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BEAN Headquarters Blog

Society = Morning Commuter Bus
I gave up my car a couple of months ago, and now I commute via bus for work. After 60 days of cramming myself everyday onto a packed King County Metro Bus #358 full of groggy people, I have come to the realization that an early morning commuter bus is the perfect microcosm for the society at large. Bear with me on this one.

People Tend to Ignore Each Other

Just like in society at large, people on the bus will ignore each other up to a certain point. I often don't notice people I know on the bus because I have my commute blinders on. You can pick your nose, talk on your phone loudly and have bad body odor. Up to a certain point, most people will just put up with it instead of making a scene. This creates incentive for some people to act obnoxiously, since there is no apparent consequence.

Proximity Leads to Sense of Community

People that are physically close to you, for that single reason alone, will feel more like you than people elsewhere on the bus/in society. Tribalism will quickly emerge. I have seen people in the aisle mid-bus collectively stand their grounds to push back on more passengers in the front. Just like in society at large, location plays a large role in how much you feel like you have in common with others. If a person's suffering on the other end of the bus/planet, it's much easier to ignore.

People Are Left to Deal with Their Own Problems

I have seen people cry on the bus, and even people sitting next to them will pretend they don't hear it. People will also sleep right through their stops and go all the way to the end of the line, and only the bus drivers will wake them up. We all live in our own little bubble on the bus, and we try not to interject ourselves into other people's bubbles.

People Without Means Are Segregated

Get on a bus and check out who are the people sitting in the back. Enough said. You should see all the nicely dressed white-collar professionals who would rather stand in the aisle than sit in open seats in the back.

People All Have Different Destinations in Mind

Everybody is trying to get to a different place, in life and on the bus. The destination seems more important than the trip itself, even though sharing the journey with your fellow human beings is a unique experience all by itself, especially when it comes to a morning commute route, where the passengers will most likely be taking the same bus for weeks, months or years to come. Looking back, would you remember the destination more or the trip itself?

People Come Together When Facing a Common Obstacle

There is one thing that will unite everybody on a bus/in society: a common obstacle. A clear and present danger to the common goal will cut through the general sense of apathy. I was on the bus once when two guys started a fist fight, and one of the guys started to spray the other person with pepper spray. The entire bus sprang into action. Some people rushed the guy. Some people dialed 911. Some people scrambled to open all the windows. Some people instinctively covered kids with jackets. It is the same with society in general. The immediate and clear the common threat is, the more united people are.

Next time when you are on a morning commute bus, take a look around. Is it the type of society you want to live in? Do you want to do something to change it for the better?

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