A rather common fixture of the urban landscape, a bus bench is located at a bus stop. While most major stops have a bus shelter, which provides protection from the elements, the bus bench offers none. It leaves you right out in the great outdoors, as mankind has modified it, to allow such modern miracles as housing hundreds of thousands of people in a city.

The usual bus bench consists of four or five wooden boards, with two prefabricated concrete supports. Three boards form the seat, and two form the back. On some newer benches, the wood lumber is replaced with boards made from compressed polyethylene fibers that once served as soda bottles. This material, in addition to keeping the soda bottles out of landfills, has the advantages of shedding water, and does not rot or get as hot in the sun.

The first generation of bus benches had a problem; instead of seating the desired one, two, or three people, many of them became occupied by homeless people using them as beds. (I don't see how I could sleep on one; it's too close to noisy traffic, but I digress.) Thus, some of these benches were horribly modified by adding three pieces of wood, forcing a division into three seats.

My local public transportation group, the Miami-Dade Transit Agency, has had two special benches designed for them; the first looks like some strange Lego block made of concrete, with the three divisions. They are backless, and are about as comfortable as sitting on flat concrete can be, which is not very. They also collect water in the rain, making it nearly impossible to sit on the bench without getting your posterior wet for a few hours after it rains.

The latest generation of bus benches devised for them has been a total failure! The tropical climate of South Florida ensures lots of very hot sunshine. In their apparently limited wisdom, MDTA ordered a large number of new black aluminum benches installed in some downtown areas. These become hot enough to cause first-degree burns in minutes under full summer sun! I suppose they could make quite serviceable solar cookers or barbecue grills, but they're quite unsuitable for seating except during night, sunrise, and sunset hours.

This year's (2002's) King Mango Strut parade will feature a portrayal of one of the new black aluminum benches as an extra-large George Foreman grill.

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