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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Bus? Well, It’s Trying to Kill Me.

posted by on August 15 at 13:26 PM

How you feel about riding the damn bus depends entirely upon your point of view. It’s all in how you look at it.

You can choose to see it as a grand service to the environment, for example—a brave move to, uh, curtail global warming or something. Then you can feel noble and wise and martyr-y about it, and really look down your nose on all those poor stupid stressed-out polluting idiots that you’re so jealous of because they can actually afford a God damn car.

Or you can, as millions of smart young office slaves and organic grocery store workers have before you, convince yourself that taking the bus is just a temporary thing, a segue, something you’ll do until…well, until you don’t anymore. Someday. And it’s okay: you can just turn up your IPod, plug your nose, whip out a battered old paperback, and suck it up. Or you can decide to visualize yourself as a responsible, egalitarian, um, citizen. If you’ll pardon the expression.

But really? You’re probably just broke. And that’s alright. It’s a sign of the fucking times.

And me? Well. I’ve been riding the damn bus with alarming frequency lately (you will forget that last statement—FORGET!) and I choose to see riding the bus as…well, it really isn’t anyone’s damn business what I see it as, which probably has some kinky thing to do with gay sex that I have absolutely no intention of explaining here anyway. But I’m having a little problem.

I’m pretty darn sure that I am allergic to public transportation. As in, the bus. It’s terrible. Humiliating! And I am in no way making this up. Allergic!

Do bums give off pollen? Are office dicks so very dusty and danderous? Do old women emit spoor? Please, tell me! I must know!

It takes 90-seconds—sometimes less. I get on the bus, pay my dollar fi’ty or what-the-fuck-ever, I accept the disgusting and infuriating little piece of paper from the driver (“transfer”, indeed! It’s pocket pollution!), and take a seat, if they all aren’t already full of winos and people trying to ignore them. Then, suddenly, with no warning or mercy, my sinuses swell and drain, and an evil little tickle, relentless, out to destroy me, causes my throat to spaz-out, my lungs to heave like a drowning dolphin, and I suffer an uncontrollable coughing fit worthy of an emphysematic spaniel. I gag, I wretch, I cough-cough-COUGH!

There is no hiding it or stopping it or relaxing into it, and my fellow bus riders, let’s face the sad truth, begin to look at me as if I were an oily plague rat. The damn bums scooch away from me. And that, ladies and gentleman, can devastate a man.

More than a few times, in fact, I have had to de-bus far from my actual stop out of sheer exasperation. And the moment I step off the bus? Nothing. My sinuses open like a clear blue sky and my cough evaporates. Silence descends. Just like that.

Please to note: I have never suffered an allergy before in my life. Not one! Drown me in penicillin! Dunk me in dairy! Stuff every orifice with peanuts! Powder me in pollen until the cows come cowing home! Nothing! I am, indeed, disgustingly healthy, knock wood. Hell, I might not even be human. But there’s just no denying it anymore. And I’m not really sure how to cope.

I am allergic to the God damn bus!

RSS icon Comments


Make it a goal to only ride the express buses. There's no poverty on them at all!

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 15, 2008 1:43 PM

i've had thsi very same problem. it also happens in used book stores. i think it has something to do with mildew and dust teaming up to form a beast irritant

Posted by kim | August 15, 2008 1:45 PM

It is dried urine. This is why Denver just passed the laws not allowing in on the bus. Its true.

Posted by Sneezy the 7th dwarf | August 15, 2008 1:49 PM

I just walk, bike or take the cab. The bus is for Seattle Street Trash.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | August 15, 2008 1:50 PM

@3, so you mean if Metro cleaned the buses out every day (like with soap and hot water) Adrian would not have this problem?

Posted by Just Me | August 15, 2008 1:51 PM

If you left out the term "Ipod" your post would be a worthy opening to Dickens short.

Posted by John Bailo | August 15, 2008 2:02 PM

I guarantee that will not happen to you on any conveyance guided by rails.

But I empathize-- indoor shopping malls do the same to me.

Posted by Joe M | August 15, 2008 2:03 PM


Either that or stop letting people on the bus who urinate on the bus or are themselves urine soaked. One step toward that would be either eliminating the free ride zone, or servicing the free ride zone with a bus line that only serves the free ride zone. (So that people paying to travel in and out of the city don't have to sit in the urine left by the residents of the rolling shelter.) But that's just crazy talk.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | August 15, 2008 2:04 PM

Short of some kind of psychosomatic symptom, I would bet on an allergy to dust, or urine or cleaning fluid or something in the bus environment (mildew is a good possibility).

As for not having had an allergy before, that is not surprising. People often develop allergies after having a large exposure to an allergen. After this first reaction the body can have a greater and greater reaction to the allergen. This is why bee stings can become more and more dangerous. Still it doesn't sound like you are going into anaphylactic shock anytime soon.

