Monday, August 02, 2004

All Aboard the Anti-Social Express!

Lately, I've been joining "the masses" by taking public transit to work. Yep... I'm riding the bus.

Now I begin everyday with a "jog" to the bus stop that leaves me winded, only to stand around waiting for that 5 minutes that feels like an hour with three other people who take turns staring at their shoes, leaning out and looking up the street for the bus, then glancing at the watches they glanced at 20 seconds ago...

Stare, lean, glance... Stare, lean, glance... Ad nauseum.

When the promised chariot finally arrives, my stop-mates scramble and jockey for position at the precise spot they think the driver will stop. We can all see the dozens of people aboard who are forced to stand, but it's like these 3 are sure someone has overlooked the last seat and they must get to it! I let them pile on ahead of me, then proceed up the stairs where I almost run over one of them as he stands beside the driver, digging desperately in his pockets for "exact change". It's hard not to smile as I pass him.

As predicted, there is no Last Seat and I, too, am forced to stand in the aisle, swaying with every turn and bracing for every hard acceleration and even harder brake. I know this is the only real entertainment that the bus driver gets in his day, so I don't let it bother me. However, the guy beside me with his armpit mashed against my ear can get annoying real fast! A shower and a clean shirt are good, but a sweat-stained jacket totally defeats the cause. If only I could reach a window...

I've noticed that the bus is a very strange social situation in and of itself. 50 or 60 people all packed into a relatively small space for anywhere from 15 minutes to half and hour and, aside from the noise of the engine, you could hear a pin drop. No one is talking! Where else does this happen? Nowhere! You go to the Supermarket, people are talking up and down the aisles... You go to the park and people are laughing, shouting, making noise... Even in church you find people whispering among the pews! Come to think of it, librarians must be awfully envious of bus drivers...

Occasionally, there will be one talker on the bus... He'll be sitting near the front, saying, "Hello!" as each rider gets on, and trying to make small-talk in much too loud of a voice to anyone who will make eye contact. Which is usually nobody. Anywhere else, this man is considered "polite", "friendly", or "pleasant"... In here, however, he is "weird", "crazy", or "creepy"... You can actually see everybody around him trying to do their best chameleon impression and just blend in with their surroundings. Maybe he's like a T-Rex and if you just hold really still...

To me, a bus ride is the polar opposite of a High School dance. You go because you have to, not because you want to... The wallflowers are the Lords and Ladies of this event, while the loud, outgoing types are shunned and ignored... And there's no fruit punch to spike with vodka. Although, if there were, maybe I wouldn't have had to write this blog!
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