The Sociology of Greyhound Buses
Travel Blog • Eva Holland • 08.10.12 | 8:03 AM ET
Talk about legwork. Yale University PhD student Esther Kim spent two years criss-crossing the USA by Greyhound, studying the ways in which people create the illusion of solitude or privacy while crammed together in a public space. The Atlantic Cities has some highlights from her findings:
Kim says we distance ourselves from others by putting on a “calculated social performance” that lets strangers in a shared public space know that we don’t want to be bothered. This behavior is intended to keep us safe and undisturbed in an “otherwise uncertain social space.” ...Once passengers acquired a seat they began their performance to dissuade potential row partners. They avoided eye contact, stretched their legs to cover the open space, placed a bag on the empty seat, sat on the aisle and blast earphones, pretended to sleep, looked at the window blankly. They also contorted their expressions into the “don’t bother me” face or the “hate stare,” writes Kim.
Of course, we’ve all done these things—I’m a master of the fake nap with one leg stuck out into the empty space, myself—but it’s still interesting to see the same behaviors documented time and time again. I guess it’s a small, slightly anti-social world after all?