The Rules of Riding  

I'm too lazy to Google it, but I'd bet that somebody out there is running a successful site which showcases nothing but tales of horror from public transportation. I mean, let's face the obvious here folks; your average bus is comprised of 50% normal people, 40% people who just want to be left the hell alone, and 10% people who are majority stakeholders in creepy and/or crazy. It's a rough demographic. Then again, we should probably all be thankful that the guy who talks to his earwax before eating it isn't behind the wheel of a half-ton death machine either.

No matter which group you belong to, you don't get through years of bus and train riding without building a portfolio of stories about your run-ins with that 10%. I'm sure even the crazies have those days where they exit the bus shaking their heads thinking "Did that really just happen?" before they continue plotting to assassinate Kelly Ripa with their penis or whatever it is crazy people do in their free time.

The point here is that you have to be prepared to an extent if you hope to mitigate the level of crazy that crosses your path. I for one have a couple "rules of riding" that are adhered to as strictly as possible. The first and most important of which is to always appear uninterruptible. Have a book, or better yet an mp3 player so the chances of making crazy eye contact are kept at a minimum. All it takes is a nanosecond of eye contact and you're screwed. Being uninterruptible will also keep away the low-level crazies (read: lonely people) who really just want to talk, but somehow make it the most awkward conversation you've had in ages.

Positioning is also key. Crazies like the front of the bus. The bus driver makes for an easy captive audience, and that's also where the seats usually face each other, increasing the chances for eye contact. I almost exclusively sit in the back half of the bus for this reason. Again, this is by no means an infallible method. I further position myself by always sitting next to one of two types of people:
  • Young girls. I know this sounds creepy, but that's exactly the point. In all my years of bus riding, I have never had a girl try to start a conversation with me. Most girls are sheltered enough as it is; the last thing they need/want is to chat up some random dude they think is just going to hit on them.
  • Old black guys. This one is hit and miss, though I honestly don't mind taking the chance. It's 50/50 on whether or not they will try and talk to you. But when it does happen, they've always got the coolest stories and best sense of humor about things. Important note: this DOES NOT apply to old white guys. They are often the craziest of the crazies, and smell like something wrapped in cheese and wedged into Michael Moore's taint. See here for example (of crazy old white guys on the bus, not things wedged into MM's taint).
If all else fails, there are a host of tactics you can employ to rid yourself of a crazy once they corner you, from trying to out-crazy them (proceed with extreme caution here), to being flat-out rude and/or violent. However, it's always been my philosophy to just accept that the universe really wanted you to have this opportunity. And by opportunity I of course mean "future blog post material."

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12 Reasons to Live

  • Wings  
    March 27, 2009 at 12:15 PM

    So funny, man, and too true.

    Sadly, my sister was one of the ones who people needed to avoid eye contact with, back in the day.

  • shine (the artist formerly known as meshealle)  
    March 27, 2009 at 12:23 PM

    "They are often the craziest of the crazies, and smell like something wrapped in cheese and wedged into Michael Moore's taint."

    That was a visual I so did not need and will never get out of my head. Ick.

  • Nicole  
    March 27, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    Gah... Buses...

    I keep my MP3 close by on the bus, it makes me feel powerful because the crazy people know that I'm hearing voices that they're not.

    And girls? Sheltered? Hahaha...



  • E  
    March 27, 2009 at 3:26 PM

    Even worse is public transportation late at night. With fewer buses running, the crazies get condensed.

  • Shannon  
    March 27, 2009 at 7:09 PM

    This is why Shannon doesn't ride the bus. (But the extra blog material would be kinda cool.)

  • Monkey Girl  
    March 29, 2009 at 1:30 PM

    Never choose a seat next to an empty seat...that's an open invitation for every crazy person to sit right next to you.

    YOU pick the person. Every Greyhound Bus ride from college to home I chose to sit next to an old lady/granny. Yes, she'd talk my ear off, but it kept the crazies far away.

  • Monkey Girl  
    March 29, 2009 at 1:35 PM

    Oh, and Jay, I'm a little hurt that I'm not even listed as a 'mental crush'...that hurts. WTF?

  • Lizzle  
    March 29, 2009 at 7:54 PM

    Ok, first off, is that a unicorn farting rainbows up there? Because I kinda love that.

    Secondly, as someone who has a dearth of mass transit stories, (some of which include animals, nudity, and death,) I can say that the above is all accurate, however, you neglected to mention that the crazies often have to wait to get on the bus or train like the normal folks... They are not always neatly contained in the mass transit cocoon, but rather ambling out in the urban wilderness surrounding the bus stops and train platforms... and they can be wild, fierce (not in a beyonce or tyra banks sort of way) and utterly ferocious, even when unprovoked! It's important to know these things if you're not a frequent mass transit user!

  • Kelly  
    March 30, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    On the subway in Chicago I had a guy in shiney basketball shorts stand with his junk in my face for the entire ride from downtown to Wrigleytown. Not good.

    He was reading a book and listening to his MP3. Wait, was that you Jay?

  • shine (the artist formerly known as meshealle)  
    March 30, 2009 at 11:24 AM

    The next blog should be from the other perspective. "A Day in the Life of a Mass Transit Crazy." Or something like that.

  • Anonymous  
    March 30, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    "Important note: this DOES NOT apply to old white guys. They are often the craziest of the crazies, and smell like something wrapped in cheese and wedged into Michael Moore's taint."

    Oh, God. The truth of that statement. My favourite is when I'm sitting in an almost deserted bus surrounded by empty seats and the crazy sits right next to me, blocking me next to the window with no form of escape. It's even better if the crazy spends the whole ride staring at you, and you have to pretend no to notice by faking enthusiasm for the scenery and/or reading material. If only we could turn peripheral vision off at will.

  • Becky  
    April 3, 2009 at 1:15 PM

    During normal work commute hours, the worst is usually someone that stinks to high heaven (my bus route to downtown stops at a shelter). However, if we ride after 8 p.m., that 10% goes way up and I've heard people yelling/threatening each other. I think young people are cool when they're by themselves, but if they're in a pack, then I avoid them. Old black guys may not talk much, but they've also been the group most likely to carry a boombox on the bus, hold it up to their ear and listen to music (sans the headphones).

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