6 Unspoken Rules of Public Transportation (Everybody Breaks)

No one wants to be on mass transit. Whether it's a bus, a train or, for our Norwegian readers, one of your big public toboggans, no one's taking transit for the fun of it. We're not there to have new experiences, or meet new people, or smell new smells. We're there because, by definition, we want to be somewhere else.

If you feel this way (and you almost certainly do) and you realize that everyone else feels the same way (we definitely do), one obvious conclusion jumps out. Everything will be much more tolerable if everyone in one of these big people-moving boxes does everyone else the tiny courtesy of leaving them the fuck alone.

These smiles are just to mask the malevolent scorn these two feel for each other.

This is something most people get intuitively. It's basically the Golden Rule in action; we want to be left alone on the bus, so leave everyone else alone. But not everyone gets this, whether because they don't want to be left alone, or because they never learned the Golden Rule, or because they have been swallowed by their own asshole and are now some kind of Mobius dickhead.

Maybe you're one of them. Maybe you're reading this as part of a court-ordered alternative punishment because of something you've done on a bus. Maybe courts have finally gotten that rad. So, for the benefit of the courts, and to satisfy the conditions of my own court-ordered alternative punishment, I present this column on the six worst things human beings do to one another on public transportation, and how to avoid them.

#6. Sitting Too Close

Science has told us that people generally prefer it when everyone else stays at least a couple feet away from them. Obviously, that's not always going to be practical when we're riding the loser cruiser, which means that we all have to, at least a little bit, put up with people being up in our grills.

And to make this necessary encroachment somewhat more tolerable, we should at least try to delay it as long as possible: When on a lightly crowded bus or train, don't sit down beside someone else until it's absolutely necessary.

This relates quite closely to the concept of urinal etiquette, which provides guidelines for basically the same problem that dudes have at a bank of urinals. For those readers without funhoses, I'll explain: Dudes don't like peeing beside other dudes, and will position themselves at a bank of urinals to maximize the amount of space between everyone. There are quizzes you can take to learn the etiquette, but for transit-related circumstances, the shorthand works really well: Always go for an isolated seat before you sit down beside someone.

Here, green means good. Sitting in a red seat is an act of open hostility, about the equivalent of twisting the head off a doll while staring at him unblinkingly, humming "Hakuna Matata."

A side note: Experts agree that you get Bonus Bus Points if you're willing to move to an empty space when one opens up. Yes, this "feels weird" -- you're going to worry what the person you're moving away from is thinking. "Do I smell?" is one obvious possibility. "Is that guy racist against stinky people?" is another. But don't worry about it; that weird feeling passes quickly, as everyone involved enjoys the extra space they've just acquired. Don't try to explain why you're doing this; that will actually make things even weirder. Instead, keep a printed copy of this column with you at all times and hand it to your ex-seatmate as you depart. Handing out printed copies of websites you enjoy is a totally normal, nonthreatening thing to do.

#5. Blocking the Window Seat

Because of how completely bullshit gravity is, standing is generally more work than sitting, and generally worth avoiding if at all possible. So anyone who makes it more difficult for someone to reach an empty seat is a real gaping asshole. If you happen to be doing that, say by parking yourself in an aisle seat, thus blocking an empty window seat, well, I hope you didn't have an appointment to keep. Because your bus is being rerouted straight to hell.

Which is I think a Meatloaf lyric.

"But! But! But!" I hear you mewling. "I have to get off at the next stop, and don't want to have to climb over anyone to get out! Welp!"

Oh. Well, that's fine then. Sure, go ahead and inconvenience other people to save yourself that trouble. You colossal asshat. Get up and stand by the door before you get stabbed.

#4. Letting Everyone Else Hear Their Crappy Music

Based on my study of 1980s movies, loud music on the bus and subway used to be a bigger problem in the 1980s, when the only way to listen to music was by ghetto blaster. That doesn't appear to be the case anymore, although I will admit to not living very close to any ghettos.

I have been trying to get a grotto installed, actually, but the homeowner's association are being real grotto-babies about it.

What I do see, or rather, hear, are crappy earbud headphones that leak approximately 100 percent of their sound out the back, to the point where I wonder if they might work better if they were inserted backward. The (old) stock Apple headphones were pretty bad for this; I could be half a bus away from a set of those and still pick up lyrics.

Music is great on public transportation because it helps us ignore everyone else. But don't let that perfectly healthy act of antisocial behavior degenerate into the less healthy act of forcing everyone else around you to listen to dubstep.


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Chris Bucholz

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