Revenge of the Nerds

Photo by Flickr user bayat

I braved the crowds of tourists and shoppers in Union Square to take advantage of the July 4th holiday sales and scored a terrific deal on a new comforter. I live fairly close to downtown SF and try to walk everywhere I can within reason but catching the 45 Union back home seemed reasonable now that I was lugging this large, unwieldy bag around with me. I walked a few blocks to 3rd and Market to catch the bus, ensuring that I’d get on before the crowds destined for Chinatown boarded. I snagged the perfect seat in the last row of double seats before the final row along the back, with plenty of legroom for me to balance my bedding-bag on my feet in front of me.

Sure enough, the bus started to fill up at the very next stop. One of the passengers towered above the usual contingent of Asian women with produce bags, a tall white guy who lumbered towards the back, glassy-eyed, open-mouthed, his significant gut leading the way. My Muni-attuned spidey senses were tingling—something about this guy was a bit off. He carried himself with the awkward air of those who don’t have a good grasp on the rules of social interaction. (His sci-fi convention-style t-shirt blaring “NEXT STOP: MARS!” helped complete the impression.) As he surveyed the open seats I silently projected my intentions. Don’t you f*ing sit here, dude. Don’t even think about it. Swayed by my venomous mental force-field (or more likely by the expanse of open seats along the back row), he plunked himself down behind me. He immediately started questioning one of the people seated by the windows about an item he carried, further confirming my snap assessment that this guy did not observe the Rule of the Bus.

When the object of his uninvited chatter hurriedly got off at the next stop (coincidence?), Mr. No Social Awareness immediately turned his focus to the woman sitting directly behind me, asking her about her iPhone. At this same moment the bus driver started yelling at someone. I looked up but couldn’t see who he was targeting. Heads started to turn towards the back of the bus. He finally got the attention of the iPhone interrogator behind me. Apparently he’d boarded the bus without showing the driver his pass. I’m not sure why it took the driver a whole stop to realize this, but it sounded like from the exchange that followed that this guy often pulled this same action on this line/driver. The guy behind me was infuriated at being called out, insisting that he had showed his pass. The tone of this verbal confrontation escalated quickly into a full-volume shouting match, I could actually feel the rage-filled intensity emanating from directly behind me. I felt terrible for the woman wedged in next to him. When he issued the challenge to the driver to call the cops on him, I knew this standoff was not ending soon. I picked up my bag and made my way off the bus and started to walk the rest of the way home.

I was a block from Union Square, right where I’d first decided taking the bus home would be a good plan.

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