The Ironies of Public Transit

Let’s face it. People are inherently selfish. Just watch a toddler playing if you don’t believe me.

Selfishness—or concern with one’s own interests—manifests in many forms, particularly during rush hour, when folks are anxiously trying to commute to work, school, or some other “urgent” appointment.

To investigate this hypothesis, the scientist in me decided to observe the habits and behaviors of people during the hustle and bustle of rush hour. I call this study, “The Ironies of Public Transit.”

English: McGill metro station in the Montreal ...

English: McGill metro station in the Montreal metro. Français : Station de métro McGill du métro de Montréal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are my preliminary observations:

  • You’re late and running wildly to catch the bus. You pray the driver waits for you. Fortunately, the driver’s in a good mood and you just make it. Now that you’re on the bus, cozy and sheltered from the frigid cold, you spot a poor soul struggling to catch the bus. You impatiently grumble, “Can we just go already?”
  • You’re driving to a doctor’s appointment that took you 6 months to schedule. You see traffic build up and mutter in frustration, “Now I’m definitely going to be late.” You approach the build up and realize that the traffic is due to a stalled car. You’re relieved, “At least the traffic will dissipate soon.”
  • You’re 8 months pregnant and heading back home after a crazy day at work. You enter the metro (subway), eagerly looking around for a seat. Eyes conveniently avert your advances; you spot a “sleeping” teenager and a business man too focused on his reading to notice your belly. Ironically, these strangers are comfortably situated in seats designated for the mobility impaired.
  • You’re driving to the train station with 2 minutes to spare before the hourly train arrives. The parking lot is packed. You need to park your car, but a pedestrian cuts you off. You’re fuming: this pedestrian is walking leisurely, causing you to potentially miss your train. You park your car and whiz to the train, cutting 2 drivers off in the process, “Don’t they know pedestrians have right of way?”
  • It’s 6:30 AM and you’re looking forward to a quiet train commute to work. You select a remote, serene cabin. Enter scene: someone blasting a video on their iPad AND laughing along loudly …  at 6:30AM, seriously? Get yourself some Beats!

My observations don’t end here. The news is replete with acts of selfishness portrayed on public transit:

  • A pregnant Seattle woman was kicked off a city bus when her baby’s dirty diaper was deemed to be a disturbance to other passengers; this poor lady was taking her sick 1­­-year-old son to the doctor (ABC News; October 19, 2012).
  • A Montreal woman was physically assaulted by a public transit worker who ordered her to “go back to your country,” after a disagreement over a faulty automatic metro fare machine (CBC News; October 30, 2012).

Why are people so self-absorbed and oblivious when using public transportation, a system designed to help the masses and protect the environment?

What is you public transport horror story?


2 thoughts on “The Ironies of Public Transit

  1. I just watched three men–one of them using a cane–get up from their comfortable seats so that a man, his wife, and two small children could sit down. Not long ago, a regular rider gave me a lift to the station we go together to when the schedule changed without notice and we both missed the bus. i see people rush to hold open train doors for people running for the train all the time. Last week, someone frantically told me to wake up the sleeping man next to me because he was about to miss his stop. People are both inherently selfish and inherently thoughtful. Maybe both together. You’ll see whatever you’re looking for–they are both there.


    • That’s refreshing to hear. Sounds like you live in a great city. I like the idea of people being inherently thoughtful. It can be hard to tame the beast though when people are frantically rushing around.


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