Friday, September 01, 2006

Bus Etiquette

So waiting for the 81 this morning, an Octopus doppelganger of sorts comes strolling up to the bus stop in Eagle Rock. This guy looked similar to the Octopus in many ways: dressed in business casual with the standard blue "no iron" shirt, generic tan slacks, comfortable shoes, satchel filled with newspapers and magazines. He looked very much like an associate at a downtown law firm, or maybe some kind of admin person in a nonprofit.

Anyhow, business casual man, young, thin, educated-looking, gets onto the mostly empty bus in Eagle Rock and sits on the outside seat of one of the two-seat rows, and puts his satchel on the inside seat. I can see where this is going. I sit, as I usually do, on the inside seat of one the two-seat rows.

As we roll down Figueroa, the bus gets packed, and aisle begins to fill with people. I'm watching business casual man: he is studiously avoiding eye contact with any of the people hanging onto poles in the aisle (some of these people are elderly, no one looked pregnant). He remains buried in his magazine -- it looked like Harpers or The New Yorker, or something like that. His satchel remained on the inside seat. He was the only person on the bus to have his bag on the seat next to him.

Linda Wertheimer

I'm not going to get all racial or class warrior -- insensitive people come in all stripes and colors -- but it was hard not to notice that business casual guy appeared to be the only "white collar" worker on the bus besides myself. And yes, he was the only white yuppie on the bus. He looked fit, relatively prosperous, and like he had been to grad school. He looked like he listened to NPR, read blogs, and sometimes watched C-Span. (How can the Octopus tell? We don't know. I may be totally wrong.)

Now it's absolutely great that business casual man is riding the bus from his nice house in Eagle Rock to his job downtown. More people in our socioeconomic range need to give up their Corollas, Saabs, and, yes, even their Priuses, and get on the bus. Still, I couldn't help but read business casual man's actions as follows: Sure, I'll ride the bus, because it's the right thing to do, it's civic-minded, it's good for the environment -- I saw "An Inconvenient Truth". I'll give up my comfortable car ride and listening to Linda Wertheimer as I sip my latte on the 2. But I'll be damned if I have to, on top of all that, be forced to sit crammed together with all manner of bus people, who often are less than pristine. I deserve, at the very least, to sit alone, unmolested.

Maybe I'm being unfair, but that was my take. I don't really know. And it's true, as I've noted, sometimes stinky people ride the bus, and sometimes they sit and rub up next to you. Still, the picture of business casual man grinning at his nice little magazine with his satchel occupying the open seat next to him while people crammed into the aisle, tired like everyone else on a Friday morning, eyeing the open seat with longing, really irked me. It struck me as a familiar picture of a sense of privilege and entitlement, in a new context. It's probably a stupid thing to get hung up on, but whatever. Maybe I should've said something to the guy. It's a wonder no one else did.


hh said...

uuggh, what an a-hole! i hate it when people do that. if i was part of the standing room, i'd "accidentally" bump my booty into his arm, hopefully causing a page from his precious new yorker to rip. people who aren't mindful in public spaces is definitely a pet peeve of mine.

Amaranta said...

What a douchebag. You know the NYC Subways are like this, and there are many offenders of this kind of douchebaggery on the F line. I make a point of wedging my fat ass in seats taken up by turds like this. You know what I find disturbing about it, though? You sit down, you say excuse me, etc., and without so much as batting an eyelash, they move their stuff while continuing to stare at their magazine or newspaper. They do tend to crank up their iPod, as though to insulate themselves from this violation of their little subway bubble.