The twilight zone of bus schedules

I spent 35 minutes standing at a bus stop this afternoon.  Quite a few people were waiting there with me, and the bus was obviously late.  It’s not a big deal — buses are late all the time, and you get used to it when you use public transit frequently.

The bus eventually arrived, and of course it was pretty full, since it was carrying all the extra passengers.  As I entered, I asked the driver in a curious but friendly way, “Did something happen to the bus before you?”

“No.”  She replied.  “He’s running fine.”

“Oh, so you’re just late then?  I thought maybe the bus in front of you broke down or something.”

“No, I’m on time.  Schedules are right there if you want to pick one up.”

“But… I just waited 35 minutes for a bus that comes every 20 minutes.”

“Well, you should have got a schedule and been at the stop on time, then.”


After I sat down, I actually spent a few minutes going over the math on that in my head, just to make absolutely sure that I wasn’t completely wrong about the oddness of that last bit of the exchange.  But, try as I might, I simply didn’t see how it could possibly be my fault that I waited 35 minutes for a bus that comes every 20 minutes.  There’s… just no way for inadequate scheduling on my part to have caused that.

You’d think it would have been easier for the driver to simply say, “Running late; sorry about that.”  On the other hand, I really had to sit and think about it to be sure that I couldn’t possibly have waited 35 minutes for a bus that comes every 20 strictly because of my own inability to arrive at the right time to catch a bus.

It kind of makes me wonder how often I’m given an explanation that makes no sense, but I cheerfully accept it and go along with my day.

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