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Rules of the Road!!
By: Stephanie M., Holy Heart High School, St. John's, NF

Transfer, please.

Ah, the joys of riding the Metrobus. Believe it or not, the bus is actually a very unsocial place. Even though a whole bunch of people are packed together into one little space, distances are maintained. There is an invisible and complex bus etiquette that seasoned riders adhere to.

For example, if you donít want someone to sit beside you, you simply put your bag on the seat next to you. But you must be sure to look out the window or be occupied because if you make it obvious that you want to sit alone, then you are just rude and snobbish. In the event that the bus is full and someone needs to sit next to you because the only seat left on the bus is the one under your book bag, all you need to do is look up from what you are doing, act surprised that the bus is so full, and feign innocence (and then move your bag so that they can sit down).

If, however, you donít mind sitting next to someone, make eye contact with the people getting on the bus and offer a slight, calm smile (but don t be too enthusiastic, because only amateurs are enthusiastic about riding the bus). This is the bus signal for, ĎHi. There is a seat next to me and Iím friendly, so you can sit down if you likeí. If the person chooses to accept your silent invitation, you wait for them to make the first move - will they say hi or not? Usually, if you are not acquainted with them, they will not address you. In this case, you simply return to what you were doing and ignore them. However, if they initiate conversation, feel free to keep it up as long as is comfortable but stick to the weather.

When I was a young, unseasoned traveller, I was naÔve enough to believe that I was going to meet lots of new people going back and forth to school on the bus each day. This is not so, simply because of the polite distance factor. I say polite because completely ignoring the person sitting right next to you is not at all a rude gesture, if you are on the bus. I really do not know why this is, simply that it is and any seasoned traveller will tell you the same thing.

Yes, but who are the seasoned travellers? How can you tell? Well, first of all, they can be distinguished by their lack of enthusiasm in the whole bus-riding adventure. Novices are amazed by the novelty of riding the bus (especially pulling the cord to get off the bus), but the experts are accustomed to it. Secondly, the experts will be oblivious to their surroundings. Many will have brought some sort of work or reading to do during the trip, or will listen to walkmans as they stare out the window. Many even know their route so well that the don t even need to look up from their work to make sure they haven t missed their stop. They simply use their peripheral vision and the various turns of the bus to judge where they are in the ride.

Other interesting things to note on a bus are its inhabitants , if you wish to call them that. There exists on every single bus a completely invisible and yet shockingly real division in the seating. The first three seats in any bus are reserved seating reserved for the elderly and the not-very-physically-able. These seats usually remain empty. The rest of the bus is divided into two parts: the front and the back. The seats from the back door to the front of the bus are for the general, civilized population. The seats from the back door to the back of the bus are reserved almost exclusively for rowdy teenagers who talk loudly and with much profanity. This seems like a harsh classification, and perhaps an exaggerated one. Yet I assure you that if you ride the Metrobus, you will understand that what I say is true.

Actually, the saying there s an exception to every rule applies to what IĎve just said. You see, the first three seats, while generally avoided, are not always empty. During almost every bus ride Iíve ever taken, there has been someone sitting in the seat closest to the driver. Usually an adult, this person (for some strange, incomprehensible reason) seems to know the bus driver and spends his or her entire trip chatting it up with the driver. This has always made me wonder where on earth do these people know the driver from? Personally, I will never be one of them because I don t think I want to open up my life to a bus driver. Not that bus drivers arenít wonderful people. Simply that it would be the same as opening up your life to the lady behind the cash register at Dominion and I agree, a highly unlikely event.

How did this bus etiquette come into existence? Who decided that this should be so? How do you learn this bus etiquette if these are all silent rules based on politeness and pretension? To tell you the truth, I really do not know. But you can be sure that bus etiquette does exist, and that in time all regular riders become well acquainted with the rules of the road.

Another very interesting aspect of bus life is the routine that people get into. Almost every morning, I catch the Route 1 at 7:55am, get to The Village at 8:05am and catch my transfer, the Route 2, at 8:10am. But one morning, I missed my bus and had to catch the next one. What a shock I received! The bus routine I had settled into was an unconscious affair I recognized the drivers that ran the routes and most of the people who got on each morning. I was aware that people had their usual time of going and coming, but what I neglected to consider was the possibility of more than one group of people with routines. The morning I was late, this realization came all too suddenly.

As I stepped off the Route 1 and searched for my connection, there were a lot of people I had never seen before. On the bus, there wasnít a single person I recognized. I felt like a complete stranger, an intruder. It was as though I had invaded a private party to which I hadnít been invited and where I knew no one. Let me assure you, that exclusion was a very strange feeling. It was then that I realized that bus life is much more complex than simply route schedules, transfers, and connections. Each passenger lives in a private world. Each private world is contained in a microcosm of routine comings and goings. To invade such a microcosm, to step onto a bus that is not your own is to step into a whole new world, a whole new atmosphere.

Donít be ridiculous! A bus is a bus, they are all the same.

No, not in the least. You must be an amateur, to not understand the social intricacies of bus life. But that is no matter. You will learn in time. Excuse me, I need to get off -- this is my stop.

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