Friday, March 2, 2012


Bus route 56 connects Kailua to Honolulu on the island of Oahu.  This route was my way to school from 4th grade until I got my driver's license.  The bus stop was no more than 100 yards from my door and I remember my sister waiting until the last possible second to run down the street with wet hair and jump in before the doors closed.

The trip was only 13 miles, over the Pali highway but with morning traffic and all of the stops it often took an hour.  Since I grew up before the days of digital music players, riding on the bus meant listening to the walkman (remember cassette tapes?) and then the discman.  I probably should have been reading for class or doing homework, but it wasn't cool to be a geek on the bus because there's no place to hide.  In fact, if you tried that, it's quite possible that one of the older kids (and there was always an older kid) would make fun of you, steal your books, or both.  Of course they all made fun of my music, in the days before I discovered Zeppelin, Hendrix and the Stones.  I am pretty sure my first cassette tape was Chicago's greatest hits and I know I listened to The Gambler a lot.  In those days, music sharing meant loaning one earbud.  Those were the days of the Y adaptor, when the most frequently asked question was "what are you listening to?"  I remember the first time my sister let me listen to the Blister In The Sun and how shocking it seemed.

The thing about the bus is that you've got all type of people forced into a small space for an extended period of time.  It's a daily social experiement.  Everytone doesn't necessarily have to get along, but there are some basic ground rules to keep the chaos controlled.  Unwritten rule #1 is that everyone has to come off the bus alive and reasonably free from major trauma, although punching is definitely allowed and a little bit of blood or blistering is a badge of honor.  Puking is strongly frowned upon because it just ends up getting everywhere as the bus changes speed and direction.  Stealing is allowed provided the items are returned at the end of the trip relatively unharmed.  Acting out, talking back, or any form of individualism will get you singled out and ridiculed.

After a few months I learned how to deal with the bus.  It's about fitting in under the radar so you don't get harassed.  Don't wear anything that stands out, don't do or say anything noticeable, and you won't get picked on.

I came to the conclusion this week that the modern workplace is a lot like the 56 bus.  You just grin and bear it sometimes and eventually you get to where you are going at which point you can walk away and forget about it until the next day.

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