I’m sitting on the southbound bus right now. Its dark. 5:34 in the morning. Another workday. I’m not the only cyclist on the bus. The other is sleeping next to me on the seat while our bikes sleep next to each other next to the driver. It seems a bit too intimate, the way strangers sleep next to each other on the bus.
I sit in the three person jump seat for this reason, I don’t want some stranger leaning his or her head on my shoulder in sleep as has happened before. I like to keep at least some personal space intact. I’m sure my sleeping seat mate wouldn’t want my fat sweatiness too close to her person, either.
People do strange things on buses. Sleeping is the least strange, I suppose. The commuter bus is, by its nature, tame. Not really a bastion of drunks, drugs, illicit sex, puking, or shitting, as is found on locals and on cross country buses. But people do act differently than they might in other public spaces like the movie theater or the library.
Why? I think it has to do with the car. We view our cars as extensions of our homes, right? We eat dinner in them. We shave or put on our makeup in them. We might have even practiced the act of procreation in them in younger and more foolish days.
Vehicles are simply an extension of the space that we inhabit. They block us from the world at large. So we claim ownership of the space. And a bus feels essentially the same as a car. And folks who ride the bus often absolutely take ownership of the bus. We have our seats that we claim as our own, and we get pissed when someone else takes it.
Yet another reason why normal folks tend to not like taking mass transit. The regulars are a bit of a surly bunch. And it takes quite a while before the regulars accept a newcomer as “one of us.”
It’s kind of awkward to sing or shout your latest favorite song at the top of your lungs in the midst of 30 sleeping folks. It’s frowned upon to bring your McDonald’s craptastic breakfast (mmmm… McMuffin) onto the bus. Coffee is fine, but the bus distinctly lacks cup holders. Clipping your nails? Eww, a no no. Picking your nose/ears/butt — well, I suppose if you’re disposed to that, go right ahead. It might ensure that you get a permanent solo seat.
These are the things that the bus frowns upon. For most people it is impossible to really get comfortable with being on the bus. It’s not like you can ever really forget that there are others around you, watching, like you can in your own car.
As you drive around town, look at people in their cars and at the things they do, as if they can’t be seen. You’d be surprised.