In the Twin Cities, we used to have these things called buses. I know you probably think they’re a myth, like unicorns or bug-free software, but I’m telling you they were once real, way back in the day.

The bus system here never quite measured up to the one I rode when I was growing up in Portland. There, you could see herds of buses thundering down the streets of the city at all hours, taking you wherever you needed to go. You don’t see a network as extensive as that every day (at least, not without trains or subways to organize around), but the Twin Cities’ bus network was still very good, and did what it needed to do, which was to get a lot people to a lot of places for a somewhat reasonable price.

Up until the strike of aught-four, at least. One day there was a public transit system, the next day, there wasn’t. And the longer the strike went on, and the longer the government tied itself in knots trying to avoid getting involved, the more people found other options for getting around. And slowly, thoughts of the bus became memories, and then legends, as people adjusted to a life in which they traveled separately, in cars and on bikes, facing away from each other.

That’s what I really miss about buses: people-watching. Standing around waiting after watching a bus drive away as you run up to the corner is a drag. Fiddling with change or digging around for your bus pass is a chore. And the rush-hour crowds don’t bear mentioning. But sitting on a fabric-covered plastic bench, furtively watching the commuters and weirdoes as they stare at a book or out the window, or listening to one-sided cell phone conversations with other people’s loved ones, that’s what made the bus ride fun.

But it seems like all that is in the past now, a comfortingly rose-tinted memory like my baby blanket and full-time employment. Of course, I may be overly pessimistic, and perhaps mediation will actually lead to the strike’s end, but more and more, I hear people talking about the bus in the past tense, not the future.

Of course, since I’ve been working way down south in Northfield for the past couple of months, I’ve hardly been affected by the strike. And when I start to really miss public transit, I can always read some of the 73 bus stories, or the 73bus weblog, both devoted to the experience of riding a particular line in London.