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Why don’t social rules apply in the public transport bubble?


By Erin Lindsay
18th Jan 2019
Why don’t social rules apply in the public transport bubble?

What is it about public transport that throws all social niceties out the window and makes people behave so oddly? It’s like once we step off the platform, we’re in a space that’s neither work nor home nor social setting, so we lose all inhibitions and just deflate. Maybe it’s a way of relaxing on the commute? To let everything hang out, even our eccentricities? Although most of the weird stuff I’ve seen on public transport doesn’t exactly fall under ‘relaxing’.

I assume you’ve all clicked on this piece for some juicy stories, so here’s my most recent. The other morning, I was on the train to work and there was a girl, around my age, on the opposite set of seats watching a video on her phone with her headphones in. Completely poker-faced, I assumed she was catching up on her binge series from the night before. As my stop approached, I stood up beside the doors and glanced down at her phone from behind her head (having a nose, as you do). The girl was watching porn. Full-on porn. At, like, half seven in the morning. Not a bother on her. I wasn’t the only one who noticed either, as the poor lad in front of me looked fairly shook after glancing down too.

Related: Please, stop judging me for doing my makeup on the bus

Obviously, that’s not the only weird thing I’ve ever witnessed on public transport – a woman eating a full corn on the cob (no, I don’t know where she was keeping it), someone clipping their toenails (yeah, really), a man singing along with full-blast Indian music during rush hour and so much more. It’s safe to say that every reader of this piece will have a similar series of equally disturbing and hilarious tales of public transport weirdness. When discussing these instances of madness with each other, it just seems to be a universal truth that public transport is the designated place where weird stuff happens. People who appear normal let their freak flag fly. And the oddest thing about it all (okay, maybe not as odd as the toenail clipping) is the complete lack of objection from the rest of us. We all sit without stirring, staring out the window as normal, while these eccentricities occur around us. Not oblivious, we fully know what’s going on and how kooky it is. But just tolerating it.

Is it just an Irish thing? Are we more accepting of weirdness? Or are we just so averse to making a fuss that we don’t contribute to commotions of any kind, and let them get on with it? Whatever the reason, the phenomenon of the public transport bubble has ingrained itself into our daily routine. We expect it, and it delivers almost every time.

Related: Do you commute to work? Making this change could improve your mental health

Although I could really do without sitting next to corn being sprayed everywhere, I’ve also had some lovely experiences on public transport. I’ve sparked up a conversation with many girls over mutual compliments on our dress sense. I’ve been regaled with tales of living in Cuba and Australia by a pensioner.

There’s a reason that many credit the bus or train with being a snapshot into the reality of every-day life, you can get a peek into the lives of strangers – sometimes it’s disconcerting, but often it’s uplifting. The loss of inhibitions may make people behave really strangely, but it allows for a lot more friendliness and openness too (sometimes). I don’t know if this is a love letter or a restraining order against public transport but I do know that I’d have a lot less funny stories without it.