Being the first to board a soon-to-be crowded bus affords the luxury of being able to choose any seat that my posterior desires. This being the case, you will most likely find me at the far back of the bus, on the right hand side (when facing the front).
It was very dreary end to a fairly dreary day. I knew the bus would be crowded before I even rounded the corner to my stop. Days like this bring all of the would-be walkers flocking to the warm portable shelter of Metro’s finest.
I had recently fallen victim to the previously unwritten social strictures of a crowded bus, so I decided to swap my usual spot under shelter for one right next to the bus stop sign. This way, I would be guaranteed a seat. Standing on the bus is fine, as long as you can find an appropriate handhold. For people of a similar stature to me (leprechauns and the like), the hanging leather straps from the overhead bars don’t provide as much support as they would like to think. If I were to take a firm hold of these leather thongs, I would literally be suspended, my feet above the ground. Suffice it to say, rounding a corner in this position provides frustration for the people around me and in equal parts, humorous entertainment for the rest.
Not this time, I thought to myself. This time, I will sit. And sit I did indeed.
As mentioned above, my commanding position provided me with an unobstructed view of the diverse parade of busgoers below me. As the bus filled each seat was claimed in the same old order that they are claimed every other day. First the window seats are claimed, each owner hoping against hope that the seat next to them is the one seat that doesn’t get filled today. Then the middle seat on the long rear bench is taken. Then each of the remaining seats, the ones whose neighbours are already spoken for are filled in succession leaving standing room only in the aisle.
You’ll notice the odd break from the pattern, those who so desperately want to ensure that they are able to sit alone that they take the aisle seat, leaving the window seat to vacant or perhaps as a spot to keep their bag. Only when the seat pairs around them have filled do they deign to move aside to allow another traveller a chance to park it.
The bus left the stop and began the journey toward my home. As we rounded the first corner the dank smell of wet human set in. You know the smell. Too many damp, jacket-clad people packed into a confined, sealed and heated space. It’s an odd smell in that it seems to breed a contemplative melancholy that leads to this sort of post. The windows soon fogged over removing any distraction from the behaviours of the people around me. Some people attempt to clear their window with their hand, wiping the resulting condensation on their trousers. I choose to allow my already damp pantalones a chance to dry and begin planning this very post.
There seem to be a few stereotypes that busgoers tend to fall into when confronted with a crowded bus situation.
The Shut-in prefers to listen to overloud music rather than face the possibility of having to interact with the people around them. Dark sunglasses provide them an opaque window through which they can observe others without risking eye contact. They may also have a book or a magazine. They aren’t particularly fazed by other passengers sitting next to them, as long as they do not ask them to press the stop button.
The Fearful Romantic is usually one of the first people to board the bus. They tend to take a window seat toward the front of the bus. They sit, hopeful that the seat paired to theirs will be filled by an attractive member of the opposite sex. Maybe they’ll talk to me? Maybe they’ll reach across me to press the stop button, our hands briefly touching. We’ll make eye contact and that brief moment will last for an eternity. A friendly priest will perform an impromptu marriage and I will get off the bus a complete person, my life changed forever.
Ironically, the person in the seat directly next to you is the least likely to make eye contact with you thanks to the previously unwritten Interaction Reduction by Proximity Paradox. As two strangers on a bus move closer together, the chance that they will interact with each other is proportionally reduced.
The Opposed Magnetic Pole will occupy any vacated pair of seats with enough speed to dry your eyes, even post-blink. Their desire to sit alone is so strong that they seem to be propelled from their position next to their previous neighbour like a negatively charged magnetic marble from a positively charged magnetic block.
The Broadcaster is usually surrounded by a group of faithful companions who’s sole purpose is to provide an excuse for The Broadcaster to divulge far too much information to the general populace of the bus under the guise of private conversation. To be ignored with extreme passive prejudice through the use of portable media devices.
The Acquaintances begrudgingly sit together as necessitated by the forced proximity of the bus. As soon as eye contact was made, both parties are resigned to their fate. They prattle on about the day’s purchases, the weather and whatever tenuous common interest they share. Their barely contained longing for the sweet release of their stop is all that keeps them going.
The Rising Star is most likely new to their place of employment. Their valiant effort to continue to work while riding on a crowded bus is stopped short by the simple fact of limited space. It’s difficult to calculate the numbers for Q2 when you are surrounded on all sides by frustrated, damp and exhausted human cattle.
The Gentleman is a rare sight these days. These bastions of all that is good and right in the world are the people that vacate a seat for a lady, an elderly person or someone less able than themselves. They are usually taller than me.
The Forgetful Contemplative is usually found at the back of the bus observing the people around them. They probably forgot their music player, books, magazines or other entertainment device and so are resigned to spending the trip looking for a subject for their next ridiculously long blog post.