I ride the bus to work every day, which is something I never tried before moving to Seattle because I grew up in Southern Illinois, which has no bus system whatsoever and requires at least $100 to get a cab to venture out to you.
Then I lived in Los Angeles, and I took the bus a few times but it was kind of inconveniently scheduled and full of really somber-looking Mexicans. That in itself doesn't bother me; I just felt out of place.
Then I moved back home to St. Louis, a city that utilizes its public transportation solely for the purpose of carting around assorted homeless people of varying degrees of menace, leaving the MetroLink trains for drunken sports fans.
But now I live in Seattle, and the buses are nice and come every 20 minutes and there are still crazy people on them but they are mixed in with the general population at a pretty close to normal ratio. Normally my morning bus is all but empty when I get on and fills to about 75% before I get off. My bus home is usually more crowded, but rarely maxed out to a "standing room only" capacity.
As it pulled up to my stop I wondered if I'd be able to get on to make it home. It was PACKED, and there were already several people standing. Luckily for me, some passengers were exiting and I found an open seat.
In fact, I found two open seats. Just like that! Lucky me! I sat down in the window seat and scrunched against the glass, expecting someone to sit next to me shortly. It's always awkward when you have to sit close with a stranger, knees occasionally touching, trying desperately to not make eye contact and of course unintentionally locking eyes every 30 seconds. I braced myself for the stinkiest, grossest passenger to sit down next to me and ruin my ride home while foolishly holding out hope it would be an attractive woman.
Except no one sat by me.
I couldn't believe it. Double lucky me! I didn't have to constrict and contract myself into a corner to avoid having my personal space invaded! Didn't have to worry about asking someone to move when I had to get up and exit! I could relax and zone out with my headphones on and just stare out the window until my stop.
Then I noticed everyone else on the bus had a seat partner.
People were crammed into every possible seat; five people were standing, their bodies swaying wildly with the acceleration and deceleration of the bus. Even the crappy sideways seat was full. Everyone sat (or stood), staring at their phones, books, and eReaders. No one looked at me. No one made a move for the empty seat next to me.
I immediately became mortified.
I subtly sniffed my armpits; nothing. I tried to check my teeth for spinach or something in the window; no joy. I became more and more frantically paranoid that I was emanating some stench or vibe that told any and all people in Seattle to stay the fuck away. I worried that maybe I have a Rapist Face.
So, in the span of about 45 seconds, I went from hoping no one would sit next to me to emotionally wounded that no one wanted to sit next to me. What a bizarre blend of narcissism and low self esteem.