The Psychology of Choice

When I first became a commuter, the greatest source of stress came from having to quickly determine the best place to sit when I boarded the bus. I made a LOT of rookie mistakes – sitting in the very front or far back of the bus being among them. The far back is occupied by the experienced and territorial riders. I am not, and may never be accepted there. The front of the bus must be reserved for persons with disabilities, moms with ridiculously big strollers that they refuse to fold up even if they’re supposed to and who never stop texting the whole time their toddler is sucking on a bottle and grabbing strangers pant legs with her grubby little hands (don’t get me started!), the elderly and the morbidly obese. Also, certain irritating passengers enjoy standing near the driver and making loud, stupid comments on subjects they know nothing about. First lesson learned: Sit in the middle of the bus near the rear exit.

Anyway, after 7 months, I have assembled a mental checklist of  factors to assist me in choosing my seat wisely. They’re not in any particular order, and most often I am choosing between the lesser of two evils, as they say. However, if two seats are empty, I will dash for the window seat and take my chances on who sits next to me. Sometimes that choice has been regrettable, but usually worth the risk. Ok, the list! Again, not in any particular order of importance, just frequent seating choices I try to avoid…

Overflowers = I steer clear of seats where the window seat occupant’s body requires 1/4 or more of the aisle seat. I’ll perch on the edge only if I’ve exhausted other options.

Phone talkers & music listeners w/out headphones = The biggest problem with this category is that none of the rest of us can get far enough away. Why lady, do you think I want to hear you give your sister details of your colonoscopy? And why, young man with the pants around your knees, if I had a choice, would I listen to your shitty music? Decent earbuds cost what…$10? You own an iPhone 5, I think you can afford earbuds.

Drinkers = The type of person who drinks Mountain Dew or whiskey in the morning is the type that might inadvertently spill, spit or burp my direction. The sipping and gulping sounds alone are enough to make me gag.

Eaters = Where are you going to put that banana peel? Apple core? McDonald’s wrapper? I thought so…most eaters are inconsiderate. There are few exceptions.

Chronic coughers = Self-explanatory. I bring cough drops and hand them out as needed.

Sleepers = They may drool, snore, talk, flail their arms, have jerky legs..or worse yet, actually be dead. If/when I discover that the person seated next to me is dead, it will, at the least, make me late for work. At most, this would totally ruin my evening.

So, that is my list. It’s not exhaustive, by any means. One of the things I love about riding the #54, or any city bus for that matter, is that I never know who is going to be on the bus or what split-second choices I will be required to make.

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