You could say I came to commuting late in life. You might say I came to cities late in life. It has all been a bit unexpected but, as it turns out, it has been no bad thing. Because almost every idea I had about living in a city was wrong.
Which brings me to buses. When you live in a city, and are lucky enough to work in the city, you will probably take a bus to work if you cannot walk. If, like me, you grew up in America and then moved to one of those windy, wet islands on the top left-hand side of Scotland (living there for more years than you might like to think about), your experience of buses will be limited to the Greyhound Bus you took from Los Angeles to New York City when you were young and didn't know any better. Or the 917 Citylink service from Portree to Inverness, when you were young and only had a moped.
It turns out taking the bus to work every day isn't anything like I thought it would be. And I am not anything like I thought I would be, on a bus, commuting to work, every day. And the world from the bus is not anything like I thought it would be.
It is important to understand that I am a reader. I have been known to panic if I do not have at least three unread books waiting for me on my bedside table. If my reading habits were ever under threat I would stash books in saucepans and behind bath panels like a secret drinker. When I understood I was going to be a commuter I thought I would pass that time usefully, reading improving books or writing the great British novel in twenty minute shifts. And people do this--at least the reading part. I see people with their novels and newspapers and their Kindles, utterly absorbed, oblivious. So I began to ride the bus with a book or a notebook in my handbag; armed with words; my sword and shield to guard me in this strange new life. They stayed in my bag, sheathed...as it were.
It turns out, I do not read on the bus, nor do I write on the bus. Because the stories are there: on the bus, outside the bus, waiting for the bus, walking home from the bus. Maybe it is something about moving through an increasingly familiar landscape that nevertheless changes every day, that makes the mind wander. Or maybe it's just those turning wheels that send your thoughts spinning off in almost any direction other than a straight line.
As I said at the beginning, nothing about my life in this city has turned out the way I expected it to be. There is almost always a new story to think about... when you are not reading on the bus.