Getting There

Chris Farmer RSS / 09.06.2008. u 13:10

I had been standing there for about ten minutes before someone saved me.

Entering the bus for the first time a few years ago, I went to the ticket punching machine and place my ticket inside. And I stood and waited for the machine to automatically clamp its electronic jaws on the ticket and officially stamp my presence on the bus. The machine, naturally, did nothing. I stared in impatience. I placed it inside again. I waited again. Nothing.

At this point, a kind stranger came over to me and wordlessly ended my puzzlement. He grabbed the lever and pulled, stamping my ticket.


I thought about this incident again recently in contemplating more ecologically friendly ways to get to my office. There are in fact a lot of alternatives available to me besides driving my car every day.

The price of gas in Belgrade (as I write this) is RSD 108 for unleaded. By next week, the price will have gone up to anywhere between RSD 115 and 5,000 per liter.  Back in the 1970s, during the infamous Energy Crisis, we were all asked to economize on oil and gas because of the real and present danger of depleting the world's natural resources. We started car-pooling (in fact we invented the word); we started wearing sweaters and jackets indoors; we complained about huge lines for pumping gas; and we complained about the prices.

Today's energy crisis has a different tone, however. Although world demand for fossil fuels has never been higher, it is harder for us to believe that this crisis is not fueled by the flagging dollar and US economy, by underproduction from OPEC, and by the government(s).

But whatever the mixture of causes, the fact is that we are paying a significant portion of our household incomes for the privilege of being stuck behind the red Zastava Koral in a line of traffic.

So I looked at my alternatives:

  1. Walk
  2. Bicycle
  3. Bus
  4. Sell the company and stay home

While number four is tempting on rainy Monday mornings, it seems the least likely scenario. But when I set it side by side with the others, maybe it is the least painful.

1. Walking

Walking is healthy, or so I am told.

All things being equal, I could walk to my work in about 20 minutes. However, add to this that I would be in a suit, that I would be schlepping my computer, that I would be tempted to stop for a coffee along the way, that I would have to cross Branko's Bridge, that I would have to avoid the cigarettes and candy wrappers as they fly out of the windows of passing cars, and that (let's face it) I do not REALLY want to walk.

Things are therefore NOT so equal. I would need an hour to get to work and arrive sweaty in a dirty suit and 83% asphyxiated by carbon-monoxide. Not to mention the possibilities of rain, snow, hail, muggers, and disaffected former government ministers which might also be ready to add spice to my pedestrian experience.

So, no.

2. Bicycling

This is interesting. It should only take me five minutes to do the bike thing. Although the same sweatiness, dirtiness, and asphyxiation could result, at least I would be exposed to it for only a fraction of the time. I could bring a change of clothes, take a shower, and be fresh for work!

This would be fine until I realize that in fact I have no shower at work.

The problem which bicycles present is their own bulk. Do I cram it into the elevator or carrying it up five stories to my office? And then where do I put it? If I leave it outside in the morning, will it still be there in the evening?

3. The Bus

The Bus is a good eco-solution and keeps me off the sidewalks. From an environmental point of view, the bus continues to go even if I choose not to take it. There is also the thrill of unpredictability in taking the bus. You never know when it will show up. You cannot guess who else will be there with you. You never know if it is the RIGHT bus (even though the numbers apparently correspond to a set route).

Cramming into an early morning bus like so many sardines, you immediately (and sometimes intimately) get to know your neighbors whether you want to or not. You can ascertain how many of your fellow passengers believe in the morning or the evening shower. You are exposed to the collective ownership of the contents of your pockets as someone could thoughtfully lighten your load by removing your wallet. And arriving at the office, you could find yourself a fundamentally changed person.

Or not.

Given such choices, the real problem will be figure out which one will impact my life the least and will impact the environment the most. It will give me something to think about as I drive to work tomorrow.


Komentari (24)

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wk wk 13:32 09.06.2008

20mins of walk?

If I could get to my job in 20mins of walk, I would never even consider to go by car.
edi-va edi-va 13:39 09.06.2008

How about

Atomski mrav Atomski mrav 13:52 09.06.2008

Re: How about

You mean car-pooling?
edi-va edi-va 13:57 09.06.2008

Re: How about

Atomski mrav
You mean car-pooling?

yes, also known as car-sharing.
KafaJeGotova KafaJeGotova 13:59 09.06.2008

Re: How about

- you mean sija?
- yes, also known as vrat.

Atomski mrav Atomski mrav 14:10 09.06.2008

Re: How about

Call me "window", just don't break me!
edi-va edi-va 14:15 09.06.2008

Re: How about

- you mean sija?
- yes, also known as vrat.


I mean, ask your neighbours if they have the same way to their jobs as you have, so you could arrange to alternate
weekly - for example. If you know what I mean?
This is a preferred choise of comming to work in Germany.
KafaJeGotova KafaJeGotova 14:22 09.06.2008

Re: How about


is a crucial moment. what about the neighbors cow? :)))
i know about this idea you're proposing. it is a cool one, but it requires certain level of awareness...
edi-va edi-va 14:31 09.06.2008

Re: How about


is a crucial moment. what about the neighbors cow? :)))
i know about this idea you're proposing. it is a cool one, but it requires certain level of awareness...

Hmm, yes I got it, but ... I don't think that Mr. Farmer has this kind of "neighbours" ... :))
KafaJeGotova KafaJeGotova 14:45 09.06.2008

Re: How about


Hmm, yes I got it, but ... I don't think that Mr. Farmer has this kind of "neighbours" ... :))

than we don't live in same belgrade :))

city of belgrade, montana
chobanica chobanica 14:56 09.06.2008

Re: How about

Call me "window", just don't break me!

