Unavoidable. Inescapable. In hot weather, basically the earthly equivalent of Dante’s Inferno. We all know exactly what I’m talking about: public transportation. For many of us it’s the only feasible way to get to and from school or other destinations, and while it’s indispensable, it’s a bit of a world unto itself and therefore has certain rules which must be observed for the sake of the general welfare of all bus/subway riders.
Unfortunately, I knew absolutely none of these essential rules on my own initial bus rides and made a complete fool of myself for the entirety of sixth grade. I learned the ropes after a while but it took me months of dedication, daily transportation trips, and a hefty heap of humiliation.
To save you the trouble, I’d like to share a few of the tips I’ve picked up in the four years I’ve been riding AC Transit. I know what you’re thinking, “How hard can it be? I’m sure he’s blowing this out of proportion,” but while I may be exaggerating things a bit (I mean come on, that’s my job), for the most part I’m being completely serious.
I’m literally overflowing with bus stories, so to keep this within my word count I’m just going to talk about basic etiquette. There are plenty of questionable people on the bus already, and you don’t need to be one of them. If a stranger starts getting really mad at you they might be a jerk but it’s possible they have perfectly legitimate reasons (like maybe you’re being way louder than you realize).
It’s also helpful to understand that the bus system is ruled by two categories of people: elderly folks and drivers. Regarding older people, they need seats. If one of them is standing near you, always offer them yours. The reasoning behind this is two fold; as we all know, knees, backs, and balance all start to break down as the years go by, and also the people around you can get really pissed when you’re being oblivious or rude.
One time an oldish woman was standing by my seat for a solid ten minutes before I noticed and after I rather belatedly gave her a spot on the bus as I was treated to a well-deserved ten minutes of lecturing. It was super embarrassing and honestly made me feel pretty God-awful afterwards, so I’ve done my best not to make that mistake again.
Regarding the bus driver: you are a customer, it is their bus. If you act like a tool, they’re going to kick you off.
On the other hand, if you’re really nice to them and generally refrain from contributing to the chaos of some of our more rowdy peers, it can totally pay off. Once, I fell asleep on the bus, passed the stop by my school, would have been completely screwed if the bus driver hadn’t generously offered to drive me back from the Berkeley Marina ahead of her schedule.
Look, the main point I’m trying to get across is that treating people with basic human kindness can go a long way. We all have bad days, and sometimes you really won’t be feeling up to it, but making the extra effort will brighten other people’s lives just a little bit, and, really, why the heck not?