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Monday, November 23, 2009

Ma’am, I’ll Need You to Open Your Eyes Now

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.

Open seats!

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.

She turned.

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.

Blink. Blink.

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.


Kavi said...

People like this seem to be all pervasive. In all cultures. Across boundaries !

And so is this rarity of open seats too !! It is a different matter though, that instead of the 7 that got in, a Mumbai perhaps would have a 70 !

then ?


Pearl said...

Kavi, this is true! No matter where we are, there are people whose eyes are open but are not truly "present"!

Secretia said...

They are like hanging bats.

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

Everyone here is too polite, that's the problem!! :P

Jayne Martin said...

I would have so pushed past her. But then, I'm just that way.

Pearl said...

Secretia, hanging BLIND bats. :-)

Roshni, polite, perhaps. Conflict avoidant, definitely.

Jayne, I would've, too!

f8hasit said...

Amazing, isn't it?
People so oblivious to...life?


Gregory said...

buses are a marvel, wonderful social gathering places... I used to read a blog a guy would observe the social workings of a group that frequented the bus, (the gothic sort, with piercings upon piercings rank smelling unshowered, you get my drift) very interesting readings

Pearl said...

f8hasit, I think because in so many situation the average American doesn't HAVE to really pay attention that we've forgotten how!

Gregory, do you remember where it is, the blog? Sounds very interesting!

Brian Miller said...

i used to ride the train to work when we lived up in MD. it was sucha social microsm. everyone locked into their own direction, heading no one in their passing...

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Not to mention all the seated people who also might have pointed out the open seats....

Passion said...

More like a herd of sheep I think! I'm a people observer too (who isnt?) People seem to want to fit in and wont do anything that attracts attention to themselves or rocks the boat/bus.

Douglas said...

Where was the harm? The people standing appeared to be willing to stand until it became blatantly clear that there were seats available. It is one of the oddities of human behavior that they seem so willing to accept the reality as it is perceived by them. I think the operable adage is "You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink." Why there might be a horse on the bus, I have no idea.

beaux24 said...

It's kind of like the no looking or talking thing that happens on elevators. People are weird that way.

My name is PJ. said...

Awareness? What's that?
Courtesy? Huh?
I know that lady. She cut ahead of me in line yesterday at the checkout....totally oblivious.

prashant said...

It is one of the oddities of human behavior that they seem so willing to accept the reality as it is perceived by them

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