Try out a few masks that specialize in filtering different substances. If people give you shit, tell them you have a cold or the plague depending on your sense of humor. Maybe sit in the disabled area. If you have insurance see a doctor.

Posted by LMSW | August 15, 2008 2:06 PM

None of the above, really. I ride the bus because it's convenient. It takes me from across the street from my house to across the street from my office. It also allows me to do other things while I ride. My clever answer to the "stuck in gridlock" question on Lovelab would be "keep doing my crossword puzzle".

If I were really concerned about the environmental impact of my commute I would probably walk the mile to and from work.

I was thinking the other day how I haven't commuted by car in about 4 years, both to college (25 min ride) and work (25 min ride in Bellingham, 10 minute ride here). Driving a car and finding parking is just annoying, especially driving into downtown. I do own a car, though, but I vowed never to commute it.

Are you riding the 43? It's probably mildew.

Posted by w7ngman | August 15, 2008 2:16 PM

does this happen on trains back east or in europe?

on the mexico city subway?
on the 2d ave bus in NYC say, between 86th and 52d at about 8 am?
how about on that bus from Manhattan to Easthampton? The Aspen shuttle bus to the slopes?

need more data.

Posted by PC | August 15, 2008 2:27 PM

Get the fuck over it you whiner.

Suck it up or buy a goddamned bicycle.

Posted by Andrew | August 15, 2008 2:34 PM

I'm also not allergic to anything. I experienced the same symptoms when the furniture and carpet in my office building were replaced. It was formaldehyde. The minute I entered the building, my sinuses closed up. Within minutes of leaving the building they opened back up. This happened every day for months until the formaldehyde dissipated. I'm sure there is particle board in the construction of buses (think FEMA trailers). It's likely some chemical, but not urine.

Posted by davidLBC | August 15, 2008 2:38 PM

I have been driving the bus in Seattle for ten years, so I think I am qualified to say that THE BUS FUCKING SUCKS. I am constantly sick with a sore throat. The combination of food, garbage, feces, cigarette detritus, and piss on the floor gets ground into a fine powder by foot traffic, and then when the bus is moving (especially with the windows open) the mixture becomes airborne and is inhaled. Every single bus in Metro's entire fleet smells absolutely fucking disgusting inside. Besides the people who get on the bus with shit and piss dried and caked to their pants, there are times when people literally piss themselves in the seat, and it runs down to the floor and down the aisle. One time I saw actual dried SHIT SKIDS on a seat. What I find amazing is that people sit on the bus seats, and then without thinking go home and sit on their furniture. Nasty.

Posted by Justin J | August 15, 2008 2:39 PM

You are probably allergic to mold/mildew spores (both of which are common on buses). Air-conditioned buses can be especially bad since mildew likes to grow around air conditioning units, but mildew will grow in any bus, surviving on the heat from the vehicle and bodies inside it and from the vapor/moisture from human respiration on board and from spilled beverages on the floor.

Cleaning fluids, as another commenter suggested, are another candidate, except that public buses are, like, never cleaned, and if they are they are cleaned inadequately, so it's doubtful you can be allergic to what's not there.

One way to test if you're really having an allergy is to take a couple of Benedryl at least 45 minutes before boarding a bus. (Assuming it's safe for you to take Benedryl.) Yes, the antihistamine in Benedryl is also sold as Unisom, so you'll have a nice doze on the bus trip, but if the antihistamine prevents the symptoms, then it really is a proper allergy, and you can maybe consult with your doctor and get some allergy tests done to see what the culprit is.

Posted by Simac | August 15, 2008 2:43 PM

Ooh, me too! The bus is horrible. I loathe the mean people, like the bitchy disabled man and whoever extracted my wallet from my pocket, and people who prefer to clog the aisle rather than take a seat in the back, or let you get back there. I was riding every day for months because I couldn't find maternity motorcycle leathers. Although, it seems like something like them must exist because there are so many dudes with watermelon bellies on bikes.

Posted by poltroon | August 15, 2008 2:44 PM

I'm allergic to whiners getting on the bus, so Adrian should stay off it and walk everywhere.

Plus, by doing so, he'll look great and lose weight.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 15, 2008 2:51 PM

Fuck you Cato. I have been riding the bus to and from work and to the grocery store for the past 18 years and I am not Street Trash. Yes riding the bus does suck. But that is the cities fault for not having a transit police and because the Ride Free area makes the bus available to the homeless as temporary Winnebagos until they finally get kicked off.

And let me say, ahead of time, that I'm sorry if I inconvenience you because you have to get off your ass and/or move your legs because I am in a wheelchair and I have to ride the bus. Riding a wheelchair, even an electric one, isn't as fun as it looks. If and when I can walk again I'll go back to riding my bike.

Posted by elswinger | August 15, 2008 2:54 PM

God damn, Adrian. Get a shrink already.

