May 3, 2009

Anonymous Connection

As most people know, public transportation is a great place for people watching. In my opinion it is second only to the Mall of America. But, the difference is normally people watching happens as the people pass you. On public transportation, you are somewhat trapped in a moving corridor together; giving you more exposure to the person, rather than just getting a chuckle out of their ill-fitting mom jeans. At the risk of moving slightly towards stalker territory, being confined in the public transportation vessel, there is more opportunity to analyze someone’s behavior and create a strange anonymous connection to them.
For example, on an early Friday afternoon, I was finished with class for the weekend and on my way home, when a woman entered the train crying. She was probably late twenties to early thirties, dressed in business casual attire. My initial reaction was to stare, mainly because how unusual this was. Not that crying is unusual, but for a seemingly put together woman to be crying in public caught me off guard.
As the seconds ticked away, her tears turned a bit more hysterical. The tears come down even quicker, her shoulders started to shake, her chin quivered more ferociously in attempt to hold it back. Eventually her crying became a quite sob.
I was quietly watching the woman, and I couldn’t help but feel badly for her. I couldn’t imagine what terrible thing could make this woman cry. So, in attempt to not stare at the poor woman like everyone else in close proximity, I looked out the window and came up with reasons why she might be crying. At the top of my list, based on her clothes, was that she was just fired. The second was she has just received terrible news about a family member, because of the way she was clutching her phone.
A phone rang interrupting my thought process. I heard the woman mumble out a shaky, “Hi mom.”
Then she started telling her mother what I can only assume would be the reason behind the sobs. She explained that the dog was barking, and John, (again assuming, this is her significant other) let her outside. The dog had seen a squirrel and chased it across the street running in front of a bus and got crushed.
Although I have never had a pet, or ever had a real desire to get one, I still felt incredibly awful for this stranger, probably because the pain was so evident in her voice, and pain is definitely one thing that everyone has had to experience at one point or another in their life.

April 19, 2009

Minnesota Nice?

As I was patiently awaiting my stop on the bus this week, I noticed that several people as they got off thanked the bus driver. Usually with a simple “Thanks”, or “Thank you.” I even heard on guy say, “Thanks for the ride, man.” At first I wrote is off as a one time thing thinking, “Huh, that’s kinda weird.” But, as I paid more attention, it became more and more common.

So then, I started thinking maybe it’s just a Minnesota nice thing. Just like honking. Nobody ever honks in Minnesota. And when they do, it is incredibly justified and it’s a short little toot at the last second. Regardless, when I hear someone honk, my initial reaction is, they must not be from around here. Now although, I’m a born and breed Minnesotan, I couldn’t get past how strange this was to me. I kept thinking, “Why are all there people thanking a person for doing their job.”

A few days later I was on a very crowded bus, listening to people get off, and the first several people got off without saying anything, but then a girl thanked the driver as she exited, and so did everyone after her. I was about to get off, and someone thanked the driver, the people following him did as well. When it was my turn, I had a battle in my head, “Should I, should I not, all these other people did, it would be rude if I didn’t.” In that split second I succumbed to this unintentional pressure by all these strangers and thanked the driver. And to my surprise, he seemed to genuinely appreciate this interaction. He really seemed to appreciate my gratitude towards him.

April 5, 2009

The Most Unfortunate Part

I have been taking public transportation long enough and have had plenty of time in the solitude of it to uncover the most unfortunate part of public transportation, the seats.

There are however, certain degrees of the uncomfortable seats. Starting with the best, the bright blue cloth seats that have the extra high back with the M on them. Typically, these seats are on the mega long buses with the accordion in the middle. In my book, they are the best of the worst. The one factor that brings them into the category of uncomfortable, is that they are mounted too high, so my extra short legs fall asleep in no time because they don’t make it anywhere near the floor. But, their extra cushion and velour fabric combination are winners, bringing them in at first place.

Next are the seats with the dark blue vinyl. These are the seats that I encounter the majority of the time. The best part of these seats is how squishy they are. The downside though, is the vinyl and the relatively low back. The vinyl is problematic because if it is a particularly crazy driver, it is quite hard to relax in the silence of strangers when you have to make a strategy for not sliding out of your seat. Then the back of the seat also isn’t really conducive for relaxation. Thus, it comes in at number two.

Finally, the most hated seats of all, the light rail seats. These seats are the worst because they are made of a piece of fabric covering a sheet of metal. There is absolutely no cushion to these seats, causing the entire bottom portion of my body to go numb in seconds. Again, my feet don’t touch the floor, only making it worse. These seats are also so incredibly close to the next one, I feel like I’m sitting on top of the other person. Luckily though, these horrendous seats only make seldom appearances on the buses.

