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Monday, August 11, 2008

Varieties of Urban Assholery

posted by on August 11 at 21:55 PM

OK, so, on the way into town on the 194 bus this afternoon, I was lucky enough to witness both of the forms of urban assholery which most piss me off. It was a bit after 3 pm, and there was a large and diverse crowd boarding the long, articulated bus: lots of families, lots of luggage. As I lugged my bags back along the aisle, about one third of the way down the rows of seats facing forward, there sat in the aisle seat a young woman of color. Next to her in the window seat was a large pit-bull mutt of some kind. She coolly looked at each person walking down the aisle, making eye contact (with me at least), just waiting for someone to call her on her bullshit. This was no service dog, just her dog, taking up a seat that some human might have used. This kind of aggressive fuck-you-I-matter-and-you-don’t bullshit in a public place is urban assholery method #1: aggressively take more than is rightly yours.

I got a seat facing the back exit and didn’t look up from my book (more on this later) till we got to the International District. There I had to notice the clueless middle-aged white woman standing and blocking half of the exit doors. She was reading New York Magazine—yes, New York, not the New Yorker. She never deigned to look up as a dozen passengers laden down with baggage and children had to dance around her to disembark the damn bus. After that stop, there were a dozen empty seats within five feet of her: but she never looked up, just kept blocking the exit all the way downtown, slowing everyone down. Form of urban assholery #2: instead of aggressively fucking with people, passive-aggressively ignore the existence of the rest of the world.

The demographic distinctions between the young woman of color and the old white woman struck me, but there is unity in both forms of urban assholery: inconveniencing your fellow citizens by pretending that they don’t matter or that they don’t exist. A seat that a human could have had was occupied by a damn dog. Fast exits and a faster ride for everyone was prevented because some story in New York Magazine was so engrossing.

And urban assholery form #3: putting up with #1 and #2. Everyone on the bus went along with it. No one, including me, said “boo” to the woman blocking the exit, and when I got off at Pioneer Square, the dog still had a nice window view of the tunnel.

RSS icon Comments


Maybe it was Lil' Bow Wow?

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | August 11, 2008 10:26 PM

I'm getting better at saying things to inconsiderate/clueless people on the buses. Or sometimes you don't even have to talk to them. For example, lately with the overcrowded buses some idiot will stand near the back, but not all the way in the back, blocking other from using that room. And in the front there will be gobs of people shoved together. I'll just call out (from my seat) something like "there's more room in the back" and then the idiot will be forced to move. Maybe I'm the idiot for not directly telling him to move back.

Posted by stinkbug | August 11, 2008 10:45 PM

Dogs are allowed on metro busses. If they are too big to ride on your lap, you pay full fare for them to ride. So I could understand bitching about the dog riding on the seat instead of on the floor in front of it, but either way the dog's seat was paid for. In theory, at least.

I'm with you on asshole #2.

Posted by Mark | August 11, 2008 10:46 PM

Who the fuck cares?

God, was it ECB that caused The Stranger to nosedive into shitsville or what? The paper, the writing, that which was thrust upon the general public used to be so much more ... purposeful and interesting.

Now it's all pissy little bus riders and critical massers with a flag to wave. Go fuck yourselves. Your "issues" are nothing more than self-aggrandizing fodder for your facebook pals. "Look! I made a difference! I blogged about conflated assholery in society!"

God, fuck off and walk around people if they're in your way. Or tell them to get the fuck out of your way. But quit your passive aggressive blogging on shit like this.

Posted by Mark in Seattle | August 11, 2008 10:49 PM

I think I was on that bus. like around 3.20?

