To most people getting on a bus alone is a perfectly normal, non panic inducing act. For me it has taken years of buses home from university alone to master. I still have to count my money over and over and over again before the bus has even arrived and in the que. I sometimes go into a panic and think’ what is it you say when you get on again?’ and have to practice it over and over in my head searching for the right words so i won’t embarrass myself. I still get a strike of anxiety when i have to push the stop button in case i don’t get down the stairs on time or have to ask people to let me past. However on the whole, i’d say I can manage it pretty well these days, however problems still pop up every now and then.
For example, here’s something that happened a few weeks ago that played out like some kind of sketch. I’ll recite what was actually happening along with my running inner dialogue.
I’m on the bus, it’s pretty busy, rush hour. I’ve managed to get a seat. An older woman gets on with a few shopping bags in her hand and has to stand. Any other person in this situation would probably just offer up their seat. But I start to worry- what if shes not actually that old? what if i offer up my seat and shes offended that i think shes of seat offering age? I keep staring at her wondering what to do. Then I start getting paranoid, as i’m one of the youngest people on the bus i’m worried that all the other passengers are now thinking i should give up my seat and wondering why I haven’t already? and then i really start to panic, shit shit shit, maybe i’m going to end up going viral for not giving this woman my seat and be shamed into oblivion forever?
The whole way down the road i’m trying to pluck up the courage to ask her, practicing in my head. Getting all hyped up to do it and then retreating back into myself to practice what i’m going to say once more. Finally five minutes in, I manage to ask ‘Do you want my seat?’ (Shes right in front of me at this point our legs are basically touching). She looks at me dead in the eye and just replies ‘no’.
She remains standing in front of me, i’m freaking out and don’t know where to look. She seems fine but i am absolutely dying inside. It seems like such a brief, careless encounter but my brain is in overdrive. I have to spend the rest of the journey glued to the window as in order to not dare make eye contact again. I’m thinking shit everyone in this bus now knows this woman doesn’t want my seat and they’re all having second hand embarrassment for me. Which obviously they most likely weren’t, why would they be?
Writing this now i realise it is irrational and i have blown a whole situation completely out of proportion by overthinking, but that’s the trouble with anxiety, it isn’t rational in most cases. Someone once described it as ‘your brain constantly making up conspiracy theories about yourself’ and i honestly couldn’t put it better. That woman probably didn’t give me a second thought. Everyone else on the bus probably didn’t either. Because they’re all too busy worrying about their own lives to worry about my mild embarrassment. That’s something that often helps me through these situations, everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to worry about any slight fuck ups you’ve made in social situations.
Anyway in the end, the old (or maybe not so old?) woman got off, and i thought cheers for this Mrs, that encounter will keep me awake for the next two weeks.