What to do when the bus empties but you’re still sitting next to someone

13th February 2009
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I ride the bus to and from work every day here in Auckland, New Zealand. I love not having to drive, and I’ve realized in telling my bus stories that there’s a lot of interesting things that happen on the bus. The human drama plays out over 1/2 an hour. It’s endlessly fascinating.

So here’s a situation. I’m riding the bus and it’s late afternoon/early evening, and we’re headed through Penrose on what I call the “long way home”; we meander through the neighborhood on the way to my home in Mt. Wellington. I catch this bus when I miss my more direct bus.

As the bus meanders, it gets more and more empty. I’m sitting next to someone, but I don’t know when to move seats to give her and I room to breathe! As the bus empties out, I think twothings: If I move now, quickly, will she think I’m being rude? And if I stay, am I being rude and a bit creepy at the same time? You can see the problem.

Normally, under optimal conditions, you want to have a row all to yourself. This is part of bus law.

The bus gets down to three people, and I’m still sitting next to the lady, debating when is the right time to move so it will seem polite. Very socially awkward indeed.

I glance over every now and then looking for a sign that she wants to get up, maybe a sign that says, “hey, mate, move to another seat so I can have this row by myself.” but I get no indication either way. Guess the decision’s up to me since I’m in the seat closest to the aisle.

Her hands are clutching her purse, this is a sure sign she wants to get up. So what do I do? I stand up, suddenly, and jump over to the seat in the opposite row. Classy! I was right, she signals the driver to stop by pulling the cord, but I feel as though I’ve totally stuffed up this social transaction.

I’ve learned now that as soon as you see an opening, grab that empty row.

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Nathaniel Flick

I'm a Front End Web Developer passionate about usability. My primary specialties are HTML5, CSS3, SCSS, LESS, and jQuery and I am very familiar with Foundation and Bootstrap frameworks. I've worked on top of and with Rails, Python, and ASP.net/Umbraco back end frameworks.

  • -k

    Move as soon as there’s room. You’re way too worried about what other people think of you.

  • Nathaniel

    Nah, I’m just very concerned about pleasing people, not what they think of me personally; since they couldn’t possibly know anything about that just sitting next to me on the bus. 🙂