Are you sure that isn’t just your reflection in the window?
Yesterday I had a two and a half hour train journey (part of a six/seven hour train journey broken into chunks) with the most terrified woman in the world.
It was the only unreserved seat, so I sat down, and proceeded to feel horrifically awkward for two and a half hours because this lady appeared to be cowering away from me. I’ve never seen someone curl so thoroughly into a window. She managed to make a consistent gap of at least a foot between me and her, which, considering the width of the seats on First Great Western trains, is a pretty impressive feat.
I didn’t know what I’d done. I know I have big hair. I even tried to assuage her fear by asking in my poshest voice if she could let me know if the volume of music from my headphones was ever remotely audible (we were on the quiet carriage). She said it was fine.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in that situation.
Anyway, apparently I’m the crazy person. Possibly.
So what is it with crazy people and buses? Well. I think it has more to do with everybody being crazy than anything else. Then really, when we talk about crazy we are talking about defying social convention (in a way that bothers us).
Buses have a weird set of social conventions. Public transport in general does, particularly in this country. You bundle self into a tin and sit closer than is normally permissible to lots of strangers. To make up for this physical proximity, every other possible distance must be maintained.
So that’s no eye contact, no conversation, no acknowledgement apart from apologies, and then only when someone is in your way. Sit facing forward, if there’s someone opposite, then subtly angle your head up and to the left a little, as if you’re reading something. Preferably have some form of technological distraction to facilitate the absence of interaction with others. And so on and so forth.
It all boils down to don’t talk on the bus.
Which always strikes me as silly.
I mean, here’s a completely random sample of people, in close proximity, with some kind of shared culture (proximity of home or destination or whatever) even temporarily. This is a perfect opportunity to get to know people with different but similar viewpoints. It’s the ideal learning experience.
Of course. I never talk on the bus, unless I see an old friend or am with someone.
Because I don’t want to be the crazy person.
But every time (I’m not feeling like shit and) I’m on the bus I consider sparking a conversation with someone nearby. Just to pass the time. I can rarely read a significant amount in the space of the journey, and unless I’ve got some wistful window thinking to do, it’s just wasted time.
Of course, crazy is as crazy does. Don’t pretend you aren’t jealous.
Illustration by Lucy.