Illustrated By: Helen Sun

Carrying heavy hearts laden with homework and fear of tests, many students arrive at school each day dreading what’s to come. These same people are the ones who, from Monday to Friday, at 2:44 pm sharp, sit upright in their seats with eyes glued to the second-hand of the clock, waiting for the bell to ring. And when it does, the blissful feeling of freedom that had been restrained for the past five hours breaks free of its shackles. Textbooks are slammed shut, chairs haphazardly stacked, and a mad dash to the door ensues. The silent hallways erupt with laughter and cheers, as a mob of students leap down the stairs and spill onto the sunlit parking lot.

But for a select few students who have no choice but to take the bus home, the ordeal is far from over. In this article, I will be arguing on behalf of my fellow public-transit-takers on why the true terror of going to and leaving school does not lie in the destination, but rather in the journey.

Many people have a glorified view of taking the bus; some see it as a gallant display of independence, while others treat it as excess socialization time with their friends. I myself once had these same thoughts, until the cruel clutches of reality yanked my head out of the clouds. In truth, the bus ride home is a route filled with dangers and discomfort. This is due to two main reasons; the sheer volume of people, and the horrible structure of public transit. 

I feel like a lot of people underestimate the number of people that depend on the TTC to get home. Indeed, in the beginning, waiting for the bus isn’t so bad; people are sparsely spread out along the sidewalk and minding their own business. But this is just the calm before the storm. 

As soon as the red and blue headlights of the bus turn the corner, eyes that had been glued to phone screens shoot up with lightning speed. Then without warning, a suffocating wave of bodies surges forward, funnelling towards the spots where the bus doors open. The air fills with sounds of chatter and unzipping bags as people reach for their Presto cards.

A loud PSSCHHHHHH rises above the din, and the bus slowly rumbles to a stop. Accompanied by a flashing display of lights, the black-framed doors swing open ominously. Instantly, all hell breaks loose. The civilized mannerism which our ancestors toiled tirelessly to establish is tossed out the window as students use whatever is at their disposal to board. Flailing hands grab onto bags, straps, and seats—anything within reach. People push, shove, and jostle each other trying to make space for themselves; the bus almost becomes a jigsaw puzzle as students do whatever it takes to become a fitting piece. 

Just when you think things have slightly calmed down, the driver revs the engine and the bus lurches forward. This is where the poor structure of the bus presents itself. At the very back, students surprised by the sudden movement either trip down the stairs or hit their heads on the incredibly low ceiling while those in the front, terrified of crossing the forbidden white line, struggle to maintain balance. Worst is the middle of the bus, which one must swim through in order to get off. Sandwiched between dozens of people with no path of escape, it’s not uncommon to wonder what on earth happened to social distancing during COVID times.

Eventually, the bus arrives at your stop and you hastily jump off onto the pavement that never seemed more beautiful. Taking deep breaths, you silently congratulate yourself for surviving such a journey when a sudden thought stops you in your tracks—you’ll have to bus home again tomorrow.