The other morning was the closest I ever got to making a friend on the city bus. I decided to sit on the sideways bench seat that is close to the front of the bus across from the bus driver. As I was getting myself, my purse and bag situated, the last person got on the crowded bus and decided to sit next to me. As the bus started to leave the side of the curb, it swerved unexpectedly, and my fellow passenger accidentally ended up on my lap which caused my peanut butter and jelly sandwich to get squished.
“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to sit on you,” she said, as she laughed and tried to regain her balance.
“That’s okay,” I said in my smiley voice. “These new buses don’t have anything to hang onto like the old buses.”
The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Squisher got busy with her cell phone, and I opened up a book to read. That was the end of my longest adult conversation in over 20 years while on a bus going to or from downtown.
Some of my co-workers have shared the fact with me that they have “bus” friends – friends actually made on the bus. Discovering that people actually had real friends that they met while riding on the bus made me a little jealous since I have not had a bus friend since I rode the school bus for one year during ninth grade.
There once was a lady, who appeared to be about the same age as me, who used to talk to me on the bus in the late 80s. She was a Talker and I was a Nodder, and she would sit by me on the way home from work. One day she noticed that I was reading a novel by Stephen King.
“Isn’t the world filled with enough sadness? Why are you reading a book like that?” she asked. (This is true, yes, the world is filled with enough sadness.) I was astonished that she said this to me. I didn’t say a word in reply. I know it’s not possible to bite your tongue and have your jaw drop at the same time, but that is what it felt like I was trying to do. I also know that Stephen King novels are not for everyone because it is a known fact that his stories can cause nightmares in some people, but there is something about his writing that can make you miss your bus stop instead of wanting to get off the bus. The Talker obviously was not aware of the type of journey that Stephen King brings to his fans.
Not too long after that, The Talker moved far away from my neighborhood to never ride my bus again. I was able to spend more time reading any type of book I wanted without being scolded. It was a happy time.
I have seen certain signs that have led me to think that most of my fellow bus passengers do not want to have close and personal friendships with fellow commuters. Some signs include:
- When commuters see the bus approaching to take us home, they all rush to the bus and really do not care if they run anyone down on the way;
- No one gives up their seat to anybody, even if a pregnant woman is standing with her belly button almost stuck in a fellow passenger’s ear;
- People who take the bus are very busy catching up on their emails, text messages and other electronic updates, or they are listening to their iPods, and they do not have time to be social with people who are sitting right next to them;
- Whether it is the beginning of the day or the end of the day, some people are sleeping, so I know that they are too tired to talk;
- They have blank stares on their faces, also known as daydreaming; or
- Their eyes are glued to a book, newspaper or word puzzle book.
Sometimes I think that my fellow passengers may have encountered someone like The Talker. I try to sit in the back of the bus when possible. When I am totally engrossed in a book and all the other window seats are taken, people gravitate toward the empty seat by me even if there are several seats in front of me. These are my new-found friends – people who see that I am a reader, not a talker. They know that if they sit by me, they will have a quiet ride to and from downtown. I think these people are the closest that I will get to having bus friends, and, you know, I think I am okay with that.