Accounting professor Maurice Pujol was fed up. He was tired of having to beat the morning sun just to wait in line for gasoline with hundreds of other grumpy, nerve-wracked motorists at a service station in Wheaton.

So three weeks ago, Pujol decided to leave the car at home and join the region's swelling ranks of mass transit converts.

He figured he would save money in the Metro venture, surely. But the 54-year-old American University teacher never thought he would rediscover his youth.

"When I was younger, in New Orleans, the only way I could get to class was on streetcars or buses," he says in his bayou accent. "I'd forgotten how much time it gave me to reflect on life and just meet people."

For the last 23 years, Pujol says he was "totally enslaved" to his automobile. "It was like an extension of my body," he recalls. "I couldn't go anywhere without it."

No more. From his home in the Kemp Mill area of Silver Spring, Pujol takes the Montgomery County Ride-On bus to the Silver Spring Metro station, and then rides the rails to work. The pattern is reversed at night. Pujol says mass transit is enjoyable and a money-saver.

"The savings are good," he says. "It costs $2 a day round-trip to a consulting job I have on the Hill during the summer. The car is considerably more expensive considering the mileage and fuel. There's no differences in the amount of time it takes - and no headaches over gas."

Pujol says he will stick with mass transit, "gas or no gas." The family's 1979 Mercury, he says, will be used primarily for long-distance family outings. This weekend, the professor and his wife drove to Faulkner, Md., to mull over the noise, confusion and increasing shortages of the technological age.

A few days later, as the Ride-On bus snorted its way along Colesville Road, Pujol peered out the window at a closed service station and says: "I think we could all use a bit more meditation."