Old Sock Drawer

a story to tell, a novel you keep in a drawer

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#010: City people are like crémé brûlée…

September 19th, 2008 by Mary Leong

Currently listening to: “All The Old Showstoppers” – The New Pornographers

Today, I had the good fortune of being on a relatively empty bus going to UBC. In fact, here is a diagram of the bus (Paint, I LOVE YOU) :

As I got on the bus, the seats which were occupied were as follows: the three orange seats in the front, the lime green seat on the left, and the pink seat on the left. I sat at the very back of the bus, in the purple seat, and observed as people got on the bus.

A lady got on, and sat down on the blue seat, forming a nice square with lots of empty space between the four of us at the back of the bus. The next seats to fill up over the next few bus stops were the turquoise seats at the front of the bus; nobody ventured to sit next to another person. Subsequently, the gentleman sitting on the lime green seat left; at the next stop, it was promptly filled up. This pattern continued: as the lady on the blue seat left, it was quickly filled. The empty space between the passengers persisted. The red seats were next to be filled up, and only after that did people venture to sit next to another person as there was absolutely no way to avoid it. Which was quite interesting, because 1. people kept to themselves; 2. nobody spoke a word throughout the entire bus ride, with the exception of the answering of a phone call by one of the passengers; 3. everyone was quite fine with it.

Which led me to recall something a small-town friend of mine once said.
“You city people are so cold. you walk and avoid each other’s gazes; on the bus, you don’t sit next to people unless you have to; you don’t say hi to anyone on the street.”

Having grown up in the city (and multiple others), I am no stranger to the above comment. But I still disagree. And as fascinating as I find the bus observation, it doesn’t bother me too much. True, city people can be a tad more cautious. We may not be as touchy-feely as some others. And we value our personal space. I like having space to toss my umbrella on the bus. And if there’s an empty seat, I’ll take it, if only so that I won’t be splaying my damp umbrella over some other equally tired person’s feet. Not saying hi to people on the street is really a matter of sensibility and practicality; after all, with approximately 500 people passing you on the way to school, it is just really not practical to stop and greet everyone. It does take time to get to know people. But that’s the beauty of life, is it not? To pause and actively work on understanding and knowing others instead of taking it for granted. To really find, among that lot, people who share a mutual understanding, instead of settling for whatever’s within an arm’s reach. And yes, it takes time, but eventually, it’s…nice.

City people aren’t cold. Even if we like to sit alone on the bus. Even if we avert our gazes. Even if we aren’t always bounding with manic chipper energy. City people are like crémé brûlée…take a moment or two, crack the surface, and enjoy the treacly goodness beneath.

Tags:   5 Comments

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Joyce Sep 20, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Interesting observations and thoughts… I like how you compared city people to crême brûlée :)

  • 2 Phoebe Yu Sep 20, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Haha i love the colourful diagram!

    If the bus is relatively empty, I tend to pick a seat for myself with no one next to me because I think it’s weird making a bee-line for someone else when there are empty seats available.

    Seriously, if a gruffy looking guy did that on the Hastings bus I’d be slightly miffed. We city folks need large personal spaces (unless it’s those morning buses to ubc…)

  • 3 Samantha Horton Sep 21, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    I must say that I find it terribly adorable that you drew a little diagram…and that you were that observant!

    I love the idea about creme brulee (that looks so weird without all the accents) …it’s very true!

  • 4 Humaira Sep 24, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    You are amazing.
    Diagram + colour coding + detailed observation of everyday occurance + analysis of said observation = fantasticness.

    The thought of being the person that sits beside someone new has occurred to me, but I tend to shy away. As much as people (and I) say that we don’t care what other people think, we do. It dictates your actions. Conformist or rebellious, we are shaped by society. And people think it’s weird that someone comes and sits right beside them if there’s a plethora of empty seats to be taken.

    I do. Not too sure why. But I do. I am open to the idea of talking to someone beside me should they initiate a conversation. Just need to work up to being the initiator.

    Oh, and I do believe we should have a creme brulee party as one of our gatherings. Just throwin’ it out there.

  • 5 Sean Brennan Oct 11, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    some time, im going to get really drank, and try and read the part about the bus..it was hard when i was sober, but tired.