The Seats on The Bus

“Tell me, as a more experienced resident of <location>, why do you think people tend to gravitate to the back of the bus?”

Alright. So I drop eaves on buses. The things you can hear are so interesting, especially on one of the buses I regularly take – each trip is guaranteed to have someone talking whom I’ve never heard before. It’s like a cultural festival, or TED, but with more screaming babies and inane topics…  

Back to the original question – Why do people tend to gravitate to the back of the bus? From the moment they step on (well, alright, after swiping their public-transport-card), they turn, eyes squinting a little, lips slightly pursed… Is there a seat back there? They walk, nonchalant, down the aisle, eyes flickering from side to side. Taken, taken, taken. But upon spotting an empty seat, their eyes lock on to it like a wolf’s onto a particularly vulnerable-looking lamb. Mine. And their eyes twitch to their seat-mate (if applicable), and size them up, and make a decision.

It would be great if I could say, ‘Well, actually, <scientist name> has published a paper calculating the probability that a particular person will choose a particular bus seat, based on the uncertainty of their trip, and the people already in the bus, and their age, and…’
But, alas, as far as I can see (pretty much just the scope of google) no-one has. (Future PhD students, take note!)

Anyway, here’s what I, personally, have noticed during my man, many bus rides. And this is limited to the buses I use – for all I know, the buses y’all take are arranged differently.

The very front of the bus, the seats in front of the baggage rack and directly behind the driver are for new bus riders wanting perhaps to look through the giant windscreen, or stay close to their bags. These puppies of the wolf pack that is the population of route-regulars have little to no experience with the route, and aren’t afraid to ask the driver for help in telling them where to get off.
Sometimes they’re elderly, but not if they have troubles with mobility: these seats are raised. Most of the time, the front-seat-bus-riders are in their mid-to-late 30s with kids just starting primary school. Maybe they think the separation from the rest of the bus provides a modicum of safety from the jaded wolves that take up the rest of the bus. Who knows.

After the baggage racks is the priority seating. These are the seats that can lift for wheelchairs or prams, and have a wider aisle in between. Here sit the parents with their babies in prams, the elderly groups on an outing, or those with mobility troubles. Mostly.
Actually, on the specific bus route I take, we don’t get many of those people, so a lot of the time I see just young adults in the very early morning, sitting there because the bus is full or it’s too early to be walking very far. We all know what that’s like.

The seats next to the doors are next – and of course you get the on-the-move business men, or students in a hurry (anyone in a hurry, really). It’s never a lot of people here, because there are only about four sets of seats and, well, there’s only so many people you can fit on eight seats without things getting uncomfortable.

And then we have the mid-back, where school students, and virtually everyone else likes to sit. Far enough not to be the centre of attention, not too far from the doors so that one has to walk very far to get on or off. These seats are my territory (unless I’m in a hurry, of course).
No-one likes to mention it, but these seats also mean that you’re less likely to have to give up your seat to someone else – front seats are always risky. I also see lots of tourist groups here, because the seats are all in one big clump so the groups can talk amongst themselves. And I can listen to them. 😉

Finally, we get to the very back of the bus. Contrary to what the guy in the beginning asked, hardly anyone sits here. Only if the bus is completely full (and people are desperate for a seat) do they make the trek up to the last row of seats across the back. Rebel school students, however, love this spot. You can lie down, put your feet up if the bus driver isn’t paying attention, and watch the rest of the bus population from your all-seeing perch. You can sit with your friends, on your friend’s lap, talking amongst yourselves without a pesky aisle getting in the way.

Speaking of the aisle… As well as those in a hurry to get somewhere, when the bus is completely packed and there’s nowhere to sit, the aisle is filled with a motley bunch of people who would most likely normally sit somewhere else. You can find the business yuppies mixing with the cool teenagers and the university students. Everyone stands in one giant, wobbling mass, each silently perfecting the art of bus-surfing. There is a certain dignity in standing, unaffected, as the bus hurls itself around corners.

So. Where do you sit?

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