I ride the bus. In the process I’m regularly confronted with a number of up-close annoyances. There’s stinky dude. There’s crying kid(s). There’s cell phone talking guy. There’s chew spitter. There’s loud food eater. And there’s perhaps the most annoying of them all, the unwanted conversationalist. As a public transit user – and proponent - I’ve learned to put up with all of it. The annoyances are part of the experience.
However, there’s one bus-riding tendency that’s far too common, and I simply can no longer remain silent. It goes beyond annoyance and strikes at the very heart of human decency. I’m confident the bulk of my fellow bus riders will agree.
Taking up two seats on a crowded bus is a fucking dick move. Just stop it already! You know who you are.
For those who don’t frequent the bus, here’s a quick breakdown of how it works: As riders climb on the bus – especially at its point of origin - most are faced with an option: Do you grab the window seat, creating the possibility that someone will sit next to you? Or do you claim the seat on the aisle, meaning that if someone is going to sit next to you, they’re going to be forced to ask first? It’s a decision that can go a long way toward showing someone’s true colors. And, unfortunately, too many people fail the test.
Sure, when the bus is less than full, sitting on the aisle is no big deal. I mean, lets face it, taking the list of constant bus annoyances into consideration, who wants to sit next to some stranger? No one. It’s basic human nature. I get that.
But when the bus is going to be full? Or even near full? That’s a whole different story. Plopping down in the aisle seat is just inexcusable. It’s not just antisocial – it’s fucking entitled and rude. (Note: using your gigantic hipster messenger bag to take up the seat next to you also qualifies, asshole.)
So why am I mentioning this now? How did I reach this dramatic breaking point?
This morning, as I boarded my regular 590 SoundTransit bus from Tacoma to Seattle – part of a long line of riders stretching nearly the length of the sidewalk at the T-Dome station – I encountered two men, both in aisle seats with empty window seats next to them, sitting across from each other. It wasn’t a particularly unusual sight, as it’s a move I see riders pull on nearly a daily basis and have learned to expect. But this morning’s act of rudeness was different for one big reason: the men were both decked out in King County Metro attire, presumably coworkers at the eighth largest public transit agency in the nation. I expected better from them. And the fact that not everyone in line for the bus ended up boarding only increased my anger.
The Northwest’s renowned non-confrontational streak is likely partly to blame. Did I say anything to the men? Of course not. Instead, I sat behind them and passive-agressively posted my rantings to Twitter and Facebook. In doing so, I became part of the problem.
Once I arrived at the office, I discussed the disheartening phenomenon with coworker and fellow bus rider Gwendolyn Elliott – who is honestly one of the nicest people on earth. She agreed that seat hoarding happens all the time, is maddening as hell, and most importantly that no one ever says anything about it. In Elliott’s extensive bus-riding experience, she told me she’s only seen seat hoarders confronted on a handful of occasions, chalking each instance up to some hardened, out-of-town transit user from New York (or somewhere like it) that won’t stand for it.
So what needs to happen here? Of course, most of all, people need to stop taking two seats on a crowded bus. It’s a terrible practice that needs to cease immediately. That much is obvious. Should we eventually reach a point where seat hoarding no longer happens, it will only serve as a sign that society has evolved for the better.
But it goes further than that. As bus riders, when we see a person taking two seats on a crowded bus, we need to speak up. We need to become the hardened transit riders, and we need to tell these public transit miscreants that such obvious disregard for fellow riders just isn’t OK. We need to make clear that the double-seat dick move will be called out.
Next time I promise to do my part. Who’s with me?