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Friday, December 21, 2012

Bus Logic: If There are Twelve People Standing in the Aisle and Eight People Leave an Open Seat Upon Their Departure, How Many of Those Still Standing Will Notice?


It is 20 degrees outside, dark by 5:00 in the week before Christmas; and the bus patrons are packed in tightly, pressed against each other like sweaty, down-insulated sardines. 

In the event that the bus crashes, this is the kind of thing that will work in our favor:  no one will be hurt, we will simply be mashed into each other, forming one enormous commuter. 

Bus Crash on the Number 17 Leaves 36 Permanently Fused.  “It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” says Head #8.  “Showers are more difficult; but as part of one large commuter, my daily bus fare is literally pennies.”

Me, though, I am one of the lucky ones this time around; one of the cake-eaters that have nabbed an actual seat.  Rather than being compressed between people carrying shopping bags and, from the smell of it, curry, I have only my seatmate to deal with, a pleasant-looking man who takes up no more of his half of the seat than he should. 

This is how rich people travel.

In the aisles, though, the masses sway as the bus lurches down the line, toward home, toward work, toward the immediate future. 

And as a bus will do, the doors open and people get on.

At the same time, people get off. 

Oddly, while the people at the back of the bus exit through the rear door, the people standing in the aisle near the front fail to turn around, fail to notice, even as others get on, that there are now empty seats and instead remain packed tightly against each other.

I lean into the aisle.

“Excuse me,” I say toward a heavily backpacked young man’s backside. “There are seats back here.”

Backpack doesn’t turn around.  Further inspection on my part reveals a thin cord running up the neck of his jacket.

IPod. 

He can hear nothing.

And because this person isn’t moving back, no one will move back.  They will remain crammed together, at the awkward whim of gravity and traffic conditions.

This sort of thing makes my head buzz. 

I turn to the man seated next to me.  “Why doesn’t anyone turn around?  When more people get on the bus, why doesn’t someone turn around and see if there are seats?”

He smiles at me.  “Baaaaaaa,” is all he says before he goes back to staring out the window.

I close my eyes.  I am no shepherd.

And the Number 17 travels on.

25 comments:

haphazardlife said...

Baaaaaa indeed. He summed it up perfectly.

joeh said...

That used to piss me off on the train almost as much as the shithead with his nose in the paper, who sat on the outside with his briefcase resting on the inside seat when people were standing cheek to cheek.

Leenie said...

This syndrome is probably the cause of so MANY problems: Late mail delivery, foolish fashion, idiots in Washington D.C. playing games with out money.... BaaaaaaH!

Shelly said...

It's times like this I have to forcibly restrain the teacher in me from coming out and organizing everyone. I've embarrassed my husband a couple of times in public by doing just that; that I have.

Leenie said...

Well...I meant with OUR money. Freudian slip?

Daisy said...

Our buses are all decked out for Christmas - red "noses" and antlers! Free rides Christmas Eve to keep the drunks from driving. One big party, I think I'll ride around on the bus Christmas Eve! I'll tell 'em...Pearl sent me. Hold still for a photo. Speak into the microphone.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

I don't know, I think when we have to stand on the bus we get as comfortable as possible and slip into that zone that exists somewhere between alive and dead. Nothing will rouse us but our stop...we see nothing...hear nothing. To rouse one of us out of our stupor might incite violence. I haven't been on a bus in years but I remember swaying hypnotically to the rhythem of the bus..lost in my own thoughts...getting through it the best way I could. Best leave well enough alone Pearlie Girl.

Eva Gallant said...

Some of your tales leave on reluctant to use public transportation! BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAh!

Jennifer Hoppins said...

Technology eats common sense for breakfast!

Kathleen McCoy said...

It's SO true, Pearl! I love this post! I commuted from Santa Clarita, CA to UCLA Medical Center on a commuter bus my last five years of working in L.A. and it was sometimes a two hour each way trip due to traffic and, yes, people stood in a daze, oblivious to open seats or just about anything else. Perfect ending: "Baaaaa" just about sums up all the mind-numbing tedium.

vanilla said...

I used to enjoy the bus ride with Pearl, but now I dunno.

Really like the story, though, irony and all.

Daisy said...

Well, you know what they say, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make a commuter sit down on the bus...um, er...or something like that. :-)

Jono said...

Nothing much you can do with iPod people. They are not of this world.

sage said...

The only buses that run in my town are short ones... And there are always seats.

Perpetua said...

It's the same on trains, Pearl. people go into a semi-coma as they stand there and the world vanishes for them. You sat next to a sensible man tonight. Perhaps the word he forgot to say was Humbug...... :-)

Red said...

I think you could have a whole blog devoted to this topic. You've vented your spleen so you should be alright after this.

Silliyak said...

If only someone had a shovel to pry them apart...

Rita said...

Being crammed inside the bus just gives you an up close view of people's lack of common sense, that's all. They don't have much more driving their own vehicles, either. ;)

Al Penwasser said...

It's "Herd Behavior." Another example happens at a convenience store with a long time. Watch what people do (or won't do) when an employee of the store announces "I can help the next person in line."

River said...

We have a few bus drivers who get up and ask people to move to the back of the bus, "move back" they'll say, "move to the back please", then "MOVE TO THE BACK OF THE BUS!" and maybe one or three people shuffle back a foot or so, but that's it. People are pretty quick to spot and empty seat and snaffle it though.

Tempo said...

This should be part of your next book Pearl...'Pearls rules for a safe and efficacious society'.
There you go..next book on the way, no need to thank me.

The Elephant's Child said...

Do you think that the wise man sitting beside you might be one of the three? Commuting to work?

jenny_o said...

Enjoyed this :)

Do you suppose you'd get in a lot of trouble if you carried a little pair of those folding scissors, to snip those IPod cords whenever you come across them? I suppose it's only a symptom, not the basic problem, though ...

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

As someone who has ridden the bus many times even when crowded I can so get this. Some people are just so thick.

Pat said...

We needed you at the Crematorium the other day when there was a bottle neck in the corridor for 15 minutes.