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You Always Remember Your First Time

Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 1, 2005
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The wheels on the bus bring me down

Although I've lived the majority of my life being bored within the city limits of our fair Old Pueblo, I'm learning that there is adventure around every corner. Perhaps my desert residence should equate with knowing everything from the temperature at which eggs will fry on the sidewalk to how to walk into class without being a sweaty mess, but there is a lot about Tucson that I've never bothered to learn, and more than a handful of local experiences that I've never had. Maybe my weekly goal of finding something in town that I've never done before will be easier than I thought.

With so many possibilities, what "new thing" did I do this week? Did I climb "A" Mountain in my underwear (climbing at all would be new)? Did I wear a fake moustache to all of my classes, scoffing at gender roles? Did I sing karaoke without being drunk? No, no and no. I rode the public bus.

Earlier this year, SunTran (the local bus company) was named "America's Best Transit System" by the American Public Transportation Association. According to the SunTran Web site, "Sun Tran's mission is to provide safe, well maintained and cost effective public transportation with a team of innovative and diverse employees, dedicated to our customers, the environment and the community." After viewing my bank account, making note of the increased campus parking fees and inappropriately cursing Hurricane Katrina for the rising gas prices, the accolades given to our local bus line seemed almost too good to be true. Almost.

Out of a not-so-convenient combination of curiosity and financial necessity, I boarded the No. 15 bus early Monday morning. As my eyes frantically searched for an empty seat, I heard "regulars" muttering about how "all the students" were back in full force. I realized that these guys meant business, and most of them resented us scholarly types for semi-annually setting foot on their turf. As I looked around, I couldn't blame them for their disenchantment: Most students were sprawled across two seats, talking loudly on cell phones about personal matters (confidential to the perky blond with the cool looking phone: No one wants to hear about all the sex you have!) and singing along to songs no one else could hear (thanks to Apple).

I felt guilty for being one of "the students." That is, I felt guilty until my ride home. As new passengers boarded at each stop, I learned a few things that my life in Tucson had yet to teach me. I learned that if someone opens a window, it's probably because he is sweaty. If he is seated in front of you, all of his sweat-stink will blow directly from his (or her, let's be fair) zone of disgusting and into your face.

Oddly enough, there is a difference between normal body odor and the sort that seeps out of the orange, red and purple upholstery of the bus. I work at a gym, so I'm no stranger to the way that people smell after a good workout. There is a difference, however, between the aroma of the body's natural cooling mechanism and the heat-induced stench that exudes from people who haven't showered in days. My finely tuned nose tells me that the majority of bus riders are not riding home from the gym. Also, men wearing "Buffet Bar & Crockpot" shirts expel lots of gas. I'm not generalizing.

Riding the bus is an unfortunate side effect of the combination of a post-tuition-payment bank account and moving too far away from the university to walk to school. When it cools down, I may attempt riding my bike to class, but that's an adventure for another week.

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