Sunday, March 13, 2016

BUS STORY # 488 (Manners: The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly)

Photo by Busboy

We’ve pulled up to a stop and I can see from my window seat there are four people waiting to board. Two of them are an elderly couple, one with a walker, and I can see the other two boarders make way for them.

The driver sees them, too, and he kneels the bus. That causes the couple sitting on the two-seat passenger side bench reserved for the elderly and handicapped to turn and look at the boarders.

They are a young couple. He’s in shorts and a T-shirt, close-cropped hair, black earrings. She looks like she could be in grade school, but everything else about her says she’s either late teens or 20s.

They look over the boarders, taking them all in, then turn back and stay seated. There is absolutely no sign that the possibility has even registered that they might vacate these seats for the elderly couple and move further back in the largely empty bus.

Across from them, sitting on the bench seats behind the driver, is a big guy in a bright blue sweatshirt that has “Jesus” printed in large white letters across the front and down both sleeves. He’s sitting in the middle of the three-seat bench, flanked on either side by a back pack and a duffel bag. He can see the boarders, too, and he doesn’t give any indication of moving, either.

This sign is posted at the end of both bench seats:

Photo by Busboy

There is no indication either the couple or the man in blue has seen the sign. Or perhaps both have seen the sign next to the seats across the aisle and are thinking it applies to the other side, not theirs. Or both have read the sign but believe the other should be the one to move -- the man because there’s only one of him; the couple because the man has two bags.

I don’t believe their inaction has anything to do with the sign. I believe they are oblivious of the sign. Because they are not oblivious of the old couple, I believe they are stunningly thoughtless -- literally, without thought.

They remain thoughtless while the old man shuffles behind his walker, tentatively negotiating passage between the couple on his left and the big blue-shirted guy on his right.

He’s gotta be in his late 70s, or maybe even his 80s. It’s warm out, but he’s wearing off-white trousers, a tan sports jacket, and a canvas hat that resembles a pith helmet.

He pushes the walker against the first forward-facing row, and very slowly tries to turn to position himself so he can sit down. The couple watches all this impassively, as does the man across from them.

Meanwhile, the old woman is still at the till. The driver motions for the remaining two riders to come aboard. They show him their IDs, but they can’t get past the old man and his walker.

The old man finally gets turned around, and the two younger riders squeeze on by. But once they’ve passed, he doesn’t sit.

I see the old woman finish at the till and move toward the old man. She’s surely in her late 70s, dressed up in a long skirt and a purple jacket. She’s wearing a purple hat that not even Google will be able to find later, but that looks like it might be right at home on the set of some PBS British period-piece. The effect is as if a broad brim had been pulled severely down on both sides of her head, so that her face is framed by an almost heart-shaped purple flower.

She stands in front of the old man, and does not see a seat.

It is at this point the man in the Jesus shirt suddenly snaps to what is happening. He hurriedly grabs both his bags, moves them to the empty first forward-facing row to his left, then vacates the bench.

The driver starts to pull out, then realizes the old man is still standing in the aisle with his walker. He brakes and waits. That’s when it hits me: the old man is waiting until his wife is seated. Of course! That’s the way it was done back in the day.

The woman takes a seat. The old man could maneuver the walker once again so he can sit beside her, and I think he considers it. But he’s already in a position to sit, and I’m sure he knows how slow he is. And so he sits down, slowly, where he is -- another kind of consideration for others from back in the day when consideration for others played a greater role in people’s consciousness.

The driver pulls out. Now that the show is over, the young couple turns toward the windshield for something else to entertain them.


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