I’ve been a public transit user now for about a year and a half. I’m very lucky to live in a city with an excellent transit system that allows me to live my life without owning a car and without seriously hindering my life. Most of the time, my experience on the bus and light rail trains are unremarkable.
I have learned a few things and make my choices accordingly. I try very hard not to travel during rush hour, or planning my trips so that I can wait for the next bus or train if the one I had planned to take is too full. Thankfully my job facilitates that, though it is a bit of a challenge getting there on time in the morning when my boyfriend isn’t around to give me a ride. Then in the afternoons, I’m off work well before most people, and even before most kids are out of school, which is a blessing.
One of the things I’m very aware of is seating. I try very hard to sit so that there is an empty seat between me and the next person. While the transit seats are a bit wider than airline seats, I still need a little more room than the average person. So most of the time I choose an empty two seat block, sit next to the aisle, and put my bag in the empty seat. But when the bus is crowded, I feel like it’s rude to block off the extra seat, so generally I’ll pick up my bag, slide over, and hope that no one chooses to sit next to me. On the rare occasions when I sit down next to someone, I’m always careful to sit so that I’m not touching them or encroaching on their space… sitting thigh to thigh with a stranger just feels rude to me.
The same applies on the train, though I’m more commonly left standing than I am on the bus. Not bad really, the train moves faster and I’m more likely to get a seat in a stop or two than I would be on the bus. I rarely if ever have anyone look at me oddly or say anything to me. But there are times. Like the man who sat down next to me one morning and pressed up against my side and remained that way for the nearly 25 minutes of our trip. Or the morning that I sat down in a section of three seats, taking an outside seat and putting my bag in the middle seat. An older woman got on the bus and sat down on the other outside seat and proceeded to give me serious side eye for the next 15 minutes. That’s not even getting into the glares I get on those rare days when I chose not to give up my spare seat to someone. When I do that, I try to appear to be as absorbed in my smart phone as possible so I don’t notice the looks and it will hopefully seem like I’m just unaware of the crowded seating conditions.
And I sometimes wait two or three trains before getting on one because I know I’ll have to stand and I don’t want there to be a high risk of bumping into my fellow passengers when the train stops or starts or jostles us unexpectedly.
So if I could say something to my fellow passengers it’s this: I don’t like being pressed up against, bumped into, or packed tightly into the vehicle any more than you do. And sadly, no amount of glaring on your part is going to make me instantly slimmer or rich enough to not have to go to work anymore. And that means we’re both in it for the long haul. So just can the micro-aggressions, m’kay?