25 September 2007


I'd like to know what bit you this morning. I've been riding the #10 bus in Austin, on and off for a couple of years, and I've sat next to children, construction workers, homeless people, people who smelled a bit funny, and even people who took up a little more than their seat. None of these situations were unpleasant. Maybe they were less than ideal, but surely, not enough to make me quit taking the bus, or enough to put me in a bad mood.

What's more, in my 10 years of taking public transportation -- I've taken subways in Rome, Monterrey, Boston, and Washington, D.C.; busses in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Austin, Los Angeles, and Mexico; the BART and the CALtrain in the CA Bay Area; the "T" in Chicago -- yes, let me stress that in my 10 years of taking public transportation, I've never run into a malcontent such as you.

I boarded the bus this morning at 7:34, and I took a window seat (the paired seat kind, forward facing). Of course, anyone familiar enough with public transportation knows that the seats are not very ample. It's part of the joy - you will rub shoulders with the person next to you, more often that not. These seats, at best, are usually best accomodating to a small person like myself. As you can see, in the following photo, even if the girl did not have her leg crossed, her hips might very likely be a hair away from the person sitting next to her:

When I sat down, like the average commuter, I had my purse, my lunchbox, and my book. My purse is one of those small-sized jobs, which is just large enough to hold my wallet, my phone, a few necessities, and a small notebook. It's the kind that you can strap across your chest, with the bag hanging by your hip, adding about an extra four inches of girth to my hips. My hips are about 32 inches, so as you can see, even if I wear a purse on my hip, I am still not unreasonably taking a humongous amount of space. That would be 20 inches of space across that I was inhabiting for the moment.

My lunchbox, on the other hand, was sitting in the space between the seats, and it was encroaching a few inches into the seat next to mine. So, lady, when you sat next to me, even though there were plenty of other seats behind me, I moved my lunchbox, even though you asked me, with a snark in your voice and a glare in your eyes, "Do you want to move that?"

That. Yes, my lunchbox, the thing that might give you some kind of incurable disease, I'll move THAT. After all, I would not want to soil your grossly coordinated black and red outfit, down to your ponytail holder and your oversized purse. I'm a nice person like that, so I moved my lunchbox down to the floor.

Five minutes into the ride, as I tried to continue reading and mind my own business, I could sense your miserable sighs and your repulsion as I turned the pages in my book, or adjusted my legs slightly so my lunchbox would not careen down the aisles at each stop.

It should have been no surprise to me when you asked me with a double-snark in your voice, and a double-glare in your eyes, to "please move your purse." That's when I said, "I think I will just move to the back," because I was tired of your pathetic unhappiness with the world. To which you replied, "Yes, maybe you should." After I moved, you moved into the seat I'd just vacated, and you placed your monstrous purse in the empty seat next to you.

When I sat in those back seats, which were plenty ample, I could not help staring at the back of your head, wishing a person with the most unbearable stink would sit next to you, maybe even force you to move your oversized purse out of the empty seat next to you. I also could not help but wonder what could have made you such an angry woman. Because I see people get on the bus who are struggling with poverty, teenage motherhood, and hard manual labor, while it looked like you were dressed to go work in an office. Yet, none of those other people looked or acted as miserable as you. I'd just like to know what horrible things happened to you that you think it's okay to take your anger out on a stranger who was causing you no harm. Maybe, then, I might understand, or have some empathy.

I'd just like you to know this, lady: next time, if you sit next to me, and you don't like, YOU move.



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