Monday, April 5, 2010

Adventures in Public Transportation

I'm writing this post from a bus destined for Washington DC. Since moving to New York a couple years ago, I've made this 5-hour trek to our nation's capitol at least ten times. Lucky for me and my habit of getting of homesick, a handful of my closest friends from college now live there. I book a bus ticket whenever I'm jonesing for a few familiar faces. It's cheap (at least a quarter of what you pay for the train), and, with an iPod or book, how bad can a few lazy hours on a bus really be?

When you have my bus luck, pretty terrible. I specify "bus luck" because in the outside-of-bus world, I'm actually a very lucky person. I've won bicycles and all-expense paid trips in raffles. I constantly run into celebrities. And, somehow, I managed to find a good job in New York City in just two weeks. I'm lucky. Just not so much in chartered motor vehicles.

As I write this from the bus, minutes before departure, I have already deployed my please-don't-sit-next-to-me strategy. My goal is to make the other seat in my row as undesirable as possible so the last passengers boarding don't plop down beside me for the ride.

It's not easy.

Not to toot my own horn, but the seat next to mine in a bus is pretty much prime real estate. I'm a girl. I'm not broad-shouldered or over-sized, smelly-looking or holding a screaming a baby.

So, to throw off this pleasant impression, I have developed very specific tactics. First, I sit and spread the contents of my bag across the empty window seat beside me. Who would want to sit in that hot mess? Then, I get on my phone or (in this case) start typing away to avoid eye contact with passengers shuffling through the aisle looking for a seat. I don't dare run the risk of seeming welcoming. And lastly, the pièce de résistance: I unwrap a tuna sandwich and leave it open on my lap.

I should pause to explain why I'm so eager to sit solo.

During at least half of the many rides that I've braved to DC, I have been forced to rub elbows with pretty miserable company. Some of the standouts being frosted-tips Micah whose prickly shaved biceps kept sticking to me as he pounded cans of Miller Light and recounted the top 25 moments from his college frat days. Then there was the Asian lady who's name I didn't happen to catch while she was passed out, drooling inches away from my shoulder and snort snoring for three hours until she decided to wake up to eat the most God-awful smelling Tupperware of unidentifiable food. And, who can forget the short guy who shouted into his Blackberry so much that another more confrontational passenger asked him to shut the **** up?

As foolproof as my strategy may seem, the seat beside me absolutely always fills up. It doesn't matter if the bus is empty. With my luck, there's always a creepy/smelly/noisy person who asks to squeeze in.

Just a minute ago, I got the familiar nod and "Excuse me, can I?" from another passenger. He's already tearing into a peanut butter sandwich and wiping sticky fingers in the gap between our seats.

Four and a half more hours to go.

Good thing those familiar faces in DC are worth it.

1 comment:

  1. The tuna sandwich didn't work?? Yikes, I thought that was fail proof for sure. Next time pack hard boiled eggs.