Just a stranger asleep on the bus | AspenTimes.com
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Just a stranger asleep on the bus

Janet Urquhart

Lately, I find the lyrics of that Joan Osborne song running through my head a lot.What if God was one of us/just a slob like one of us/just a stranger on the bus/trying to make his way home?He’d be on the express bus. Unless he lives in Blue Lake. As a fledgling member of the commuting masses, I’m quickly learning the ropes of a RFTA regular: Have your punch pass in hand when you board; never sit next to a stranger (godlike or otherwise) if an empty pair of seats is available; wear a zip jacket instead of a pullover, as the bus is always too warm, and ease of removal is essential; avoid the seats in the accordion mid-section of the double buses (drafty smell of diesel, uncomfortable).The RFTA bus schedule now dictates my life. Dinner at six? No thanks. I’ll miss the last El Jebel express at 6:15 p.m. No more slapping the snooze button in the morning. My routine is timed to the minute to catch the bus.I carry a bus schedule with me everywhere and consult it frequently. Like an apprehensive newbie, I asked the driver if he stopped at the El Jebel park-n-ride on my first big day. He grunted. I was afraid to ask what that meant, so I held my breath at the Wendy’s intersection until he turned the corner.Riding the bus, I’ve discovered, is neither cheaper nor faster than driving. A $25 punch pass (going up to $27.50 soon, I hear) gets me five days’ worth of rides between El Jebel and Aspen. That’s what it would cost in gasoline to drive myself, and I could skip the scenic tour of Basalt.The price of a winter season pass for service from Aspen to El Jebel is supposed to go up to $577. Jesus! I’d have to live on the bus to make that puppy worth the money.On the other hand, I could take unlimited rides, seven days a week, for that price, while a $649 ski pass would only get me on the slopes once a week. Hmmm.I’d like to say riding the bus has been a real eye-opener. In reality, it has been just the opposite.It’s a veritable slumber party on the pre-dawn ride from home. Passengers are slumped in their seats, their heads tilted back or their chins poking holes in their heaving chests. By Snowmass Canyon, the bus hits a soothing hum, and we’re all reaching REM. Veteran riders sense their stop with an inner clock. They can reach up to pull the stop cord for Eighth Street before they open their eyes. I still open my eyes with a start and wonder where the heck I am. Everything looks different in the dark.I figured on a livelier crowd for the ride home in the evening, but plenty of passengers are catnapping through that one, too.What if God was one of us … just a stranger on the bus? He’d be asleep.Janet Urquhart is a stranger on the bus. Her e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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