You know that saying about walking a mile in a person’s shoes before you can understand them (or judge them, depending on the version of the quote)? Well, I’m here to argue that to understand a town or city, you must first ride several miles on its public transportation system. And not the tourist-oriented public transport, either. Get off that quaint old historic trolley, and get your backseat padding onto the aromatically-challenged road vehicles frequented by the locals.
In Savannah, Georgia, this means hopping on the CAT Shuttle and accepting with good grace all the conversations that come your way – and also those that float around you while you steadfastly focus on your bag of groceries from Brighter Day Natural Foods. Or, if we’re being honest, your bag of salted almond chocolate, pumpkin pie yoghurt, and vegan buffalo wings.
On my first CAT shuttle, I experienced the laid-back nature of Southern life when our driver spotted a parked car on the side of the road and instantly pulled over the shuttle, ambled out the passenger door, and spent the next fifteen minutes having a smoke and chat with the car’s driver.
During this time, two women asked my opinion about the use of apple cider vinegar to cure gout and insomnia, all because I “had been to the health store and probably knew”. Looking down into my bag, I felt rather like a fraud, but skirted the issue by joining in the chorus of woe about insomnia. Then, much to the hilarity of the shuttle’s inhabitants, an older man told the pre-teen sitting next to him not to look so worried; he wouldn’t bite, for he “had no teeth!”
He wasn’t joking.
Lastly, a woman who had a general look of discombobulation approached the shuttle and asked to speak with the driver. One of the apple cider vinegar women told her the driver was currently talking to a friend, at which point the lost woman wandered into the middle of the road and stood staring at the driver.
Here’s where it gets interesting: the six or so people sitting at the front of the shuttle started angrily ranting about the incomprehensible rudeness of the lost woman, who seemed to intend to interrupt the driver who was “over dere talkin’ bout her bid-ness! She so rude, I bet the driver gonna yell at her. Yeah, she betta yell at her, she and her friend busy wid dere bid-ness! Watch, she yellin’ at her now, serves her right for interruptin’ dere bid-ness!”
The odd thing was, no one was yelling at anyone. Regardless, the shuttle inhabitants were utterly convinced that not only would it be undeniably rude to interrupt the driver during her quite-lengthy conversation with her friend, but that the driver was somehow chastising the woman behind her whilst still chatting with the person directly in front of her. Now, I’m not saying it’s never not rude to interrupt (double, triple negative? Bring it on), but technically, this driver was on duty, so I don’t think it was entirely out of place for the woman to ask her for help.
I was quite relieved when the lost woman eventually wandered off without getting on the shuttle, for I feared she may have been showered with criticism and (why not?) apple cider vinegar if she had got on.
I also decided that, if I ever have to ask a shuttle driver anything in the future, I shall wear my super-extreme-polite-apologetic-obsequious face whilst doing so.
So, readers, what think you? Whose side would you be on? And would you bite someone on a bus if you had all your teeth?