I ride busses on a near daily basis and have for many years. In so doing, I have observed and experienced sad and discouraging examples of interpersonal relationships. Training in psychology has taught me to be an impartial observer. Most of the time. Being human, I occasionally get sucked in.
The majority of people who ride public transportation fall into the following categories: the poor, physically and mentally disabled, elderly, criminals who have had their driver’s licenses revoked and people who are not old enough to yet have a license. There is also a small number who are ecologically conscious and use public transportation to be kind to our planet. I fall into a few of these categories. I have observed that the majority of these fellow bus riders are struggling through life and are not very happy human beings.
Most just sit in silence with sour expressions on their faces. And then there are the others. I say hello or good morning and they respond by either ignoring me, grunting or telling me to “eff off!” Content or happy people do not respond this way. Typically, they say hello in return. There are some who love to create drama or call attention to themselves. They talk loudly on their cell phones, name call, start fights, etc. Depending on the driver, some are ejected and the others continue to subject the rest of us to their misery. And of course there are those riders who are intoxicated/high. It doesn’t really matter which chemical they chose. A few weeks back, there was a drunk man on the bus who continued to imitate the Gangnam Style dance. He would interrupt himself mid-gallop and shout out…”I have been to jail 100, no wait, 300 times!” This went on for several minutes until the driver told him to get off. It was a bitterly cold night and he was wearing a thin coat. With the exception of one man who laughed, we all just sat there silently, doing nothing. It occurs to me that this is not a healthy expression of interpersonal relationships.
What could we have done? Probably not much but at the least one of us (maybe me) could have suggested to the driver that he have the police take him to detox. It wouldn’t have been a guarantee that anthing positive would happen but it would have been better than nothing. Interpersonal relationships in our culture have become frightenly self-centered. Not only don’t we want to get involved, frequently we don’t even want to be talked to.
All of these bus experiences over the years have me wondering and questioning. If people are so willing to behave in the above-mentioned ways, how do they behave in their more personal relationships? Is there a co-relation between self-centered public behavior and devasting private behavior such as abuse and neglect? What could help people become more concerned about their fellows? Are we so discouraged with life in general that we just don’t care about basically anything? And every once in awhile, when I feel really sad, I ask…Why did I have to be a human being? I would much rather have been a cloud or a bear. Another example of selfishness? Probably.
This commentary isn’t meant to solve the problems. The solutions would be beyond anything I can imagine. But it is meant to wake up, become aware and start a gentle stirring of change. And now I have a bus to catch. If I see you, I will smile and say Hi.