Friday, October 28, 2011

6 tips for riding the bus in peace.

At this point in my life, I've become a seasoned vet when it comes to taking public transit. There are a lot of crazy people, idiots and jerks who ride the bus, and I'm sure it's the same with taking the train or whatever else.

Oh sure, there are days when I think that meeting strangers is the spice of life, and you can't meet new friends without talking to a stranger or whatever... but these tips are for the other days. You know, when you  just want everybody to shut up so you can get home as quickly as possible and watch The Walking Dead with your boyfriend!

Here are a few things I have learned that have helped me have more peaceful bus rides.

1. Identify the troublemakers before you get on the bus and then let them board first.

You can tell who is going to be annoying or trouble by a few key signs: are they menacingly glaring around trying to be intimidating? Are they creepily trying to look down your shirt? Are they talking loudly? Are they not-so-stealthly drinking those weird Jack and Cokes they sell that come in a can pre-mixed? Are they rummaging through the garbage? Do they have seven kids with them and are not even worried when one runs into the road?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, these are the people you want to avoid. Let them get on the bus first, and choose a seat as far from them as possible.

2. Avoid eye contact.

I wrote about this before, but eye contact in a small space filled with strangers really does invite trouble. Just sit down, stare at the window or your lap, and don't look at anyone. Either you're going to attract the attention of the crackhead guy who will then scream at you to "fuck off bitch" or someone's going to start talking to you. Or staring at you for the entire 45 minutes you're on the bus which can get really awkward. Unless you like that kind of thing.

Related: perfect your dismissive yet polite responses for the times people try and talk to you when you are not interested. Mine is usually a distracted sounding "yeah" with a laugh and then back to my book or staring out the window I go.  If they don't get the hint and I'm really not in the mood for a chat, I will tell them exactly that. "No offense but I really don't feel like talking right now."

3.  Bring as much to distract yourself as possible...without looking rich.

I imagine this is more important in a bigger city or a poorer country, but do not take out your thousand dollar laptop on the bus unless you want to get robbed. I usually have a paperback book with me, and if anybody too sketchy is looking at me I take care not to pull my iPod out of my pocket. Bring some knitting, a book, some homework or something else you can immerse yourself in, and try to use the time on the bus productively. Not only will it take your mind off the tedious ride, it will also give you a sense of accomplishment.

4. Redefine your spacial boundaries.

Don't stress if somebody is touching you. Unless they're gross. Yesterday a girl used my shoulder as a pillow ... hey we've all been there. But the second somebody touches my thigh or stands with their crotch too close to my face they are getting called out on it.

Now in most of the arenas of my life, I would never allow a stranger to sleep on my shoulder, but she was just a really tired girl and it's a long ride home. And to be honest, it was cold that day and she was keeping my side warm.

5. Choose your bus stop wisely.

If you notice that you're fighting for the last few seats on the bus with ten other people every single day, a really easy solution is to walk up the street to the stop before the one you usually wait at. Sometimes when I'm feeling extra tired and just want a window seat to lean on, I will walk the extra three or four blocks to guarantee I'm one of the first people to get on my bus.

6. Try and sit in neutral territory. 

Definitely avoid the front where the wheelchairs and strollers go, because you will most likely have to change seats at some point. Also, you may want to avoid the back because there's probably somebody drinking a beer and/or rapping back there.

And if you get on a double decker bus, sometimes the novelty of driving around while two stories high is not worth the crackheads and people literally smoking joints beside you. The upstairs always invites trouble because the bus driver can't keep a very close eye on everybody up there; they can't enforce anything without literally stopping the bus and walking up the steps. Which I've only seen happen once. Oh, and the loudest stickiest children with full ice cream cones will be up there too, fighting over the front two seats. It's best to stay on the bottom level in the neutral zone.

I could go on for days about bus stuff but I think six things is enough for now. Do you have any public transit tips or tricks I should know about?  Tell me in the comments because seriously...this is minimum ten hours of my week I'm talking about. HELP ME haha.

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