish accent. “His name is Brodie.” 

As I scratched Brodie’s ear I wondered where in the world this little guy was going on the train. Would his owner take him for a walk, or had he already been on one? Did he get lots of attention from strangers that day or was I the only one? I petted Brodie’s head until his owner stood up and left the train with a smile. For the rest of the night, I thought about that silly little dog and thanked his owner mentally for letting me enjoy that short 10 minutes with him. 

The London Tube costs about £2 to ride. Because of the low price, virtually anyone can afford to ride the train. One night after leaving a show in the West End, I boarded the very quiet Tube. Directly across from me sat a man wearing a very expensive looking suit with an unmistakable Rolex on his wrist. Two seats down sat a man wearing clothes I could only assume had been worn for multiple days. I sat shocked and grateful: Shocked that these two men used the same form of transportation to get home and grateful that I was sharing the Tube with them. The men didn’t get off on the same stop, but they rode together for a while. The longer I looked–I was probably staring–I realized how much these men really had in common. They were probably both just getting off work, both were tired, and both needed a way to make it to the place they called home. Although the men seemed like opposites on the outside, they really weren’t that different after all. 

That’s what I love about public transportation. It’s one place where people from all walks of life have the same goal. There is no rich or poor, native or foreigner on a train. Everyone has somewhere they need to be for reasons most of us will never know. But we’re all on a bus and that makes us the same in a way. I never thought I would be writing a love letter to a smelly bus or sticky train, but here I am, and I cannot wait for my next ride. 

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