Why I Get Emotional On Mass Transit

By Junior Editor Catherine Collentine.

My preferred method of transportation is the bus. Just kidding, I actually hate the bus and everything it represents, but I’m the kind of woman who spends her money on things like velvet booties and $6 lattes rather than Uber and cabs, for better or worse. Worse being that I commute daily for my job, have a lot of friends in other cities, and thus find myself logging more miles on a Greyhound than I ever thought possible.

Over the past four and a half months, I’ve spent 9,720 miles on buses. When I calculated that number on my phone, I gasped rather loudly to myself. *Note: I actually wrote this on a bus, so I drew quite a reaction from my fellow commuters.* How is it possible that I’ve spent so much of my life on a bus? What have I done with that time?

If you too commute, you will understand that there can be a pleasant numbness that accompanies taking the same route to work every day. You drift past the same churches and coffee shops, sit amongst familiar faces, feel the slow rumble of the motor. Hell, even savage anger from strangers on the 6 train can make certain commuters feel at home. The effect of this banal pattern falls somewhere between a temple massage and taking half a Xanax; you’re slightly dazed, but not in a way that would cloud your judgment.

But in the time I’ve spent on buses recently, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly emotional. It’s kind of like the phenomenon of spontaneously bursting into tears or feeling unhealthily elated on a plane, where an on-flight showing of Air Bud can have the effect of a Greek Tragedy, and Chocolat that of an ecstasy pill. On a plane, though, you can blame the tiny wine bottles or oxygen levels, but on other forms of mass transit: no such luck.

So why am I getting so emotional? I like to think of it as: “Bus feels.”

The “bus feels” are similar to “plane feels” and vary harshly according to your destination. Return trips home from the weekend induce a “Sunday scaries” sort of anxiety, the kind that hits suddenly and makes the world seem even darker than it was when Lord Voldemort returned. It’s in these troubled times that the bus feels very dire, like one wrong move from you, and the whole thing could flip. The thought process clearly doesn’t make much sense, but the terror is real.

Alternatively, a four hour bus ride headed home for Christmas, or on a trip with friends can make your excitement almost unhealthily amplified. Your headphones play and it seems – for no particular reason – that your seat-mate could actually change your life. Chances are he’s just a normal dude.

The morning commute goes one of two ways: Unhealthy elation and motivation where I mentally yell things to myself like “Dress for the job you want Catherine, not the job you have!” or utter dejection, where I yell things at myself like “Someone end it!” then proceed to look around and eye my fellow riders as if to say, “Let’s get out of this place, escape, and go build a log cabin on a lake.” I don’t even like cabins that much.

All in all, my theory is that my personal form of mass transit – the bus – is like an echo chamber; your feelings, whatever they may be, ricochet around the inside and amplify. It’s like the old adage about drinking: “Don’t drink to get happy; drink to get happier.” So maybe mass transit, much like a strong drink, doesn’t make you feel a certain way; it just boosts whatever feelings you already had.

All in all, the bus makes me more self-aware. So what am I trying to say here? Maybe that just like you can’t know yourself until you visit Westworld, you also can’t know yourself until you take mass transit.

Read more from Catherine – like her tips for shopping at Trader Joe’s and why she’s in a committed relationship with her coffee.