As you may guess, this is not a hypothetical, but the beginning of a personal anecdote, which continues right here:
At least she leaves the door open. The bus fills up. Okay, it's only a five-minute-or-so delay, the loiterers-turned-passengers think. I get a seat near the back door. The madman, still diatribing away to himself, sits way at the back. I suddenly wonder if there's a hands-free cellphone attached to him somewhere that I hadn't seen. I don't want to look too closely.
This possible-madman notwithstanding, the caliber of passenger, I notice, is much "higher" than I remember from when I regularly rode this very bus very often in 2008. The inner-core of the Washington D.C. area has noticeably changed in these six years. It's gotten more expensive, and has impelled the moving-out of a good many of the more-unsavory characters who accompanied me on those 2008 bus trips.
My mind wanders to the changes in Washington, D.C. itself (which I must point out to those unfamiliar, has borders unchanged from 1790 or so; it has only 700,000 people in it, while another 5,000,000 or so live in nearby counties). The way things are going, Washington D.C. may be a White-majority city by the 2020s. Hardly anyone remembers now, but it was a White city around the Korean War era. (The city of Washington DC flipped from 70-75% White in 1940 to 70-75% Black by 1970. When my father showed up here in the early 1970s, although he wouldn't have realized it at the time, he saw a city only-recently dramatically-transformed by White Flight. He himself finally settled across the river in Arlington, Virginia. In my boyhood, it was called the Murder Capital, and it famously elected a crack-cocaine-using mayor.)
Back on the bus, any German passengers would be appalled at the disregard for Pünktlichkeit. The enormous bus driver, already running late, remains absent. The minutes drag on. Should I have just walked? Maybe I'm not the only one thinking that. Of course, I'm already down $1.10 for this. (The normal Washington DC Metrobus fare these days is $1.60 [Up from the $1.25 I remember from the mid-2000s], and if transferring from the subway, one gets a piddling 50-cent discount [I think it used to be free to transfer from rail to bus].) Finally, the driver reappears. She tumbles into the driver's seat and we start rolling. She takes a strange and inefficient route, doing a series of right turns to make an eventual left.
I decided to note down some times in this little affair. Here they are:
6:04 PM I exit the subway station
[6:05 PM, The bus is scheduled to depart]
6:10 PM, Bus arrives; driver disappears
6:18 PM, Bus departs, in no particular hurry
6:26 PM, Bus arrives at my bus stop, I get off and begin to walk home
6:32 PM, I arrive at home
If I'd just ignored the bus and walked straight away, I'd have made it home around 6:22 if I'd pushed it a little, i.e. ten minutes earlier. Even the leisureliest of strolls would've beaten the bus. A waste of time; a waste of money.
Some may say that I'm being too harsh here. "This is only one experience". True, but the thing is, those saying that have probably never ridden Washington-DC-area mass transportation on any regular basis.These kinds of sub-standard experiences with buses and trains in the USA are a regular feature of my experience and many others'. The system is simply not reliable. The best I can say is that it is usually not terrible.