March 22, 2009

The Dreaded Cell Phone

The cell phone is really the one device in the modern world that everyone loves, and loves to hate. Most people never leave home without their phone, and when it is forgotten, that is grounds to turn around and get it. This device, that almost all people have, is something we just can’t imagine living without. It is a convenient porthole to the rest of the world. So why do we hate the cell phone, just as much as we love it? I think that you can find the answer out in public places. Like, at the checkout when people are chatting one their phone instead of paying the cashier. When you’re in your car and that idiot on the phone just cut you off. Also, on the train or the city bus. When someone’s phone rings on the train, they pull it out of their pocket and stare reading and re-reading the caller id screen while the terrible quality ringtone of a hip-hop song blares. Almost as if to say, “HEY EVERONE! LOOK AT ME! I GOT A TEXT MESSAGE!” Another reason we hate the cell phone on public transportation is because when someone answers their phone, everyone in the entire train / bus can hear their entire conversation. It is as if everyone else is in on the conversation too. It has gotten to the point of annoyance where there are little signs by the ceiling that say something along the lines of, “put your phone on silent and wait till you’re out to answer your phone.” I think this is a very good idea and it is much appreciated by me, because I really don’t care that your child got in trouble at school, again.

March 1, 2009

The Commuter

Because of an eight AM class this semester, I have gotten the privilege of being a commuter on the light rail.

Here are some things I have noticed:

1) Men, almost exclusively, read the newspaper. The majority read the Star Tribune, but the Pioneer Press is also represented. No matter which one it is, reading the paper is typically reserved for men on the train.

2) So if the men read the paper, what do the women do? After all they are the majority of light rail commuters. From my observations, women like novels and celebrity tabloids to pass their time on the train. From what I can see, the novels tend to be of the trashy romance variety. The most reoccurring titles are any from the Twilight series and anything by Danielle Steel.

3) Most commuter men are also more conscious than women of the personal space bubble. Not to say that the women don’t acknowledge it, but they tend to creep over it and accidently elbow you more often than men do. Although, at this point I’m unsure if the men are more conscious of my space because of the opposite sex thing, or if men actually pay more attention to it in any situation.

February 15, 2009

Welcome to Public Transportation

During the first week of the new school year, I was on the 50. The 50 is a bus typically populated by University students, and of course, because school was back in session, the bus was crowded. All of the seats were full, and there were a ton more waiting on the curb, so I had to slowly shimmy to the back of the bus and stand in that awkward area, where the people in the last row are facing the front staring at you and the people on either side are also facing you, in the center of the aisle. At first, when the bus jerked into movement, there was the uncomfortable silence of students going through their daily routine. Then a man, who was clearly intoxicated, at eleven in the morning, started asking any young female who merely glanced in his direction, what she was studying. Each girl he asked the question to quickly answered and then tried to look distracted and uninterested when he offered an uncomfortably creepy response. One girl said she was pre- med. The drunken man than felt it was his moral responsibility to let the entire bus know, that there was a “smarty pants? gracing us with her presence. At the first stop, several people were going to get off the bus, and of course I was right in the way. As the bus came to a halt, the girl directly to the drunken man’s right flew up and almost shoved me aside. He not so quickly came to the realization that there was an empty seat next to him, and invited me to sit there. I was trapped; there was no way of getting out of this on account of the people flooding onto the bus. So, I gracelessly fell into the seat. Luckily, a girl rearranging her backpack on her lap caught his eye. He opened with his usual line of, “What are you studying?? She politely answered, not seeming to realize how hammered he was. He continued to ask the girl more and more personal questions ranging from what’s your name and where do you live, to what’s your phone number. As he resumed digging deeper and deeper into the nice girl’s life, she was throwing glances of desperation to anyone who met her gaze. Thankfully, the bus slowed to a stop and the doors opened. Most of the people on the bus were getting out, I noticed though, that the nice girl was the first one out of her seat and I couldn’t help but wonder, “was it really her stop, or was she just trying to escape the drunk guy on the bus.? As we were slowly filing out of the bus, I heard the drunken man mutter something along the lines of, “Welcome to public transportation.?

February 1, 2009

Weed on the Bus

On the 16 leaving the University, after dark, I quickly scanned the length of the bus looking for an empty seat. I was trying to abide be the first unwritten rule of public transportation, never sit next to someone, unless there are no more seats unoccupied. Upon the realization that I would have to share a seat with an unfriendly looking stranger, the bus started moving. I quickly plopped into the seat next to a stranger. After a few short seconds, I started to see that the unidentified male was completely wasted. I tried, unsuccessfully, to not pay attention to him, but the very minute I decided I didn’t care and that he was harmless, he proceeded to start shouting at the guy seated behind us. These two men were undeniably, at the very least, acquaintances. I couldn’t understand what was being said, due to the fact that he was so intoxicated. Moments later, he was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a plastic fold-top sandwich bag, which contained two cigar-shaped logs of weed. Then he continued to tell his friend that this pot had just arrived from Brooklyn earlier that afternoon, and that if he needed anything, to just let him know. And with that the bus pulled up to my stop.