I had an interesting experience on the bus this afternoon.
As usual I took my favourite spot, the bench seat up at the front next to the door. It allows me lots of leg room and a good view, and when I get to my stop there usually isn’t a massive crowd to fight through in order to disembark.
Right across the aisle from me was the other front bench. It was folded up into the vertical position, probably to accommodate a rider with a wheelchair, a walker, or a baby stroller. That rider had left the bus, though.
And this is where it gets interesting.
Between work and home there are eleven stops. There were people getting on at virtually every stop. No one seemed to notice that bank of three perfectly good seats, neatly folded up. I could have just leaned forward and unfolded them, and almost certainly someone would get on the bus and sit down on them. I left them as they were, though, and watched and waited.
And waited some more.
Finally, with three stops to go before I got off, and with almost all the seats full, a woman got on. At first she stood in front of the folded seats, hanging onto a safety bar. Then, as if she had awoken from a dream, she realized the seats were there, pulled the latch, folded down the seats, and sat down.
That got me thinking: Why did she do the two seconds of work, while no one else bothered? Were the folded-up seats sacrosanct in the others’ minds, something to be left for a hypothetical future stroller or wheelchair? Was it self-consciousness? Fear? Can’t-be-botheredness?
How many other things are we not noticing, not using, not daring to touch?