Posted by Nikolaj L | August 11, 2008 10:50 PM

The demographic distinctions struck you, huh. Touche, good sir.
Did it occur to you at any point to wonder about the specifics of these particular individuals, apart from their role as symbols of larger demographic groups? Why, for example, would a young woman feel the need to eye you aggressively and bring a pit bull on board a metro bus? It strikes me that this young woman probably was feeling generally threatened and compensated by acting preemptively aggressive. And why was this older white woman spaced out being and inconsiderate of her fellow passengers? Perhaps she's overworked or understimulated or suffered a family tragedy recently or
feels generally at odds with our oppressive, increasingly techno-capitalconsumerist society. Perhaps those fifteen minutes on the bus with New York magazine is the one respite of her day. Maybe it keeps her sane.
In any case, your willingness to stick these people into groups and hold them up as emblematic in some vague way of city life is just another example of anti-empathy, of indifference to the collective human plight--the very traits you seem to be criticizing in the first place.

Posted by Urban Asshole | August 11, 2008 10:57 PM

That kind of urban assholery wouldn't happen so much in Seattle if more of you actually did say something instead of going home to blog about it (which to your credit, you point out at the end).

This post is the best demonstration of Seattle passive-aggression I could have ever imagined.

Posted by Judith | August 11, 2008 10:59 PM

In my neighborhood, a pit bull is this season's "must have" accessory for wannabe thugs and playa-ettes. Except they often forget to feed them.

Posted by South end of town | August 11, 2008 11:08 PM

Aren't you Dan's brother? And it sounds like you're coming from the airport. He didn't pick you up? Or is this just a random ride on the 194?

Incidentally that bus, and its more hellish counterpart the 174, are always like that, which is the reason that I only take cabs or make my bf drive me to and from Seatac.

Posted by rb | August 11, 2008 11:11 PM

if baby is the new black, what is pit bull?

Posted by matt | August 11, 2008 11:13 PM

Sometimes, driving a car is just wonderful.

Posted by laterite | August 11, 2008 11:19 PM

4 - go ahead and say that on the 174. Just gimme a heads-up first so I can pull the red handle and go out the window first, as the reaction to your reaction will be a fucking stupid way to die.

Posted by uncle baggy | August 11, 2008 11:28 PM

nothing says 'welcome to seattle' like the purgatory of the 174. if you were lucky enough to catch the more expedient 194, you ought not bitch.
oblivious is universally hateful. but i live in a city, as do y'all, and am more amused than resentful of it at this point.
on the rush-hour local 18 a few weeks ago i was sitting in the back. the bus was packed. and the people standing did not venture past the articulation. a few seats opened up. still the standers did not migrate. more people were boarding; others were having to exit through the back and wave their passes at the driver through the window. "there are open seats back here" someone said plaintively, but we were all ignored. we started to laugh. "do we smell bad or something?" asked the woman next to me. it was one of the best bus rides i've ever been on- ten strangers giggling uncontrollably while having an excellent vantage point of the squashed aisle-dwellers. hey, we did what we could.

Posted by pretentious | August 11, 2008 11:33 PM

What you should have done to one of the two women was scream, "I HAVE RESERVATIONS!" and then proceeded to physically move them, to better humanity.

Posted by Stanky | August 11, 2008 11:56 PM

Urban assholery: BRILLIANT!

Good morning Hipsters. Bad news: Tattoos and ear plugs are out of style. Your tattoos are fading and your skin is sagging just a little bit more than it was yesterday. And that one on your neck will really look like shit in a few years. All faded and sagging. And those ear plugs. Man, that is like so 2003. How are you going to make those holes smaller? What the fuck! You'll always have Pabst Blue Ribbon the King of Hipster beers! And Dan Savage--America's favorite cocksucker to guide you. Hmmmmm-He doesn't have visible tattoos and ear plugs and he has a nicer house than you do and more money in the bank too. Why is that? Whoops! If you don't know who the mark is at the poker table-it's you.

Posted by Whoops! | August 12, 2008 12:06 AM

When someone is blocking my way on the bus (happens frequently with too-narrow aisles and too-full buses), I just say "Excuse Me Please" in a firm voice, loud enough to be heard by the people around me. They always move aside or do something to allow me (and the folks behind me) to pass.

