I must be the only faculty member using public transport here. Not that the system is so terrible: the buses are nice, small, air-conditioned, run about once an hour, and mostly show up within 10 minutes of their scheduled time of arrival, give or take. It is a snap to get downtown, and the system would be really great if the buses were coordinated which they aren't, because, as someone put it to me, it "aint no lawyers and stuff taking those buses." As it is, I usually end up walking the last ten blocks or so which is fine before 8 a.m. and a bit tougher at 2 p.m. My new acquaintances here are everything from horrified to fascinated that I get by at all and have been taking me home so often I stopped counting. I usually take the bus in between 7 and 8 in the morning, catching a ride back between 6 and 8 (it stops running around 9). I know the three bus drivers on that route, and, by now, a good part of the passengers, too, although as a bloody foreigner, I am still regarded with some suspicion. They seem to be mostly pensioners, home assistants, hotel workers, foreign students, young families... all struggling to get by and, like me, grateful for the existence of this rather pitiful $1 bus-a-ride system. In contrast to New York or Icy City, people here are talkative in public spaces. Many greet each other by name, they chat about vacation days, work, kids, crime--but no religion, politics, or finances, EVER.... this morning, for example, I was waiting for talk to turn to the Convention, but: not a peep. But maybe that'll be different tomorrow morning, after Obama's speech.
Ok, this was written in the morning, after I caught a connecting bus and reached my office in under 30 minutes, a new record. In the evening, however, I missed the bus by a minute, or perhaps it didn't come--there is a major game going on tonight and the city "center" was completely dead--and then the cab didn't show either. Finally, a colleague rescued me, but while I was waiting for my ride, I suddenly felt little pricks all over my legs. Couldn't see a thing, but once I removed my sunglasses, I noticed little black dots climbing up my legs, feasting perhaps on an impressive layer of sweat. Agh! Were those fireants? Whatever they were, they were biting me, reminding me of the nettles that would hit our legs as kids when we were playing in the woods.