Thursday, December 02, 2010

Bus talk

Bus etiquette is different from etiquette on other kinds of transit. Buses are cheaper than faster, more convenient forms of transit (rail, cars, planes), so you get a poorer clientele. Maybe the etiquette difference is cultural, but I think it also has to do with the correlation between poverty and mental illness.

In any case, there's this woman who rides my Tuesday evening bus. She's always trying to get other passengers to go to church with her, and I once heard her propose marriage to a stranger. She also doesn't know how to regulate the volume of her voice. This week when I got on the bus she was talking loudly on her phone.

After a while, a man behind me began shouting back. "Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah! Shaddap!" Talking Woman did not appear to notice.

Once Angry Man voiced this complaint, other passengers apparently began to see Talking Woman as an actual problem (though Angry Man was far more annoying). A well-dressed woman who looked like she normally would not speak to anyone on a bus approached the driver. "Excuse me, there's a woman who's been talking nonstop on her cell phone." The driver grunted that there was nothing he could do.

But now Angry Man turned against Bourgeois Woman. "Nobody can stop her from talking! She's got a constitutional right! What is it, third amendment? Freedom of the press!"

This doesn't happen on the commuter rail.


Alex K-G said...

There was a woman on the 66 bus when I took it the other day who appeared to be talking on her cellphone, but upon closer examination was just talking to herself. I wonder if it was the same woman.

Julia Wise said...

There's no shortage of nutty people on buses. But this woman lives in Salem, and I think she's sane but mentally retarded.

SarahE said...

(Note: this is Sarah E from BMC, Batten, etc. Hi!)

I've noticed these distinctions too, particularly comparing Greyhound to Amtrak for long trips. (Heck, comparing Greyhound to BoltBus, given the seemingly wealthier laptop-carrying folks who tend to ride BoltBus.)

So far as mental illness and socioeconomic class, I read an interesting book looking at the rise of neoliberalism (i.e. Reganomics and onward) in connection with the significant increase in diagnoses of depression & other mental illnesses. It's called Depression and Globalization by Carl Walker. He does a good job (I think) of evaluating the many factors at work here - everything from welfare policy to changes in how different conditions are diagnosed.

Preview here:

Hope you're well!