Look, it’s not that I’m antisocial. I like people. Sometimes I sit with them and hold conversations. I’ve actually met some cool people that way. However when you’re on a bus, the odds of getting the cool med student on leave from Doctors Without Borders over the grandma that smells like VapoRub are just not good. Plus, I’m kind of picky.
So. You’re the same way. You hate having to sit next to the Ravens fan who just wants to talk about that one touchdown again. You can’t stand the mother of three who assumes that just because you’re young, you won’t mind sitting with her loudmouth kid. You would rather sit on the roof than next to someone? Don’t feel bad; I know how it is. And I have compiled a list of foolproof ways of almost guaranteeing that no one comes near that second seat.
The Pack and Roll
This technique works best if you’re one of the first on the bus. What you need to do is grab an empty seat and drop your bag/jacket/whatever you happen to be carrying in the other seat. Sometimes this simple gesture is enough. You’d be surprised. Someone will try to sit down, see your stuff and think, “Oh I was going to sit there, but I see that this nice backpack is sitting there. Nevermind.” Don’t believe me? Try it. People can be kind of…thick. If you’re not confident this will work, grab your iPod/Walkman (hey, it’s SLC. You never know). Put on your headphones and lean away from the aisle, usually onto the window. Crank your tunes like you’re going deaf. Most people don’t want to hear Darren Criss’ cover of “Teenage Dream” when all they're trying to do is sit down. Now you don’t have to actually listen to music, just make it look like you’re listening to music and trying to sleep. Waking another person up sucks, especially if they’re a stranger. When you wake someone, you set yourself up as the enemy. You interrupted happy sleep time. You should hate yourself.
The One-Hit Wonder
If your fellow passenger is unaware of this rule, and they try to wake you, don’t worry. There are several ways to change their mind. One, see if you can manage to flail in their general direction. That way, if they’re thinking of sitting down, you’ve either hit them and they left, or they’re afraid you’ll be startled awake at some point and hit them then. And mind you, I’m not asking you to punch anyone. A hefty brush will do. Remember, we’re human and we’re on public transportation. Personal bubbles are strongly enforced. Any form of physical contact is NOT allowed. Now throw them your dirtiest look ever. It doesn’t matter what you look like. Sure, it helps if you have like facial piercings and tattoos, but I have neither and I manage to scare off most people.
The Deviated Septum
This is a somewhat advanced move. You don’t want to convey that you have a cold; you want to convince everyone on board that you’re strung out. Start off by picking up a light jog on the way to the bus top, making sure you’re good and clammy by the time you sit down (downside: you have to deal with your sweaty self the whole way). If you’re under-shape, see if you can keep up the huffing and puffing as you get to your seat. Nobody wants to sit with a mouth-breather. Then, sit and look coked out of your mind. Posture helps here. In my experience, bus etiquette mandates slumping in your seat and settling in for a long ride. Not sitting, back straight as a board. Try not to look too alert here; you don’t want to be mistaken for over-caffeinated. People sometimes read caffeine as "I’m awake, please talk to me." This is not the case. On that note, downing a couple cups of coffee can help with the whole WHY-CAN’T-I-SIT-STILL bit. Remember we’re going for the jonesing look. No one wants to be friends here. Actual drugs are optional; personally I prefer feigning drug addiction to the actual stuff.
Now for the snot. Gross, I know, but nothing repels your fellow man like a face full of boogers. This is easier in the winter months, but hopefully your little run helped out. If you can manage it, don’t wipe your nose. Just keep sniffing. This is not only disgusting, but also irritating as hell to sit next to. You can accompany all this with repeatedly rubbing/scratching your neck, excessive fidgeting and padding your pockets while muttering, “Where the hell are my eye drops?”
I got the idea for this next one from the Robert De Niro film, The Fan (if you haven’t seen it, I’m sorry, but you’re missing out). The idea is to freak out your possible neighbor, and this time not with bodily fluids or harm. This game is purely mental. Remember, we’re all the youth of the 21st century and we’re desensitized as hell. So, you have to really commit to this one. What you want to do is pick something and shove it in everyone’s face. Topics include religion, sports, and politics; really anything that you wouldn’t want to bring up at dinner with your parents. Next, just sit there looking welcoming, looking like you WANT someone else in your space. Badly. And don’t be afraid of props. Nothing says "Get away" like gripping your Bible/porno mag/engineering quarterly/Sarah Palin biography with white knuckles. Remember you want to read: I-really-like-this-and-you-should-too. Also friendly people are kind of creepy, no one should look that happy in that small of a space. Work that
up-do inner creep.
This isn’t so much of a technique as it is a true story. One time my dad somehow brought seafood soup on to a plane (What? Liquid? On a plane?! When was this??? The Stone Age, that’s when.) Said soup had like a crab claw or some other pungent ingredient and stunk up the entire plane. Whoops. Now, airplanes are different and you’re usually assigned some weirdo to sit with. Buses are free game; you’re on your own. So bring the soup. No one wants to sit, let alone breathe near Stinky McBrineypants.
Alright, now that I’ve armed you with the proper procedure of bus rides, go try them out. Catch the 60 Local into Larchmont and see what happens. Whether it's with one of the above ideas or some other persona you adopt for the ride, have fun with it. Earn your empty seat. Remember, all you need to say is, don’t travel with me, I’m repulsive. And if nothing of this works and someone sits next to you anyways, bite them. That should work…or it doesn’t, and they bite you back and you’re in for a really weird ride. I don’t know. I’ve never had to resort to that (I’d like to thank The Academy).