Public 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.