Tuesday, 13 August 2013

South London bus etiquette


My bus journeys home to Peckham (which I sometimes live tweet, you lucky people) have given me a new perspective on social behaviour. The thing that has particularly interested me lately is "seat swapping".

Quite often the 78 (or the South London Comet, as it is not known) is quite busy. This means, inevitably, you end up sitting next to someone, rather than getting a whole double seat to yourself. But what happens when people get off the bus and a free double seat opens up? What I have noticed is that, quite often, people move to the free seat. I am talking here about individual people, not two people traveling who want to sit together.

One way of looking at this is that it seems a bit rude to move. It's like saying that at the first opportunity you want to stop siting next to person you are currently sitting next to. The implication could be, even, that they smell a bit. For these reasons I have always felt a bit rude engaging in the South London bus journey equivalent of Runaround. I also don't really remember this happening much in the past. But it's definitely the case that it happens all the time now. In fact I bet I see it on pretty much every journey.

My own situation is also complicated by the fact that I take the bus to almost the end of the route. Once you get past Rye Lane the top deck, where I usually sit, is really empty. Which means that if I started off sitting by someone and I don't move it feels a bit weird. Of all the seats I could be sitting on on a virtually empty top deck, I'm sitting next to you. See the problem?

So, I'm slightly embarrassed to report, I have joined the seat switchers. What's more, because it feels a bit weird, again, to move seat late in the journey I tend to do this fairly quickly when granted an opportunity. Interestingly (honestly) I feel that the herd-like nature of humanity means that we may be reaching a tipping point on the 78 where the default position is to switch, rather than to stay where you are. So I think I can see, right in front of my eyes, a norm changing.

Fascinating stuff, I'm sure you will agree.

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