I work downtown and because parking and gas is ridiculously expensive, I spend a lot of time on the bus. Two buses to work, and two buses home, which amounts to a minimum of an hour and a half spent on the bus each day. And now that I do that math, it really doesn’t seem like a significant period of time, but it does give me time to think, which is what I was doing this morning on my way to work.
I was sitting there, just minding my own business, when my eyes lighted on my bag, parked on the seat next to me. Now, I know there are courtesy rules( http://www.smartwaybus.com/riding.htm) that instruct you to keep all your belongings off the seats next to you so that other people can sit down, but I know for a fact that the bus I take leaves after rush hour, so it’s relatively empty. That being said, today when I looked at my bag riding there next to me, I thought to myself, “Why do we do that?” and as soon as I asked the question, I got the answer, “We don’t want anyone to sit next to us.”
And it’s true. Whenever I get on the bus and someone has their bag on the seat next to them, that’s a signal for me to move on and find an open seat (unless there’s nowhere else to sit; then it’s okay to ask the person to move their stuff). I’ve always accepted this unspoken bus passenger code, but now I started to question it. “What are we so afraid of?”, was my third question.
The answer? People. More specifically, we’re afraid someone will try to talk to us.
“But we talk to people all the time, don’t we?”
Yes, we do, but in safe environments. Allow me to explain what I mean. When I am with good friends, or at work, or meeting someone that one of my friends or family members has introduced me to, I can be quite a chatterbox (doesn’t surprise you, eh?). What may surprise those of you that know me, is that I can actually be quite shy as well, espeically when I’m somewhere alone and don’t know anyone (exhibit A: solitary bus ride). When we’re alone without anyone we know, we become vulnerable. How many times have you heard your parents say to you when you were a kid, “Make sure you take your sister/brother/best friendwith you when you go to the park/convenience store/mall/etc.”? They knew that being alone means being vulnerable to the forces around you, including ‘strangers.’ That’s the kind of mentality many of us have grown up with, that there is safety in numbers, and that has carried into our adult lives. That’s why when we sit on the bus and have the luxury of having an open seat next to us, we plop our belongings down next to us to create a safety barrier.
This is my interpretation anyways. I know there are many other reasons we put our belongings on the seat next to us (they’re heavy, it’s winter and the floor is wet, etc), but I think maybe subconsciously we are trying to separate ourselves from others too.
Needless to say, once I’d thought everything through, I moved my bag onto my lap.
Have a great day!