Situation #3: The bus stop

5 04 2008

There you are, waiting for the bus/subway/streetcar, looking forward to taking your seat so that you can get back into that great book you’re reading. And then out of the corner of your eye, you spot an acquaintance; someone you know well enough to exchange pleasantries with, but not someone with whom you have enough to talk about for the length of an entire bus ride. Once you make eye contact, it’s all over. Now you have to say hello. A “how are you?” is only polite. And then before you know it, you’ve entered into a binding social contract, by which you are obligated to make pleasantly boring and effortful chit chat for the duration of the trip. “I hope the bus gets here soon.” “Do you take this route often?” You can forget about that book of yours. And leave your iPod in your pocket; there are pressing weather patterns to discuss!

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that we here at the JSA are against small talk. On the contrary, we’re big advocates of small talk when it comes to elevators and water coolers – places where small talk is all that the situation allows. But being forced to extend such banal topics for longer than ten minutes is a pain that no one should have to endure. That’s why the JSA has several suggestions about what to do when you’re faced with the prospect of a lengthy discussion on just how soon you can expect spring to arrive. Meteorological experts may wish to skip this entry.


  1. Preventative measures

As with many things in life, it turns out that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Your first line of attack against social awkwardness is to avoid social situations. Remember, dear Reader, no interaction with people means no *awkward* interaction. So if you are lucky enough to catch sight of your acquaintance before he/she sees you, be wise and recognize this situation for the blessing that it is. Hang back and wait for the next bus. Yes, this means sacrificing some of your time, but when faced with a choice between 30 minutes of meteorological intrigue and 50 minutes with a great book, the decision is obvious. J.D. Salinger will thank you later.

If waiting for the next bus is not an option, your next line of defense is to avoid eye contact at all costs. Now is a great time to become particularly engrossed in your book. No book? The bus schedule can make for some great reading material when you’re in a bind. Have you checked your watch recently? Like, within-the-last-ten-seconds recently? Do you have your keys with you? Better rifle through the contents of your bag just to be sure.

  1. Form an exit strategy

You’ve failed to avoid eye contact and now you’ve said hello. Don’t panic. Or better yet, DO panic. Because you suddenly remember that you’ve forgotten something important. Run home to feed your dog. Go get those documents that you need to work on tonight. Pick up that milk you promised to bring for your wife. Be creative. Just not too creative. That looks suspicious.

What if you’re already sitting comfortably on the bus and your acquaintance gets on and has you cornered? Now’s the time to invent an errand. The particular errand you have to run will depend largely on the commercial options along your route. But you don’t have to be too specific anyway. A simple “Oh, I have to get off here to do some errands” will do. We realize that this will cost you an extra bus fare, but in the eyes of the JSA, three dollars is a small price to pay in order to avoid a game of twenty questions when you could care less about the answers.



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