Friday, March 23, 2007

bus conversation

In Seattle, it is ... enormously difficult to start or maintain conversations on the bus, which is the main mode of public transport. People sit in their seats, and by and large they don't interact with or talk to or even look at each other. Trying to overcome this cultural coldness, one feels rather like one of those bugs you see skating around on the surface of a pond or lake. The bug is certainly heavier than water, but they don't sink because they're not heavy enough to break the surface tension of the water.

Breaking the surface tension on the bus to engage in conversation is often too difficult for me, despite my good intentions and actual desire. It takes a certain amount of emotional and psychological energy which I often can't muster.

Sometimes, however, I have these amazing and brilliant conversations. Today I met and chatted with one Charles Jackson, formerly of Oakland. He is 86 years old and has been in Seattle for 16 years. He was the first black man in the United States Maritime Service. I'd never even *heard* of the U.S. Maritime Service. Charles looks about 60 years old, fit as a fiddle, but he told me he looked a lot better two years ago, and he hasn't been able to sleep lately. He still has very lively eyes and a face very full of character. I hope I see him again on the bus.


stephanie said...

I can't stand it when people say that Seattle is unfriendly. I've had no problems here talking to people, they're as nice as they are anywhere.

D. Lee said...

This entry reminded me of the end of this recent "Uptight Seattleite" column in the Seattle Weekly:


Benjamin Ady said...


I wonder why you can't stand it? Does it feel like a common indirectly toward you? You're not like that! Your friendly and fun to talk to.

Do you ever ride metro? I've seen this on so many buses--people sitting in their rows, with their ipods, books, newspapers, magazines, or nothing at all, carefully not talking to each other. like averyage out of 50 people, two pairs will be conversing.


that's hilarious and perfect. Thankyou!

d. lee

stephanie said...

People who say "this city/church/store is really unfriendly" just want their asses kissed. Most people will be as friendly towards you as you will be towards them. I ride metro eight times a week and I love that people read or listen to music and don't always talk to each other, who gives a shit? It seems like you just want to complain about something. If I want to talk to someone I will but if they don't then people's privacy must be respected.

Rachel said...

That's very kewl, Benjamin! There are so many amazing people out there with amazing stories just waiting to be discovered if someone will but show a bit of interest.