The Public Bus: Is Taking the Last Seat Selfish?

English: I, user aardvarkage, took this pictur...

English: I, user aardvarkage, took this picture on Thursday, November 23, 2006 while riding the RTD light rail train. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When it comes to public transportation, everyone who has been using it for years has some kind of story to tell.  Either the freakin’ buses are late or they’re crowded with hooligans.  For some, buses only run on time during peak hours.  It’s much like Weird Al Yankovick’s “Another One Rides the Bus” song.  Well, really not that extreme!

I ride the light rail or city buses wherever I go.  Though people may complain about the Salt Lake City bus service, I never had any serious problems with it.  The buses always seem to come on time and the light rail trains arrive without any trouble.  That is if there isn’t a ton of snow that nearly buries the tracks or if the electricity doesn’t go out causing the train to stall for who knows how long.  Even worse, if there’s no announcements stating why it stopped running everyone is left in frustration sitting on a stalled train.

Anyway, it goes without saying that during rush hour the trains and buses are crammed with people.  Right before the evening rush most seats are occupied with only one person, but there are maybe one or two seats completely empty.  If there is only one empty seat left and I board the train alone, am I selfish for taking the last empty seat?

I feel like I doing that can be a curse.  It’s like eating dinner with friends when towards the end of the meal there is one last piece of meat remaining on the serving plate.  Should you take it without asking anyone else if they want it?  The truth is that everyone will glance at it, but nobody will touch it feeling it is uncouth to snatch it up.

If you’re courageous you can ask if anyone wants it.  Most likely, everyone will say “no” to avoid the chance of depriving your wish-to eat that last pork chop, steak, or whatever it may be.  You know one thing for sure: it will get thrown out or stored in the refrigerator so why not take a stab at it?  Nobody really will and the host will do whatever she wants to do with it after everyone excused themselves from the table.

I often leave the sole empty seat alone and just sit next to someone.  By doing this I get a kick out of watching people get onboard just to see who will grab it and in most cases, the next boarder usually does.  Still, my consideration goes out to a mother with her children or a group of friends who like to sit together and chat or perhaps someone who is toting home a few bags of groceries.  If I’m the only person in a four-seat section, I will gladly move to allow a group of people to all sit together.

As for riding on a light rail train, when you’re seated, you’re either traveling forward or backwards.  Does it really matter?  You will get to the same place just as fast.  Still, most riders would rather travel forwards.  Because each train travels in either direction you’re often stuck sitting within a set of seats that face each other.  If all the seats are full, just be careful not to stare at those facing you.

Regardless of how full or empty the train is you’ll get that announcement, “Be considerate of others.  Please don’t put your feet on the seats!”  I still do, unless of course someone is sitting opposite of me.  It’s extremely bad to do if your shoes are dirty or wet from the rain and you soil or dampen the seat for the person who will have to sit there.

Then there are those who transport their bicycles on trains or buses.  It’s so nice to have the pull-down racks where you can place your bike in the grooves and slide the bar over the front wheel.  The only glitch is if someone has their bike on the outer groove making it really hard to put yours on the inner one.  Worse yet, you wait for the bus and it finally comes, only to find that the bike rack is full.  “Oh s***!” is all you can say.

Sometimes the bus driver will let you take your bike onto the bus, if it’s full, but man that is a pain in the “you know where.”  Then you have people trying to walk past you without clipping their heels on your pedals and that creates a nuisance.  It can be painful for passengers if they’re not careful.  Thank god, it’s much easier rolling your bike onto a train, especially if its floor is at ground level.  If it has stairs, just let your bike lay in the staircase where the doors will not be opened and pray you won’t come to a station that is accessible from either side.

As for buses, if you tow a bike, some drivers give you a card and some don’t.  Why is that?  It all depends on the guy behind the wheel.  Those that don’t, you just have to alert them when you get off by saying something like this: “I will need a few minutes to remove my bike!”  Some take offense as if they’re being treated like an idiot while others are cool about it.  The last thing you need is the driver to pull away the moment you step off that bus with your bike still on the rack or worse yet, an inattentive driver running your over as you try to retrieve it.   Neither has happened to me yet.  Thank god!






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