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Exit Four

This year the Iowa City Transit system added a voice recording that announces the location of each bus stop. The voice is a woman’s, perhaps a robot woman’s. It says, “Now approaching exit four, North Dodge HyVee.” For months, however, the voice perplexed me because it announced every exit as “exit four.” “Now approaching exit four, Clinton and Jefferson” it says; “Now approaching exit four, public library”; “Now approaching exit four, Prairie du Chien.” I thought there must be a glitch in the system, and I wondered why they never fixed it to count the stops correctly: surely, if it could know what was at each stop, it could also know which stop it was on the route.

This morning I realized that the voice actually says “exit for.”



It was mid-summer, 1996. Boston, MA. After days of traveling from South Africa (including an exhausting 3-day whirlwind tour of Athens, Greece), we found ourselves in a hotel, luggage piled high around us, in need of transportation to New York City. We needed to get to NYC because our flight to Tampa, where a warm reception with old friends, and a car, were waiting, left from there.

Being the oldest son, and world-wise at the age of 17, I took it upon myself to make these arrangements while my parents and siblings slept.

Things progressed swimmingly until I realized I had no idea what the man on the other end of the line was talking about. Apparently, to catch a Greyhound to NYC, our family would need to head to the Port O’ Farley.

I scoured the map of Boston and its environs for whole minutes, but could find nothing even faintly resembling this mythical Port O’ Farley.

Then, defeated, I relayed this information to my parents, who even in their half-asleep daze knew that, Bostonian accents notwithstanding, we needed to catch a bus at the Port Authority.

My peg was taken down a notch or two that day, my friends, and I still cringe every time I’m riding the T and see that stop…

Pooh, that’s not so bad. Nobody understands Bostonians.

Unless they’re on Car Talk, that is.

I’ve had too many things like this happen to me to count, and I’ve been racking my brains all day to remember them, but I can’t.

to your credit, Greg, a public transit recording should say “exit HERE for…”

but you still live in the sticks

of course, where I live, you have to ask the bus driver (in Arabic) to drop you at a certain place… and when you’re there, climb over half a dozen other people, and then hop off while the bus is still in motion. thankfully, the bus usually slows down a little.

I once rode an airplane from Merida, in the Yucatan peninsula, to Cozumel in very similar circumstances to your buses, Marty. You couldn’t lean over the pilot to tell him you needed to get out, of course, but it was standing room only in the aisles. I’m quite amazed we made it through alive.

Anyway, I don’t condone the syntax of “now approaching,” but since you bring it up, shouldn’t the bus already be stopped for the voice to say, appropriately, “exit here”? “Now approaching” more accurately signifies the fact that the bus won’t stop unless the cord that makes the “stop requested” light turn on is pulled.

is there really an exit called prairie du chien?

m. that’s much like the buses of my youth, where we would hang out the door and windows. the advantage was, at least for the those hanging out, that the driver only needed to slow down enough for the hangers-on to jump off.

The bus drivers of my youth diligently warned against hanging out the windows by reading us horrible stories of children who were decapitated for doing just that.

My bus driver just said, “Stop hangin’ out them winders!”

Re: 7 × 2: Prairie du Chien road is usually pronounced “Prairie du Sheen,” but the bus voice says “Prairie du Shin.”

What made the decapitation story worse was that my mom was at the time my bus driver.

At least she didn’t say “winders.” (Or did she?)

True, true. Windows did end with ws in those days, though later drivers’ kids knew winders well.