Negotiating Public Spaces

As a commuter I have become very familiar with trains and buses.  Most people just keep to themselves. Either looking out the window lost in thought, listening to music, reading a book or newspaper, studying for a class, playing games on some sort of electronic or whatever it may be. These people just mind their own business until their stop comes and they get off and continue their life.  The individuals who are usually conversing with each other are acquaintances or people who observe something about another, such as the course subject they are studying, and start a conversation based upon that. 

In any other situation it feels uncomfortable having complete strangers inches, sometimes centimeters, away from you.  However, I have noticed that individuals aren’t uncomfortable being crammed together in a bus or train.  In this situation, they just remain still and try to limit their movements as much as possible in order to avoid bumping into their neighbors.  They realize that they are forced into sacrificing their personal space due to the circumstance that there is no place for them to go; therefore, you have to make the best of it.  Even on an empty bus, the single seats are always the first ones to go and the double seats are taken up when there is no other place to sit without someone being next to you.  However, on the train the triple seat are usually reach full capacity with only two people in them, one in the seat near the window and other in the seat near the aisle with their bags in the middle.  Since there is more room to stand on a train a person would rather stand than be stuck between two strangers.  I figured that it is just natural and instinctual for human beings to want their own personal space especially is an age where we are more comfortable interacting with others electronically rather than physically. 

The weirdest experience I have ever had on the bus was on a regular day when I was going home around 9 pm after class with my friend.   When I stepped onto the bus it was completely pack and I had to stand near the entrance along with a few other people.  However, after a couple of stops, several people got off and I moved a little further down.  I realized I was standing in front of a guy with a baseball cap on who was listening to music.  The thing that was different about him and any other person with their headphones in was that he was playing an air guitar and “head banging.” It was very strange because it was the first time I actually felt uncomfortable on the bus.  When I looked around I noticed that he was making other people around him uncomfortable too.  However, the lady neighboring him on his right was laughing, but, she had hand in front of her mouth trying to cover it up.  When I looked in the reflection of the window, I saw that other people on the bus had noticed him too and were whispering amongst each other about him too.  I don’t know whether or not the guy did not notice the people or he just chose to ignore them because he just kept to himself.  I thought that he might have been a musician just practicing before a show.  This suspicion was affirmed when he reached his stop and pulled the guitar from under the seat and walked out.  At this point the bus was still fairly crowded and he just pulled his instrument out even though it lifted the leg of the passengers beside him.  This made the whole experience even stranger because this person broke every single norm of riding the bus.  He bumped into others with saying “excuse me” and in a packed bus he didn’t limit his movements and just continued to do what he was doing.  In a public space one has to be willing to make the sacrifice of their own personal space momentarily to not make other civilians uncomfortable and to maintain social order.


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