All Buses Are Not Created Equal

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The public transportation in Paris is clean, fast and efficient. While in the States I have avoided public transportation due to cleanliness and time. However in a city where I do not know the streets well enough to walk to places the bus is a must. I had preconceived notions on Paris’s public transportation, I thought all public transportation around the world was around the same standard. Yet Paris proved this idea wrong, the buses are clean, crowded but very clean with all walk of life on it–tourist, students, locals and business people. The socioeconomic diversity in passengers was a true shock to me. I am used to seeing mostly blue collar working class people on buses as well as homeless other outcasted members of our society. In America, most people on the buses ride them because they either can’t drive a car or can’t afford a car (of course these are generalizations) but in Paris, people use public transportation because it’s more efficient than traveling by car. Public transportation is destigmatized as its something everyone uses.

Although my city’s public transportation isn’t the best it does have key elements that Parisian buses lack. While the buses are clean, fast and efficient they are not accessible for people with disabilities. Various public transportation lack ramps, wide entrances and seating for wheelchairs. Because a lot of people use the public transportation system they can get very congested–many of the buses don’t have air conditioning which can make a full bus ride seem unbearable on a warm afternoon. I have learned to appreciate both Praises buses and my city’s buses.

While the buses are clean, fast and efficient it can still be a bit tricky for an abroad student, like me, to navigate them without assistance. One of the scariest experiences was missing my stop and having a person trying to sell me nicknacks on the bus. Last Friday my apartment mates and I rode the bus to school and accidentally missed our stop so we decided to wait for the next stop and try to walk to from there to the classroom.
However, as we waited for the next stop a man with small figurines and key chains approached us shaking his merchandise in front of our faces. We smiled and nodded no. He insisted and spoke fast, one of my apartment mates shook his head yes as an attempt of going along with the merchant rant. The merchant handed him a key chain to him and started to ask for money, my apartment mate tried giving it back yet the merchant didn’t accept it and started to scream. Luckily, the bus stopped shortly after and we quickly ran off the bus leaving the keychain on the seat. This experience did not discourage us from using Parises public transportation, it only provided a learning experience for future rides. After all, it’s not about the destination but the journey and that day the public transportation proved to be a journey.