Posted by shrink | August 15, 2008 3:09 PM


Posted by Non | August 15, 2008 3:20 PM

what thoughtful comments! what wonderful advice! indeed, thank you!

Posted by adrian | August 15, 2008 4:05 PM

You're welcome.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 15, 2008 4:29 PM

Got to get the hobos off the bus. Where exactly do they have to be anyway? Booze convention? Card board sign store? Crack emporium?

and as far as the express buses being hobo free - try the 358 express bus on Aurora - it is the direct pipeline between cracktown (Belltown) and the flop houses on Aurora.

Posted by Ewww That Smell | August 15, 2008 5:02 PM

Sorry Adrian. I am afraid the problem is mildew in the seats and unless they replace all the seats (especially the foam rubber), there is nothing that Metro can do about your allergies. If Claritin does not work, I hereby absolve you from any guilt for not riding the bus.

Posted by elswinger | August 15, 2008 5:06 PM

I've been living without a car for the past 10 years. It would really suck to be allergic to the bus, but one thing I've done recently is move closer to where I need to be every day. I get carsick really easily. And, while I'm not allergic to the shit-piss dust that's flying around every metro bus, I do prefer walking.

So I live in a shitty apartment, but all my commuting is done on foot. It's a worthwhile trade. When I finish school and can afford a non-shitty apartment, I will always go for one that enables me to not need the bus attaching a really high dollar value to that convenience and weighing it heavily against all other things.

Oh and 3 of my last 10 car-less years were in Chicago, and people who say that Chicago is more walkable because the stinky homeless shelters are on rails rather than wheels are full of shit in a huge way. If you live in the right place, chicago transit is convenient, the same as here. My commutes from North Aurora to downtown were quicker than my commutes from Taylor and Ashland to North and Clybourn or from Rogers Park to Armitage. So fuck everyone claiming that rail will save our day.

Moving closer to work is the answer. Also budgeting more time for walking. Walking is good for you, and this is a beautiful city to walk in. 330 days of the year, the temperature is reasonable, the polar opposite of Chicago.

I say this as someone who does not believe in manmade climate change and loves the burning of fossil fuels. I'm holier than all you leftists by your own stupid-ass superstitious standards. That said, If you walk more, you'll be glad you did. And if you give up some things in exchange for being able to walk more and ride less, you'll find it was worth it.

Posted by Luke Baggins | August 15, 2008 5:11 PM

Wow, between anger management sessions and losing your license to one DUI too many, you must be a real joy to go on a walk with.

Posted by I Walk Alone | August 15, 2008 5:39 PM

I get the same thing, but not consistently. I think it might be pet allergies in my case, and I'm just getting leaky when someone gets on who lets their precious fluffy sleep in their hamper.

Posted by tabletop-joe | August 15, 2008 8:55 PM

I gave the bus a go when I moved into the city and pretty much had the same experience as you did. My car might cost me a bit more, but it generally does not have stinky homeless people using it as a bedroom, and I can almost always get a seat. Not to mention that its always on time and leaves when I want.

Posted by Giffy | August 16, 2008 12:50 AM

You're clearly self-conscious from your own lack of funds, which force you to use the bus. Therefore, on the bus your shame elicits a stress-induced attack, in which your face attempts to free itself from the rest of your body, so as not to be seen with you.

If you have money, or self-confidence (and a modicum of tolerance for your fellow travelers), you're all but immune to such attacks. I, having both, appreciate the bus, and love rail, e.g., amtrak, slut, link.

Posted by Empact | August 16, 2008 3:52 AM

I, too, was "not allergic to anything" but put me in a small-room seminar with 12 women and 50 minutes later I would be choking, trying to cough silently, and wondering if I shouldn't just try to leave unobtrusively instead of collapsing with respiratory distress.

Probably the cologne in that case, but with age it got worse. Now I find any closed public space with "conditioned" air suffocating.

Try Atrovent, one or two puffs 10 minutes before boarding the bus. You may not hate the bus so much if you're not actually choking to death while you're on it.

Posted by serial catowner | August 16, 2008 12:02 PM

NYC buses all have that 'what the fuck?' smell to them. Especially in the summer when it's 95 degrees with 90% humidity. Instant sweat is fantastic when you're in a bus filled with immigrants who don't bathe or believe in deodorant.

Subways aren't much better...though the MTA workers, when they remember to drag their enormous asses into the subway cars, do mop up the stink and dirt from the floors with their mixture of bleach and death from time to time. Most subway stations smell like rotting rats, vomit, urine, and garbage. Mix with some homeless gangrene to really experience a lovely commute.

I miss my car.

Posted by bitter new yorker | August 16, 2008 10:00 PM

#9 made all three points, in order, that I was going to make. Also, #9 posted the correct answer.

Posted by Christin | August 17, 2008 11:37 PM

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