I think the word is "stockpot" :p
edi-va edi-va 15:04 09.06.2008

Re: How about

that I would have to cross Branko's Bridge,

The question is, from which side is he crossing the bridge?
As I'm informed, foreigners, who live and work in Serbia, often have their apartments or flats in top class quarters, so the neighbours are often also from foreign countries:)
Chris Farmer Chris Farmer 16:04 09.06.2008

Re: How about


Just as a point of clarification, the "foreigners" actually live everywhere in Belgrade and they work in all parts of the city...

Our neighbors are therefore anyone and everyone....

When you look at the city traffic, you quickly see the number of single passenger cars (including me most of the time) leading me to conclude that there is not a lot of discussions among neighbors about car-pooling and car-sharing.

The idea of a Neighborhood Designated Driver System (NDDS) is a good one. The problem is always (like with anything which threatens our habits) getting it going.

As a failsafe, the meetings could be held at the nearest bus stop, ensuring that we can all get to work anyway if we cannot agree on who drives next Tuesday.

KafaJeGotova KafaJeGotova 13:58 09.06.2008

beogradska idila

sarum sarum 14:10 09.06.2008


without a second thought. I bought my bike in a completely compulsive way, after having to work on a rainy Sunday morning with a hangover. I wondered afterwards why I needed the bloody thing anyway but it turned to be one of best things I ever did. Now I cycle anywhere reasonably close (5-10miles radius) plus off road for 1-2 hours whenever I have time, to let out some steam.
Now driving anywhere close makes me feel disabled.
You can pretty much get anywhere.

PS. If you take a shower just before you go out and bring some wet tissues and towel afterwards nobody can tell the difference. Verified by some very sensitive noses.

PPS If you don't beleive me, ask the Dutch )
jablan jablan 22:35 09.06.2008

Re: Cycling

without a second thought.

I presume you're not speaking about Belgrade here.
chobanica chobanica 14:48 09.06.2008

Green = doing things the poor people's way

Walk or ride a bike, buy only second-hand furniture and clothes, including undergarments and shoes, don't buy air conditioners or if you already have any don't use them, use only natural energy sources, don't eat meat, eat only raw vegetables and fruits, reduce your water consumption except for drinking (you need your eight glasses of water every day, but don't drink anything else).

The global economy would collapse (and so would you), but isn't that a fair price to pay? :p

skyspoter skyspoter 17:23 09.06.2008

how about

working from home?
Jelena Pavlović Jelena Pavlović 18:42 09.06.2008

privatly run city buss

Have you tried the white, minny bus that runs on schedule. Last summer, the ticket was 60 dinars. You need to figure out the rout, but once you get it, you will love it. Cars should definitely be out of question in Belgrade both, because of the energy saving and pollution which is unbelievable.
mkostic mkostic 20:12 09.06.2008

good choices

Look at good sides of these choices:
You can break in to new shoes by walking 5 miles each direction; cycling up-hill down-hill you will likely get rid of bad energy towards your family in law; and If you wait for buss you can feel that excitement of anticipating something that never comes; and once you get in it is particular experience for many reasons… So what’s to worry about, everything is just fine as it should be. OH yeah, I almost forgot, you can fly too: as you know there is a rumor that we are kind of “sky-gifted” people or stg. so we can fly, so many tried…
Misa Kostic
smizibizi smizibizi 03:24 10.06.2008


Ay,ay,ay ...all those problems...see that was one of the things that surprised me the most when I firsth came to US all those huge trucks and only one person in each...that was a cultural shock!!!After growing up in Serbia in jamed busses,trains and cars that always took some neighbour going the same way as you(so you can save on gas)..oh yes USA was like a dream land ...and then the many latters each day coming to your home adress like 50 of them EACH day!!I feel guilty just thinking how many trees died for that :):):)and even the toilet paper is made out of finest paper possible...still did not see the brown one made out of recycled paper...have some friends over here want to come visit me in Serbia and I am frightened I may say :):):)I told them :"I dont think you can handle Serbia for now maybe when we join EU if that will even happen ":):):)I hope you will find a way to get to work safely :):):)
AlexTheVeliki AlexTheVeliki 02:43 11.06.2008

Biking in Belgrade?

How is biking in Belgrade? Anyone do it on a regular basis? I haven't ridden a bike there since I was 8 years old... I can see how Kalemegdan, Usce, Ada, etc... could be pleasant for biking, but what about commuting? How realistic is it to ride amongst traffic, and over something like the Brankov Most?

Could you perhaps wear biking clothing for the ride, leave a suit etc. at the office and change when you arrive? You can't possibly get that sweaty/dirty from a relatively short bike ride.... Use those moist towelettes to freshen yourself when you arrive and keep some deodorant in your desk.

Although if you use moist towelettes every day you may be hurting the environment at the other end...
Cyber Domacica Cyber Domacica 11:50 17.06.2008

Staying there

Sleep at the office...
igor1971 igor1971 08:20 30.07.2008

Don't be afraid to walk - to je super!

My husband commutes from where we live, a little town just off Brussels, to the centre of Brussels, where he works (about 35km) - by train, and has to walk 10 min to the train station and another 10 min to work, so 20min in the morning and 20 in the evening. He is trilled about it, though, so happy he doesn't have to use the car and has to walk every day, keeps him fit and feeling good about himself. Honestly, give it a try, it might make you feel great!

It's just a question of will power really....

We left Belgrade 15 years ago, but I can still feel the smell of Belgrade early mornings. It might be carbon-monokside, but, to me, it's the odour of happiness.



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