I’m embarrassed to admit it. This was my first time on the bus. I’m also embarrassed that I wasn’t riding because my car was in the shop or because I had lost my job and the car had been repossessed, because I had my license taken away for drinking and driving or because of concern for the environment. I’m the photographer for these stories. I had planned to ride the bus the day before. Wandering downtown bus stops without a schedule, I soon concluded that, without a plan, I’d wind up getting off the bus in the middle of nowhere like Cary Grant in North by Northwest. My nerves weren’t eased by people’s reaction at the stops when they saw my camera. While some were friendly, many more turned away, covered their faces or rasped negative comments as they shivered in the cold: “I know you’re not going to be taking no pictures of me.” I went home. The next day, I checked IndyGo.com and found a bus stop close to my house that would shuttle me from downtown south and east to St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove. I would ride back with my wife who would be visiting her grandmother there anyway. My bus would stop, the schedule said, at Meridian and South streets. That, I knew, is where the Slippery Noodle is located. So my wife dropped me off there 10 minutes before the bus was due. A “no parking, bus stop” sign in front of the bar assured me I was at the right place, despite the lack of a green IndyGo sign. But I didn’t see one at any of the corners of Meridian and South. So this had to be it. I waited. Thirty minutes passed. I watched private buses for Eli Lilly workers and people parked at downtown garages pass every few minutes. A cab driver slowed to see if I needed a ride. A man in a pickup truck with a bed packed with junk pulled up to offer me a ride. I could see my reflection in his silver Hooters sunglasses. “I’m not gay or anything,” he said before telling me how the SWAT team had threatened to kill him. He gave me a card explaining the Christian fish symbol and left. I waited some more. Something was wrong. I called IndyGo customer service on my cell phone. A woman told me the stop wasn’t at Meridian and South as the schedule indicated, instead it was near the White Castle on South Street just west of the Slippery Noodle. I saw a few men standing on the corner by the White Castle and walked to them. “Is this where you catch the bus to Beech Grove?” I asked. They just looked at me. Then one tried to sell me a giant Hershey bar he was carrying around in a T.J. Maxx bag. The customer service woman was sure the bus came down Capitol Avenue, not Meridian as I had figured. So I walked further west to Capitol, which cuts between the RCA Dome and the Greyhound bus station. The green sign for the bus stop hung there, near Capitol and South, right in front of the post office. A man wearing a jacket with a leaping largemouth bass embroidered on the back stood under the sign. He told me this was the bus to Beech Grove. After we watched a purple truck smash into a car running a red light at the nearby intersection — nobody was hurt — Bus 2024 arrived. I deposited my four quarters — I knew it cost a dollar from the Web site — and found my seat. The bus was surprisingly small inside and filled with a diverse group of people. Nobody talked. Some watched the gray city blur by through the windows. Some looked at their newspapers. At each stop, the driver would softly say its street name. When somebody needed off, they pulled a plastic-covered cable. The riders eventually forgot about me and my camera. This was their real life. When we reached St. Francis, I pulled the cord for my first time. I knew that I didn’t want this to be my last. It’s middle class, environmentally conscious, busy working people like me who have neglected this city’s public transportation system. Or has it neglected us? Why don’t I ride the bus? Is it because of the stigma buses have here? Is it because I’m afraid to sit by strangers? Is it because the system is too complicated for a new rider? Or is it because the buses don’t run often enough to fit my schedule? I’m sure it’s a combination of all of these things. But — while this isn’t the case in cities like Chicago or New York — it’s simply easier to navigate Indianapolis if you have a car. Through all of this, I’ve concluded that only two things can make people like me turn to riding the bus: Driving could get more difficult or riding the bus could get easier. Let’s hope the second reason comes first.