A Matter of Etiquette.

etiquettePublic transportation etiquette is not written in stone. In fact it’s not written down anywhere as far as I know, although I don’t have any of Emily Post’s oeuvre handy at the moment. I do have some general rules I try to follow. For instance I believe people should board in the order of their arrival at the bus stop. When I got to the stop the other day there was an older woman already there so I was fully prepared to defer to her. We waited and then I could see the bus a couple of blocks away, behind a line of half a dozen cars.

The bus stop was at an intersection and the line of cars pulled up just as the light turned red, leaving them stuck there. And the bus was stuck too, about half a block away. I realize in city terms a “block” is not an absolute measure and the term has confused me ever since I was a kid and my parents would talk about “taking a walk around the block”. I had a bunch of wooden blocks with letters on them but they were so small it was easier to step over them than walk around one. And the size of blocks varies from city to city and even from block to block. In New York, for instance, a block may only be two or three hundred feet long on one side while in Boise a block extends twenty miles, but that’s another story.

Let’s just say the bus was within easy walking distance. And the etiquette in such a situation varies from driver to driver. Some prefer that the passengers-in-waiting get up and walk to the bus so when the light turns green they can go on without stopping. Others prefer that we wait to be picked up at the authorized bus stop. I usually defer to the former, but the woman at the stop next to me was remaining firmly seated.

And there’s the conundrum. If I walked down to the bus and was let on I’d be getting on ahead of her. And if I wasn’t let on I was going to look like a jackass. And either way the driver was going to have to stop and pick her up. So my only choice was to stay put, but I also sat there wondering, didn’t she know the etiquette? Most people in that situation walk down to the bus. If it’s hot or rainy or cold or even if it’s a really nice day it’s better to get on the bus sooner rather than later even if it means a bit of extra walking.

Then the light changed, the cars moved, the bus stopped in front of us, and the woman next to me picked up her cane. And it made sense why she wasn’t interested in taking walking even an extra half a block.

I just wish I’d gotten on the bus first. I don’t need Emily Post to tell me I should have let her take the seat closer to the front.

 

13 Comments

  1. Gilly Maddison

    Gosh, this took me back to my first experience with bus queues in Canada. In the UK, (well, at least in small towns but not sure about London now), we form orderly queues which we NEVER dishonour by jumping. Bus queue etiquette here is genetic. If you are thoroughly British, you are born ‘knowing’ how to queue for a bus and get on in strict order of arrival. If a foreigner tries to upset this ritual, we tut very loudly and glare at them until the shame sends them to their correct place. So imagine my utter shock when I emigrated to Canada and had my first bus-stop experience. It was like a rugby scrum at the entrance to the bus. It was so alien to me I was unable to participate and missed the bus. That was my first culture shock on arriving in what I thought was a civilised country. The second was finding milk came in plastic bags.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Milk in plastic bags is almost as reprehensible as a rugby scrum to get on the bus. Unless there’s a time limit I’m not aware of everybody’s going to get on the bus in due course. I’ve never seen a driver go off and leave someone who was standing there at the bus stop–although there have been a couple of times when the driver didn’t notice me running to catch him before the doors closed, but that’s another story.
      Needless to say I prefer the British inborn etiquette.

      Reply
  2. halfa1000miles

    There was only the two of you at the stop? Man, I would know no public transportation etiquette, but it would feel wrong to board before her to me too. It reminds me of standing in line at the grocery store, and the next lane opens up. As next in line, is it MY first option to stay where I am or move? Do the people directly behind me get the next option? Or do the people at the back of the line move over?

    Question: Are those bars put there so homeless people can’t lay down?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Not a lot of people ride the bus around here. Most days I sit at the stop by myself. It’s unusual for there to be another person at the stop, although a few times there have been as many as three other people waiting for the bus with me. Four’s a crowd.
      And, yeah, the bars are there so the homeless can’t nap on the benches which seems pretty obnoxious to me. That was the subject of one of my first posts about busing.
      So few people ride the bus I have no problem with the homeless using the benches to sit down and rest.

      Reply
      1. halfa1000miles
  3. mydangblog

    I don’t know about bus stops in Canada, aside from smaller towns where the queue is very civilized, but I always laugh at the train station in Toronto where we politely line up even though every one has reserved seating.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s very nice that everyone lines up politely. And it makes sense. The only reason I can think of to rush ahead of others to get seated first is if you have a preferred seat. Some people do. Some people prefer to face the direction the train is going. Oddly enough I never really thought about that until someone asked if they could trade seats with me on a full train and I gladly obliged. As long as I have a window seat I’m happy.

      Reply
  4. Margot

    Such are the challenges of being a True Southern Gentleman…

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Indeed. Southern hospitality may be dying but I do what little I can to resuscitate it.
      Oh, and welcome back. I hope you’ve been doing well. I noted your absence but I hope you won’t consider it rude that I failed to mention it previously.

      Reply
  5. Claire

    Now that’s interesting, because in Sweden you would never, but ever, get on or off a bus other than at its designated stop. It might be law, but it could just be a rule – because if there is one thing Swedes are fond of, it’s being naked. And also rules. It can be maddening – the amount of times I’ve been trapped on a bus, metres away from where I need to go, but know I have no hope of being freed until traffic inches by a distance I would have covered if I had just got off the bus and tripped up.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That must be incredibly maddening, although it’s hard to say whether it’s more maddening that sometimes I’ve been on the bus eager to get home while the driver insists on stopping at random places to pick up anyone regardless of where they’re standing.
      It’s useful to know, though, that Swedes are at least as fond of rules as they are of being naked. I assume their love of rules overrides their love of being naked in places where it’s against the rules to be naked.

      Reply
  6. Mrs Fancy-Pants

    Trains in Sydney could be a bit feral. Etiquette? What etiquette? My husband took one in to the city every day for work, and had a favorite spot, which was also the favorite spot of an older woman who boarded at the same station. They used to each try to get to it first every morning. I used to call her his nemesis. Every man/woman for themselves 😀

    I think Bus People might be a bit more civilized than Train People.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Having a nemesis is admirable. It means your husband is out there living life. And I believe I have many examples to counter the assertion that Bus People might be more civilized than Train People. I’d actually think it would be the other way around, although it’s been sixteen years since I last rode a train, and that was a train operated solely for tourists.
      We can all agree, though, that Plane People are the absolute worst.

      Reply

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