Monday, June 7, 2010

True Colors

I never seem to tire of documenting my daily BART adventures. I truly believe that we could learn a great deal about human nature through our observations of people's behavior on public transportation. I think one's true colors come through when traveling underground on a train full of strangers. There is anonymity in knowing that you will likely never see any of your fellow commuters again, and thus one can act in ways he or she might not ordinarily behave under different circumstances.

Sometimes we see the best in people. There is the kind man at the back of the train who notices that none of the other seated passengers are standing up to give a spot to a frail elderly woman. He waves her to his seat, and though she politely objects, he insists. (As we all should). Then there is the teenage boy who stoops down to help a frazzled mother, babe in arms who has just spilled the entire contents of her diaper bag. He picks up the bottles, the cheerios and calls her mam. She is obviously grateful for the help of a stranger.

Sadly, more often we see the very worst in people. I can think of countless examples. Just last Saturday on a crowded car coming back from the A's game, a loud, rowdy teenager took up two seats. When another passenger tried to take the outside spot, the teenager looked at him like he was crazy, shook his head "no" and laughed loudly. I was irate. Who did this punk think he was? I had to bite my tounge, because as my husband wisely pointed out, this kid didn't look like the type to shy away from a little fist-fight. Last week, during the rush hour home, I saw a girl chomping away at a Subway sandwich. She was well dressed, had manicured finger nails, and looked oh-so professional, yet she left a pile of crumbs on her seat, and exited the train leaving her trash behind her. I guess someone else was going to pick that up. There was the cranky old woman turning around every two minutes to scowl at a noisy toddler, probably thinking that kids don't deserve to ride the BART unless their mouths are duck-tapped shut. Lady, if you want peace and quiet then you are going to have to take a cab.

Generally people ignore one another. Plugging into Ipods, reading the paper, looking down at their laps, avoiding any interaction. We are tired, we are running late, we don't want to sit next to that one guy who is sweating profusely and smells like a sewer. We just want to get to our destination and be done with it. This is all just fine and dandy, but does it hurt to smile? Should you not act as you would in any other situation and pick up your trash?

You may think nobody notices, but they do. I do.

1 comment:

  1. I hear ya. I rode public transit to and from university for 5 years, and you really see people's true colours.
    That, and I learned that I must be intimidating, because NO ONE ever sat next to me. The bus would be full, people are standing, and the seat next to me would be free. Do I smell bad? I don't think so...