I've discovered a secret about the bus. It's just a simple secret, a small one that doesn't mean much, in the long run. And it's only 90% true. But I think it's worth sharing.
Sometimes when you get on the bus, people show you that they don't want you to sit next to them by putting their bag, or a coat--or anything they've got at hand--in the way. That's an incredibly clear signal.
It's also about the rudest thing you can do on the bus (besides using your cell phone). Especially when the seats are filling up.
So I don't do it. Sometimes, I'm on the bus with my laptop bag (it's huge), a heavy coat, and a pair of inline skates, and I'll still leave the seat next to me empty.
In the past, I just hoped that the folks getting on the bus would take one look at the stuff I was carrying, and sit somewhere else, leaving me the space to expand. That rarely happens, though.
So I thought I'd try a little psychology.
And herein lies the secret:
The secret of keeping the seat next to you clear (90% of the time) is really simple: look at people.
I mean, look right at them.
When people get on the bus after a long day of work, they're looking for a quiet ride home. They're not looking for a conversation with a stranger.
So if you stare at them, with a kind of open, "Let's talk!" kind of look, they'll more than likely choose another seat.
I've tested this theory extensively, and like I said, it's 90% accurate. Go try it yourself. And let me know how it goes.