I See Your Face Before Me
The number of people that get on the bus on any given morning is highly variable, and depends on a number of different things: class schedules, the day of the week, the weather outside, the alignment of the planets, and so forth. Some days, the bus is nearly deserted, and you can stretch out, put your bag on the seat next to you, and enjoy the ride. Most often, the bus is fairly well occupied, and by the last major â€śpick upâ€? stop before it hits highway there are probably no more than a half dozen people standing. On one particular day, though, Jupiter and Neptune were in a dangerous position, and the bus became ridiculously crowded. Every seat was already taken, and people were already standing, when the bus pulled up to a particular stop and a massive crowd of people made their way on board.
I have no idea why there were so many people at that stop at that time on that day; it was certainly not matched at any time during the year . But for whatever reason, people began to pour into the already crowded bus, leading the bus driver to scream repeatedly for everyone to move back so that everyone could get on board. Encouraged by the bus driverâ€™s shouted insistence, people shuffled and shuffled towards the back. Bodies compressed and became compacted, and every bit of available floor space was taken up by a pair of feet. It was at this time that I experienced an excruciatingly awkward situation.
It is probably apparent that I attract awkward situations to me in an almost magnetic manner, either in reality or in my mind, which is probably a reflection of some kind of horrible personality flaw of my part. Luckily, this particular situation did not involve myself, but was something I observed from my luckily obtained seat near the back. I seem to hone into awkwardness like a well trained pigeon, and I was thus instantly aware of the slow motion disaster taking place in front of me.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that bus seats were not designed with the United Stateâ€™s current obesity epidemic in mind. Neither, it should be noted, were the aisles. On this particular day, one unusually large woman was part of the crowd inching backwards to make room for the newcomers, and soon enough every bit of space in back was occupied. People, already jammed together, could compress no further. Having gone as far as physically possible, the woman in turned around and faced towards the front of the bus in typical standing mode.
Unfortunately, the people in the first half of the bus were still being herded back to make room in front, and as it happened, and next person after the woman was an equally obese man. He was facing the back of the bus, as this was the direction he was headed, but he had not accounted for the tremendous pressure of the crowd behind him, which drove him further than he probably intended to go. Before either of them knew it, they were jammed into each other, belly to belly. The bus at this point had reached its maximum possible occupancy, and there was no room whatsoever for anyone to move an in either direction. To make matters worse, both the man and the woman were so large, and the aisle was so full, that neither of them could actually rotate in place away from the other, meaning that they were pressed with uncomfortable intimacy into each other, staring at each other face to face, and there wasnâ€™t a single thing either of them could do about it.
This situation persisted for nearly the entire bus ride, until the 144 reached campus and people began to leave. It was horrible, but it was like a gruesome accident on the news â€“ my attention was riveted on this small morning disaster. Looking horrified and embarrassed, both the man and the woman attempted to look anywhere else than the otherâ€™s face, but it was a situation that allowed for limited mobility, and there were not a lot of other options. I could barely contain my fascination and was helplessly fixated on the sublime awkwardness of the situation â€“ probably the single most horrible and beautiful experience I encountered on the bus all year.