Proximity

Everyone sees the world differently, I get that. Even you, sitting in the very next bus seat, so close that we couldn’t slip a bus ticket between our shoulders, you seem to have a completely different vantage point than I do. I sense this different perspective because the whole right side of this bus is now empty, yet you haven’t budged.

Us sitting this close made sense earlier. This #35 was packed coming out of downtown, and it was one of those crawling commutes that left even the chatty riders drained of small-talk well before reaching their stops. I was grateful when the tide started turning at the top of the Greeley hill, a genuine exodus taking place over the course of just a few stops. Don’t take this the wrong way, but as the bus emptied, I was looking forward to you finding some room of your own when another bench became available.

Of course, I didn’t expect you to take the first bench. That one’s always contentious terrain. I’ve lived that awkward moment when you make a move for the first empty spot just as someone else does. Somebody has to go back to where they were, and that means snatching away the solitude that you momentarily dangled to the person you’d just been sitting with. When you do, the width of the seat you once occupied feels like it shrank two inches in the moment you were gone.

When the second bench opened and you didn’t move, I figured you were hopping off soon. That’s understandable – it makes no sense to relocate if you’re getting off two stops later.

But you didn’t get off. We’re still wedged onto this one bench like two size-12 shoes in a size-9 box, despite the bus draining faster than the first happy-hour cocktail. That’s what makes me think that despite our proximity, the world looks different from where you sit. From here, it’s clear that we’re the only people on the bus still sharing a seat. Do you not see that from over there?

I’m curious, are you concerned that you’ll offend me if you move? You’re very kind to be so courteous, but I assure you, I won’t be, and will quickly recover from your abandonment. Do you consider the first seat you sit in to be “your seat,” and it’s yours from start to finish? That’s a discipline your school teachers probably appreciated, but I find it an inflexible approach to mass transit. Or maybe you genuinely haven’t noticed the massive shift in the physical environment around us? If it’s that, then I’m glad you’re riding the bus instead of driving because you’re far too inattentive to be behind the wheel of a car.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ve been a perfectly acceptable neighbor throughout the ride. It’s just that for the last two miles, there’s been no need for us to be neighbors. There’s an enormous tract of vacant real estate just across the aisle, all yours for the taking. You should claim it, revel in it, stretch your legs luxuriously like you can’t do now. That’s what I would do – except you’re blocking me in. All I can do is stare across the bus longingly.

Actually, forget it. We’re at my stop anyway.

About Bill Reagan

Bill Reagan enjoys how public transit juxtaposes neighbors and strangers in a way no other microcosm of our community can. He likes eavesdropping, striking up random conversations, and watching how people act when they think no one is looking. He can be found online at WilliamReagan.com and @WilliamReagan on Twitter.
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