Wednesday, April 4, 2012

L.A. through the eyes of a bus rider

SINCE STUDYING French in high school, I’ve lost a lot of my ability to speak the language, but one thing I do remember is that the French have two different words for the verb to know: savoir and connaître. It’s a useful distinction that is lost in translation: Savoir refers to knowing a fact or knowing how to do something. Connaître refers to knowing a person or a city. Makes sense to me – knowing your multiplication tables is quite different from knowing a friend or knowing your hometown.

So I’ll say it in French because it hits much closer to my meaning: Je connais Los Angeles un peu meilleure grâce au l’autobus.

Yes, I know the City of Angels a little better thanks to the bus system. For my first three years of college, I didn’t have a car, so mooching off friends with wheels or hopping on L.A.’s public transportation system were my ways of getting around. I definitely got to know the city much better then than I have since I first brought my car here last summer.

Taking the bus forced me to learn the layout of the city because knowing the bus routes was key to not getting lost and not taking a long way home. When I’m driving and trusting my GPS to get me around town, the only part of L.A. I’ve gotten to know any better are the freeways.

Bussing around the city also meant more time walking around the city – from one stop to another, or just exploring for fun when there wasn’t the automatic tendency to walk straight to my parked car. Before last summer, I took the bus to internships in Hollywood and Santa Monica. I know those areas a lot better than I know Downtown, where I’ve driven to my current internship since September. You notice a lot more of what’s around you when you’re looking out a bus window: I had been driving to Downtown two days a week for seven months, and it wasn’t until last week that I took in my surroundings while at a red light and finally noticed that every one of those days I had been driving past a location from “(500) Days of Summer” and “Blade Runner”: the Bradbury Building.

I do still take the bus sometimes, when it has its advantages (taking the Big Blue Bus No. 3 to Santa Monica is a lot cheaper than paying for parking there). But I do wish I took it more – there’d be more opportunities to meet interesting people instead of sitting alone in my box on wheels, I’d see more of the city (watching the city fly by instead of eyes fixated on the road), and I’m sure I would connaîtrais Los Angeles a little more.

– Emily Rome

Photo: Riding the bus in Los Angeles almost always means riding a moving movie ad. Credit: Indianhilbilly / Wikimedia Commons


  1. This is really really great! I saw LA through a totally new perspective!

  2. Great post Emily! I love how you bring in the French language and decipher between knowing and "knowing" Los Angeles. I definitely agree with you and it wasn't until this semester that I really began to know and discover the city more. I am inspired to take the bus by your post!