There is no better way to give voice to the quiet commuters than the Google bus

As I watch Google plans to launch a 24-hour bus service in some of its first non-suburban locations, I am reminded of how indispensable these little secluded, one-way buses are in my world. Google…

There is no better way to give voice to the quiet commuters than the Google bus

As I watch Google plans to launch a 24-hour bus service in some of its first non-suburban locations, I am reminded of how indispensable these little secluded, one-way buses are in my world. Google bus is not just a name, but a rhythm of silence, every few minutes. The silence is like space exploration, something you only sense once you’ve experienced it for yourself.

To make sure my Google coworkers can get from their home to my office without driving, I asked them to go silent for a day.

I’ve tried to sound less like a complainer when I ask them to try something like this, but here’s the truth: People don’t think much about privacy when it comes to a busy work day. I could sit at my desk, typing away, and every morning, the bus should be perfectly visible from my screen. However, for some reason, the lack of a window tends to keep me quiet. To not hear some noise from my colleagues means that my inner panic tapers off in equal measure. I’m not one to shrug it off, but I’ve grown to accept it.

I realized that the Google bus was needed not just in the office, but all the places they visit. Wherever you go in Washington, when you need help connecting to the bus, you can just dial directly, and you don’t have to call a supervisor. Think about that. It’s more convenient to access someone, any person, without a gatekeeper.

For me, it’s been an experiment. For the past few months, I’ve been seeing how I’m getting along with a few of the new policies. A short while ago, I stopped being ashamed that my colleagues get home late, and now I’m happy to help them out if they need it. I always wonder, though, about the impact when these resources are packed together for 24 hours at a time. We make sure to take them out for the same amount of time back and forth, but it may be difficult for some employees to deal with things in a day that are supposed to be a simple commute. It’s only natural that employees get attached to the bus because they know how close they come to their colleagues for a few hours at a time. When the bus doesn’t run, we all feel the effect.

That can be a shame. Imagine that Google bus in 24 hours, in New York or San Francisco, let’s call them the tech giants, somewhere in that mode of travel. What if it was a one-way bus, leaving every other hour, to any other stop? People in the tech world travel by plane a lot. We are traveling a lot in this economy. Imagine how uncomfortable it would be to be aboard a big, empty bus on a loop around San Francisco.

Other apps can help employees: Strava (don’t get me started on that), Walk or Bike to Work, even Ride Anywhere. What if our local streets could just function the way they are meant to, without distractions? It’s a good idea, but like most solutions, it requires resources and investment. There’s a simple way to become more environmentally sustainable: stop bringing all these people and their laptops to Washington. It’s a convenient idea, but it’s also environmentally conscious. If we care about this issue as a nation, we should be pushing for the passage of bipartisan, American-inspired laws that make it easier to disconnect from work, so we can win a sustainability battle that seems trivial, but ultimately, a win for the planet.

No, I do not want to be on the crowded shuttle bus from office to office. I want a more secluded environment. And maybe I want to get paid less. All I ask of my bosses is to give me an option to disconnect on a regular basis. If I can live with that, I’ll consider it, and move to Chicago.

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