Bus Etiquette Dilemma

I take a bus or train to work and in general most bus etiquette can be determined by following a simple guideline: “Don’t be an asshole”. Having much experience in that area, I know what behaviour to avoid. Luckily, Queensland Rail also has handy posters to provide helpful tips to anyone who needs reminding. However, there are some situations where these guidelines do not provide an adequate answer.

I travel home in peak hour and tend to catch the bus quite a few stops from where it starts, so the bus can be quite full by the time I get on. The buses are set out so that the are rows of seats for two people on each side. Two situations make choosing your seat easy. If there is a completely empty row, sit there. If all seats are full, stand. The difficulty comes when there is at least one person in every row of seats. So you have to pick a person to sit next to. The seat you are going to select needs to be done on first inspection and without making any eye contact if possible. This takes skill… Once someone spots you looking at the seat beside them, you must take the seat or risk offending them and that can be a disaster.

My strategy is to attempt to spot the most petite woman on the bus and sit next to her. This is not out of any particular attraction to petite woman, but due to a strong correlation between upper body size and arse size. Selecting a seating partner with a smaller backside maximizes the amount of seat I can sit on without risking actually touching the person. If I am going to be sitting for the best part of an hour, I want to be as comfortable as possible. While looking up to see if there was an answer to the upcoming dilemma, I found it was suggested that this is actually a breach of bus etiquette. We should all be like in grade school and boys sit with boys and girls with girls. But given I shower and wear deodorant (but not excessively), I think I can let this one pass…

I get off two stops before the bus terminus. So even if the bus is very full at the start of the journey, it is likely to be quite empty by the end. On a few occasions, the person I sat next to is also on the bus near then end. And here is my dilemma. As free seats become available, should I move to one? Could I offend the person I am sitting next to by moving the second a spare seat becomes available? If there is only the two of us left on the bus, then I would have no issue moving to another seat. But at what point does it become important that I move? Does it depend on whether I am reading a book (and so am paying little attention to my surroundings) or listening to my iPod? Does it depend on how many stops remain before I will be getting off the bus? I am a statistician so can make a rough probability distribution of where other passengers get off the bus. So if the woman I am sitting next to is likely to leave in a few stops, should I stay sitting next until that point passes?

Finally, if she is wearing tight pants and she gets off at a stop before me, is it OK if I check out her backside as I let her off the bus? Not for any sexual reason, but to add another data point to my inventory of initial glance to bum size correlation data set to improve my estimation and allow picking a more optimal seating partner for my next journey… Honest!

12 thoughts on “Bus Etiquette Dilemma

  1. You’re over-thinking it. Just give a quick and gentle half-smile so it all becomes the other person’s problem to deal with.

  2. Oh Allan…

    Others will only think it’s a big deal if *you* think it’s a big deal. No one is gonna blame you for seeking more comfort for yourself on the bus. Try it, and if they make funny faces, put on a friendly smile and carry on.

    It’s adorable and a little bit frightening at the same time how much attention you pay to those “every day statistics”. I like to think that I just live life as I please, but there’s probably something similar going on in my subconscious.

    Here’s one more example I can think of: What about the elderly? I’m trying to foresee if they will be offended if I offer them my seat. I have decided to err on the side of too much friendliness. Sometimes I even have to take iniative and stand up before I even ask them (or I just say “Sit, please”). This has never gone wrong IIRC.

    Remember, at any time, the other might just be as insecure as you.

  3. Very funny.
    I’m not very sure which country you are in.
    But in China, when there’s seat avaible, you must rush to it as soon as possible without any thinking, or you’ll stand forever. So you wouldn’t have those worries here 😀

  4. Funny article (even if you didn’t intended it to be).

    I just have to say that stop thinking too much, and give your mind some rest. Take whichever seat you want, just avoid physical contact, and if you like, move over to an empty seat later on, without thinking about hurting the feelings of the person sitting next to you.

  5. Ah, there are other people who ponder about this too, I’m not alone 😉
    Well, if someone sitting beside me moves to sit beside another person (that he/she doesn’t know) I’m somewhat offended, but if it’s a free row I’m fine (the move can occur as soon as a row is free) as I more space is nice for the person who moved and this also gives me more free space since I have my own row now. Win/win? … or am I falling for a trick question here?

  6. >>Not for any sexual reason, but to add another data point to my inventory of initial glance to bum size correlation data set to improve my estimation and allow picking a more optimal seating partner for my next journey

    lol I really lost it there, thanks, this was an awesome read!

  7. if such trivial stuff give you so much trouble and make you think about them like it’s a chess game, you’re gonna end up in a madhouse.

  8. Much thoughts about taking the right bus seat. 😉 I would choose the seat next to the most petite woman too. But would not care about her upper body size. 😉
    I guess most people are lucky if one is not farting nor burping or smelling. 🙂

  9. Yep, these are important questions. Judging by your use of the word “arse”, I’d say you’re in the UK, as am I. I get two trains in to work (from Birmingham to Leamington Spa) and back each day, and these sorts of questions also plague me, especially since on the one train I ride until the penultimate stop, and on the other I’m only on for a single stop. I think these worries are all something to do with British “properness”.

  10. I do hope it’s not to intrusive on you boys to have some female input here. If you’re a good healthy red blooded male (sexual preference doesn’t count) and your not looking at a woman’s ass/arse, what’s wrong with you? I didn’t know Aussies were that proper.

    It was a funny read and good.