Seattle transit travelers, like our clean, Eco-friendly buses, are overall, quite polite and accommodating. But avoid, at all costs, ever riding the bus at rush hour times, say from 5 to 7pm on weekdays. No, its not that people suddenly get pushy and rude when the buses fill up and there are no seats left. Rather, I find that Seattlites have no idea whatsoever how to ride a crowded bus. As more and more people enter the front of the bus, those without seats stand still, blocking the aisles like confused cattle. Whole pastures of open space may exist toward the back of the bus, but no one even turns to look, much less let more intelligent travelers pass them by to reach said open space. Instead, an unbreakable bottle neck forms at the bus entrance, with people both trying to exit and get on the bus, but still, no one makes a move to spread out or get out of the way. It took me ten minutes just to make it back to the area by the rear door, as people crammed butt to elbow in the front aisle.
I've raged and mumbled endlessly at this phenomenon, whether its Tuesday morning rides where 14 people cram up front because one woman standing two rows in won't move 8 feet back to make room, or like tonight, when I moved out of the bus entry and into the aisle as soon as I could, and had to move back and forth eveytime someone exited because the guy in front of me wouldn't budge an inch. And these buses and not designed to hold much standing capacity as it is, so why do people insist on planting, when they could move to the back? ESPECIALLY, when bus drivers make a point to make sure everyone who needs to is able to get off at their stop. It's not like the NY subway where you have to position yourself close to the doors lest you get squeezed away from your exit at the crucial moment.
Fortunately, I'm the second to last stop on my route, so I always have a seat in the morning, and always end up with a seat by the end of my ride, since I usually begin and end the ride as the sole passenger. Leaving the bus tonight, I asked the bus driver, "So, is it me, or do Seattleites not know how to ride a crowded bus?"
He nodded his head with an emphatic sigh and said "Oh, Completely Not, not at all, not at all." He didn't offer up any theories, (my theory is simple lack of exposure to crowds in general- downtown has like One crowded block) but as I left, he made sure to say, like a true, polite Seattlite "But they are good at following directions!"
This tendency to "wait until their told" before making room for others is the reason that my morning bus reading is continually interrupted by "MOVE TO THE BACK! MOVE TO THE BACK!" I mean, aren't these the same people riding to work everyday? Like goldfish making circles in a bowl, every morning, they are re-introduced to the wide open space right behind them at the back of the bus. Maybe the transit department, instead of posting insipid and derivative poems by local thirty-somethings, could post some helpful guides to riding the bus, like "If you notice that there's seven more people about to get on the bus, turn around and see if you can make room for them." That might be all it would take. For now, I can only smolder quietly while I remember rush hour on the 5 to grand Central Station.
Ah, the sweet, frenzied, organized chaos of the subway!