Get your own
  diary at! older entries newest entry

Favorite Reading:


2007-09-14 - 5:01 p.m.

...a few thoughts about public transit....

I've become embroiled in another excruciatingly annoying battle with the building operations folk up at Mountain. My mother informs me that getting my blood all boiled up is bad for "PAT." So I am currently lying on the sofa and trying to think nice thoughts, while K fills the air with the marvelous scent of baked apple cake. heavenly.

Today, I got some excellent feedback on my course and how it is going. I've had a feeling that things were going well, and now I've heard it from a couple of students directly and indirectly. This is what they want to learn. And, my ability to communicate with them through discussions has improved tremendously. We will add this to the "good" and "nice thoughts" part of today, rather than thinking about the evil building operations guy. (bad guy. bad guy. oops - nice fluffy thoughts. nice fluffy thoughts. ooowwwwwwwwmmmmmmmmm....)

Yesterday was the first time that someone actually got up and gave me her seat on the bus. I'm not quite to the point of feeling so pregnant that this is something that I NEED - but, well, actually, it was a godsend. I was aching; I am still getting over a cold; and I am just too freakin' short to reach the top bar to stabilize myself while standing near the front of the bus. I wanted to give this kind woman an award - or a kiss - but well, I think that a "you are very kind" with my genuinely grateful smile was probably sufficient.

It got me to thinking about transit behavior - well, actually, I think about transit behavior quite a lot, because I encounter it all the time.

Actually, one thing that I so remember about the bus and subway riders in NYC - they were most polite people I think I've ever encountered on public transportation. I think I can remember about one, maybe two, unpleasant incidents. But hey - THAT's IMPRESSIVE, don't you think? I rode the bus every day for more than two years. People were just nice to each other.

Part of me would like to write a sociology paper on the behavior of people on public transportation, because I begin to see several patterns.

One thing in Vancouver is that people are generally more clueless about the efficient use of space in buses and trains - they tend to crowd near entrances, walk slowly and in multiple directions, or just stand and block major throughways. I think it's a function of growing up in a country (or part of the country) with LOTS of space. No sense of how to behave in crowded situations. Either that or it's the drugs.

I do tend to detect ethnic patterns in crowded behavior, however. One thing that I've noticed is that the Chinese and Hong Kong immigrants seem much more comfortable in crowded spaces - this hypothesis was probably formed a priori, though....but I've started to detect what I think are definite cultural differences in how to deal with confined spaces on buses. Many times, I've been poked somewhat sharply in the arm by an elderly Chinese gentleman or lady. I turn around to discover that they are trying to direct me to an open seat. I've seen this happen on many buses, and now I've seen it happen to other people, too.

I've also realized that there is a cultural way of dealing with letting people out of seats. On about five occasions where I or someone else has been sitting on the inside seat, I've noticed that the Chinese person will not get up to let me out. They will scoot aside a little bit, but it is up to me to move around them. At first I thought that this was really rude (I think I first saw it in NYC). But after seeing it occur multiple times, I've come to realize that it is just cultural - the same way that rushing the door for the ferry was par for the course in Sweden. It's just the accepted way of doing something. It's kind of helpful to realize things like this - because you learn what to expect, and when you realize that it's just a different way of doing something, you don't feel like someone is being intentionally unhelpful.

I've had the pleasure recently of being in several positive group-bus-dynamics, and boy it's nice to remember these moments to counter those times when you have to deal with a real asshole on a bus (because THEY can overwhelm your day).

Buses in Vancouver are frequently packed with people - and the populations are distinctive. There are students, and elderly, and homeless, lots of low-income people, with a smattering of middle class types. It's quite the potpourri of color and ethnicity. And so I guess that's why I really love those moments when a dynamic develops and people have to talk to or help each other. Because all of these distinctions - which normally would be a barrier to communication - are ignored. Buses can be a great equalizer - we are all in it together, just trying to get home.

leave a note

...they are just words, Suzi... - 2011-08-29
...the nature of doing science... - 2011-07-22
....what is your place knowledge? - 2011-07-21's Friday... - 2011-07-15
...a small ripple on the big wave... - 2011-02-04

previous - next

about me - read my profile! read other Diar
yLand diaries! recommend my diary to a friend! Get
 your own fun + free diary at!