the good, the bad and the even worse
I use the bus because driving and parking sucks in a city. I complain about using the bus because it’s not as good as it should be in these parts, given the aforementioned facts about driving and parking. Sometimes, I have more complex interactions and thoughts about the bus, where I want to strangle everyone on it, but still come away glad I wasn’t too lazy to stand eye-to-eye with my fellow SF residents.
I had one of those mixed experiences on a 38-Geary recently, and am simultaneously glad, horrified and stupefied about the whole thing.
A roughly 20-year-old woman carrying what looked like a three-year-old girl got on the bus, through the back door, next to my seat. She was with someone who seemed like a sister, carrying a folded-up stroller, and someone who seemed like a brother. I get up and let the woman with the girl sit down, because I’m a super-nice person.
As if on cue, a middle-aged woman tells the maybe-sister to turn the stroller wheels away from her pants. She says this is because she doesn’t want her pants – simple blue jeans – to get dirty. The woman who’s now sitting down correctly says, testily, that it’s a bus. It’s really crowded. The wheels, which didn’t have poop or excessive amounts of dirt on them as far as I could tell, are going to be touching someone because they kind of have to at this point. What do you want us to do?
Simple Blue Jeans and Woman Holding Kid then go on, back and forth, for a few minutes, essentially talking about who’s the bigger asshole. SBJ then morphs into a soft-spoken, singsong crazy person who teases WHK into various angry, though quiet, responses.
Things overheard from SBJ, now speaking like an insane child in horror movies:
“You can turn (the wheels) toward you, not on me, I don’t want my pants to get dirty.”
“You got a seat, why are you so stressed out?” (repeated over and over again to WHK)
“Look lady…oh wait, you’re not even a lady; you’re a young girl. You’re a young girl.” (Emphasis not mine)
The worst part is that I don’t even think she was actually crazy.
After more back-and-forth, Bystander 1 then suggests SBJ, who was doing much of the argumentative fire-stoking, just stop talking to WHK and chill out. I spoke up at this point, agreeing that everyone needed to chill the fuck out.
SBJ then started spreading the love to a new set of people, from what I could hear. She grabbed a seat when it opened up near the back, then regaled a woman with tales of how awesome she actually is, and how she was totally the victim in that situation. Actual quote: “They had no right to get so upset with me.” Other factlets include her Russian heritage, her natural abundance of body hair, where in Russia her father was from, how this is related to why she has this much body hair, and how pretty the woman sitting next to her was. I know these things because she was saying them, loudly, while several rolled their eyes at her transparent, self-conscious attempt to be casual and interesting to perhaps the only stranger she hadn’t wronged on this ride.
-Was SBJ making fun of WHK for possibly being a young parent? Because that would be…mean, right?
-There was one obvious subtext of her youth statement, I thought: I didn’t expect you to bite back. So…you can’t talk to me that way, even though I’m being a bitch, because now I’m embarrassed.
I’m actually glad I watched it all unfold, even though it was grating to see and hear. To be overly grandiose about it, riding public transit is like watching the best and worst parts of people unfold, then quickly come flying at your face, whether you like it or not. There are good things, like nice people defending strangers. There are bad things, like strangers attacking each other, in a crowded venue, for a really silly reason. And there are even worse things, like trying to make yourself feel vindicated in a jury of bus-riders who think you should just shut up and leave well enough alone.
Tara Ramroop can’t wait for her next sociological Muni experiment, preferably after a long day at work. On Muni (and in life) she hopes to be mostly good, occasionally bad and never worse.