Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bus Buddies


Living in a metropolis of 3.7 million I have the luxury of being anonymous.  Sort of.  On the bus, I ride the same route everyday and see many of the same people.  They must see me as well.

There are types on the bus. You become accustomed to them.  And when the bus is crowded, as the one I am on right now is, you get a seat buddy.  I rarely, if ever, say a word to my seat buddy. Hell, eye contact is even out of the ordinary.  Yet I share a very intimate space with each buddy, often cramming in so tightly next to the person that our bodies press against each other, more than an incidental brush from a bump in the road.  And still we look ahead. Or out the window. Or at our phones. And try to ignore each other. Try to ignore the awkward moment as if there is no social connection or need to be friendly.

If we could travel in pods we would.

We would never say a word to any stranger, even if they were right next to us.  As I am right now.what bizarre behavior is this that we no longer acknowledge people in our immediate vicinity.  Just because it is a bus, just because it is a city, just because we have a litany of excuses.

So why don't I say anything? Why do I continue to keep my face firmly glued to my phone, while my probably very friendly seat buddy does the same? I don't know. And I'm shy. And I don't want to bug people on the bus. And I don't want to make a bunch of noise. And I don't want to seem rude or creepy or imposing or threatening or just different. And I don't want to put in the effort of knowing someone, if only for a moment.

In short, being a silent seat buddy is the shared cowardice of the many while meaningful social interactions on mass transit are left to the homeless, the crazy, the mentally handicapped, the other.

"you know the green part of the carrot is the most nutritious."

"is it, well I will have to try that"

"go ahead, we will watch you"

The bus chuckles and smiles. For a moment we are a community, and then pushed back into silence.

How odd.