I sat toward the back of the bus the other morning, up the two steps near the back door.
I prefer a certain section of the bus, the part with seats that put me on camera, heaven forbid something should later need explaining, and able to see the majority of the vehicle; and I board the bus at the stop several stops before the one closest to my house in the hopes of just such a seat.
I keep to myself, friendly but aloof. Morning is a confusing time for me, particularly now that the daily commute is done in creeping and failing light. In the gray dim, my imagination tends toward end-of-the-world style fantasies; and I indulge in stories about plagues and crumbling buildings, bears roaming Main Street, deer grazing in ball parks.
Mornings are a time of imagination and observation for me.
Which is why I was watching the empty seat.
The bus had filled, as buses do, but just before the river, two people, occupying the same bench, exited.
At the next stop, roughly seven people got on. Not bad for one stop. But the first two people, not bothering to scan the bus for an open seat, registered only that the bus seemed to have no seats and planted themselves at the head of the aisle, heads down.
The five people boarding next seemed uncomfortable with pushing past them, and they all stood in the open area behind the driver amongst the sideways-facing seats.
The front of the bus was a swaying, backpack-wearing, purse-clutching mass for two blocks.
At the next stop, several more people got on; and the first person at the head of the clot, the woman who had started it all by not moving toward the back of the bus, inched back a generous foot or so and resumed, her back to us, her steadfast refusal to look around.
The open seats remained open.
I turned my iPod down, pulled my left earbud out. The Temptations continued to play in my right.
“Ma’am?” She didn’t hear me.
A woman seated between us leaned forward and tugged the standing woman’s jacket.
I waved. “Hi. There are two open seats right behind you. Right there,” I said, pointing.
“Oh, no”, she said, smiling and shaking her head. “I’m getting off in a little bit.”
I shook my own head. “OK. But what about the others?”
She turned away.
And there she stood, blocking a good dozen people – who, by the way, never scanned the bus for a seat, either, accepting their own cursory glance and assumption that the first person in line had already checked on their behalf.
Two stops later, Standing Lady on the Bus #1 disembarked.
And the crowd moved back and the open bus seats filled.
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