Status on the bus

Are you the sort of person who catches a bus? Or are you the sort of person who drives a car? Even just my limited experience on a government bus in the Lower Hunter has established for me that there is a difference, such a difference that I found my one bus trip in recent years unsettling! Maybe it was just the suspension of personal space, the up-close-and-personal contact with generously proportioned fellow travellers, the intimacy with the largish woman sitting next to me on a bench seat much too short. Maybe it was, too, because I consider bus travel beneath me, and while I don't believe that, family members and friends like to labour the point.

A retired Hunter Anglican minister wrote in the Herald recently that the difference between bus travelling and car driving is a matter of status, social status, and few, I think, would disagree with him. Well, few who drive. But John Adam has an unexpected angle on the status. A person with lower status, he writes, is equal to those of higher status when they're driving, which is why so few people use public transport.

I say a bogan is a bogan behind the wheel or not, and that the reason more of us don't catch the bus is because a bogan is a bogan on the bus too! I think it is very likely to be status concerns that discourage many people from commuting by bus although not for the reason put up by Mr Adam.

When I caught a bus eight years ago, after I'd dropped my car off at a mechanical workshop on my way to work, I was struck by the fact the people seemed different from those I encounter in my neck of the woods and in the course of my days. Sometimes subtle differences, sometimes not so subtle, and I think of these differences in appearance and mannerisms as akin to dialects. I think, too, that we are unsettled by people of unfamiliar presentation or habit.

But is it status concerns that keep most of us off the buses? Is sharing a bench seat on a government bus beneath you?