Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Monday, February 23, 2009

Just like the Hollies

I've noticed today that Seattlites don't queue for the bus very well. People mill about at the stop nicely enough, and acknowledge other passengers when each arrives, but when the bus shows up down the street, instead of forming a nice, neat line in the order of arrival, everyone seems to wander about in some sort of Brownian motion until the bus actually stops, when they all cluster in a knot at the door, even though they should know they will have to step back and let passengers off before the driver will let them on.

What's up with this? Where is the famed Seattle Politeness, and the collectivism that this nigh-unto-socialist blue state is supposed to represent? If you drive down a narrow street in Queen Anne or Cap Hill, people are screeching their tires to pull their Priuses aside in order to allow you the right of way between rows of parked cars, even when you are still a half a block away; in Whole Foods or QFC, anyone with only an item or two is cheerfully waved ahead of the carts stuffed full of organic vegetables, free-range meat, and fair-trade coffee. Why doesn't this same sense of self-sacrifice carry over into mass transit? I would have expected that Pacific Northwesterners would slow things down by backing off and nodding, smiling, and gesturing to each other to go first; no, you go; no, I insist, but that's not the way it is.

It isn't that the bus riders are being aggressive in that outta-my-way, I'm-here-first manner that, say, New Yorkers can be; it's more like they have no idea how the process is supposed to work, and the jockeying around the door is more Three Stooges than Roller Derby. If it is unfamiliarity that is the underlying cause, where do we lay the blame? Merely on the overwhelming influence of Car Culture in West as a whole? On the choice Seattle made back in the seventies to go after federal highway money and let mass transit languish, resulting in a populace less familiar with buses than most people in cities of similar size? On a shh-don't-mention-it classism about mass transit that keeps most Seattlites from ever becoming regular riders, so just about everyone is a newbie all the time? Whatever the root, it really shows.

I guess it's not the worst hurdle in the commuting world. I still like getting to work by bus: it's quick, I don't get stressed, and I can even sleep on the way (try that in your Prius). I just let all the other little passenger-molecules bump their way onto the coach first, and then climb on with a veteran's patient smile, find a seat, and snooze away.


John said...

I sort of prefer that we don't, as a city, queue up at buses. I've never felt that people were rude or pushy about it... just that they didn't want to form up in a line. There's something quite gratifying about that to me. It reminds me that we don't live in London.

Juliet said...

I second you, John. I think the bus stop globbyness is okay. People are polite once you're on the bus. Be proud you're a veteran rider. Worry instead about the idiot tourist who doesn't understand coffee bar etiquette and hovers over the barista and steals your drink.

Lonnie said...

I find myself trying to make sure I'm not the last to hop on the bus. Lately I had to stand more often and it's tough to nap that way.