Last September I had a new little addition come into my life: the regular use of the state's public transportation. I live in Provo and go to school full-time while trying to continue my job part-time in Salt Lake City, which entails about an hour long commute. Not wanting to make that drive two times per week, I got a heavily discounted student bus pass and decided I was going to finally start using public transportation.

This would not be the first time that I had ridden public transportation, but just the first time that I had done so with any regularity in Utah. When I lived in Ukraine and Russia, I practically gave a kidney to public transportation services (not because they were dangerous, but because we were so close). And I had an absolute love/hate relationship with public transportation in those two countries. On more than one occasion in Ukraine I climbed aboard a bus/van/metro that was so crowded that I could literally lift my feet off the ground while standing, and not fall. My friends and I used to play our favorite Eastern European game, "how many people am I touching" whenever public transport was especially crowded. I think the highest count I ever had was 11. If you happen to have 11 people in the room with you right now, smash your bodies together and see if you can comfortably touch all of them at the same time (this way you'll truly understand just how impressive my record is). Add to the amount of bodies pressed firmly against every angle of my own, standing on my feet, touching my face, crawling between my legs, etc., the smells of 1500 people all mixed together, and you've got a pretty accurate picture of a typical ride on Eastern European public transportation. (Smells included: vodka, body odor, vodka, leather, poop, borsch, vodka, cigarettes, halitosis, vodka, and dirt).

So purchasing a public transportation pass in Utah produced some anxiety for me, as I was somewhat convinced that my experiences would be much the same as in Eastern Europe. Not necessarily disappointed but somewhat underwhelmed in my never ending quest for strange experiences, I quickly found that my public transportation experience in Utah is full of annoying, but mostly sans bizarre. This is mostly because I seem to take the LDS church-office-building bus to and from Salt Lake which is full of relatively well-mannered and nicely-dressed older people who are all cross-stitching inspirational quotes onto pillows, writing in their journals, and talking with one another quietly about how to get grass stains out of pants. Compare that to somewhat similar experiences I've had on the Moscow metro where instead of inspirational quotes onto pillows the needle transcribed obscenities onto skin, instead of journals the writing went onto the side of the car, and the grass-stain conversation was actually about blood, and this seems like a relatively calm commute.

So calm, in fact, that I seem to have stopped paying attention to what is going on, which has unfortunately led to two transportation mishaps recently:

On New Years Eve my friend Jason and I decided to ride trax downtown to meet up with some friends and have the time of our lives despite the 6 degree Fahrenheit weather. Knowing that the last trax cars stopped running just after 1:00 AM, we quickly boarded the train after celebrating midnight and coming up with one or two New Years resolutions that we have no intention of keeping. Apparently we thought that there was only one train, going one way, and that that way was the way we needed to go, because we didn't bother checking the giant bright sign on the side of the car, electronically indicating that it was headed for the University, the exact opposite way we needed to go. And unfortunately, although both Salt Lake Valley natives, we didn't notice that the train was headed for the hills (literally) and not for our homes until WAY later than we should have. After getting dropped off in the middle of nowhere (and you would think that "the middle of nowhere" doesn't exist in the city; but it does. And we found it) we waited and wandered in the freezing weather, knowing it was quite possible that we could die in the middle of our home town because of the cold. This was HIGHLY disappointing to me as I have always pictured my death to be incredibly dramatic (like getting stoned to death in South America while leading a mult-million member revolution, NOT freezing to death in the middle of America's safest city because I'm too incompetent at age 26 to figure out how to use the world's least complicated public transport system). Eventually Jason called his parents who picked us up in front of a sketchy all-night diner. It was middle school all over again. Except with fewer hormones.

Then Thursday happened. I fell asleep on the bus and woke up riding around the middle of the city. As is usually the case when one wakes up from a deep sleep, everything seemed like a much bigger deal to me than it might in the middle of the day. So, naturally, when I opened my eyes and hadn't yet processed where I was or what had happened, something instinctively told me that everything was wrong and I (very unfortunately) yelled out a somewhat long and incredibly loud "NOOOOO!!!!" I was, of course, in the very back of the crowded bus, and got to watch all 75 heads turn from the cross-stitching to look at me. I hit the bus stop button without even knowing whether I had reached my stop yet, willing to walk up to 500 miles if I had to, just to get off that bus as soon as possible. Unfortunately it took over five minutes for the driver to get to a bus stop. And by the time he did stop and I had to make my walk up past the curious passengers, I had realized that my stop was several ago (having missed it during my sleep). I was slightly late to work that day. And I'm now thinking of wearing a disguise to keep anyone from recognizing me tomorrow.

~It Just Gets Stranger