The recent column of "Dear Prudie" in Slate had a question about bus etiquette:
"My sister-in-law and I ride the same bus to work. It's a 30- to 40-minute ride, and we like to spend it catching up with each other... Some mornings, people complain that we're talking on the bus. In fact, some people groan when they see us coming. We try to be pretty quiet when we talk and we don't use profanity or talk about things that could be offensive (sex, drugs, etc). However, the atmosphere on the bus is like someone died, complete silence! ...I would like some ideas on how to keep the peace on the bus."
Here's Prudie's response:
Groaning at the sight of you two is rude, but it's understandable that people hoping for a bubble of silence between family life and the work day look on you happy in-laws with dread, knowing that for the next 40 minutes they'll get to hear about Aunt Edna's goiter and that great Thai place you found in Akron. I'm sure you two think you're being quiet, but animated conversations tend to be voluble. If the bus isn't full, could you both sit in the back and really make an effort to speak sotto voce? If that doesn't work, could you spend the first 10 minutes catching up, plan to meet for lunch during the week so you can talk, then spend the rest of your ride doing the crossword? It is public transportation, and you two are entitled to conduct a conversation, but my heart is with the commuters who prefer a moving sarcophagus to a family reunion."
I didn't much appreciate her take, so I've taken a stab:
There is no requirement for silence on any form of public transportation. Chatting with friends (and even strangers) is a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time on your rides. (Shoot, the guy behind me on my evening 48 passed the time by chatting with himself.) It's true that some bus riders like to use their commutes to read, nap, or catch up on work, so it's polite to keep your voice down; however, there is absolutely no reason to shorten or otherwise constrain (unless you're sharing too much information; TMI is a major bus foul) your conversations.
To those commuters who still find themselves distracted by your chatter, I recommend: headphones, earplugs, or improving those all-important tuning-out skills. (These skills are not rare; anyone with a mother, a spouse, or children -- or who has attempted to cram for exams in an undergraduate library -- has them.) If none of these options is effective, they should learn to take more interest in other folks' business. For me, eavesdropping rivals reading as one of the great joys of the ride."
Maybe I should start my own advice column....
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