Posted by Transit Rider | August 12, 2008 12:09 AM

I saw a fight break out at 8:30 in the morning on the 174 because somebody had the nerve to sit down next to a sleeping woman who was taking up two seats. Another time I saw a six-foot-plus dude actually full-on slap! the five -foot-nothin bus driver because she asked him to stop harassing other female passengers. Gotta love the 174.

Shortly afterwards I bought a car and haven't ridden the bus much since. It costs more but it's worth it.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 12, 2008 1:15 AM

Pet Peeve Alert: Passive-aggressive does not mean passive, dumb, or clueless. What you describe is just general douchebaggery, not passive-aggressive behavior.

See my explanation here:

Posted by King Rat | August 12, 2008 1:16 AM

Still trying too hard Chicago Fan?

@4: Indeed, it was ECB!

Posted by Amelia | August 12, 2008 1:18 AM

Oddly enough, I had a very similar experience coming back from my first trip to Chicago (love that city, btw!) on the 194 from Sea-Tac just a couple of months ago.

And, just to push some racial buttons, the young African-American lady of your example #1 had a small child rather than a dog, who she was allowing to repeatedly slam the folding windows (oy gevalt - those little hands!) and also to basically do pull-ups off of the cable riders use to ask for stops. I eventually politely pointed this out after the bus had made two unnecessary stops between Spokane Street and downtown and she finally put a stop to it.

My second example is more interesting - 3-4 kind of snotty (but not particularly horrible, just typically rude) young 14-16 year old white skater kids got on the bus downtown heading toward the U-District, and were being unnecessarily loud and profane. Several women - both black and white - who were late in middle-age (I would add that a couple of these ladies were absolutely dead on their feet exhausted from their workday) took offense at their swearing, and asked them to stop. The youngsters started to sass them, and I interjected with a reasonably gentle reminder that they ought to be more polite, which surprisingly enough they heeded.

So yeah, intervening matters.

PS - as we were driving through the U-District, the aforementioned middle-aged folks were pretty loud and annoying in that middle-aged dowager way, and I had been trying to ignore them because after hours and hours in transit I was definitely in my travelers cocoon.

Then one of them asked me where someone on a fixed income would find apartments in Seattle. I gave her my basic rundown (ie - well, there are always lots of apts in the U-District, Capitol Hill, Lake City, etc etc), and she asked if I went to the UW. I told her yeah, about 20 years ago.

It turns out she actually thought I was a student - and I would guess that she was no more than 7-10 years older than me at most.

Object lesson #1 - the people who ride the bus work much harder and have much harder lives than I do.

Object lesson #2 - it was interesting how many looks of annoyance all of those who were bystanders to bad behavior exchanged during the course of all this stuff - and also how people do unite behind the person who stands up for a modicum of basic civility.

OTOH - you never know when your seat-mate on a bus will dismember and eat you (see Greyhound, Canada)

Posted by Mr. X | August 12, 2008 1:24 AM

I'll go you one better. I went to Hawaii for the first time in 2007. It took me most of the week to adjust to the lifestyle of the islands. It was nice and peaceful all the reasons people travel there.
On the way back I made the mistake of taking the 174 home. Most of the trip was taken up with gang banger wannabees (13 or 14 years old) talking explict smack to each other and everyone on the bus. Towards the end an actaual Gang member left the bus and told the loud mouths he had seen their faces and would deal with them shortly
So very, very far away from Hunama bay.

Posted by Zander | August 12, 2008 1:30 AM

Who doesn't pretend that others "don't matter or that they don't exist" when in public spaces?

Posted by TG | August 12, 2008 1:41 AM

@19. Don't start that sock puppet shit again. If you can't speak German and French, you're not the real Amelia.

Drum küss mich, küss mich, küss mich.

Posted by Amelia | August 12, 2008 1:47 AM

Excuse me? I've never known how to speak French and/or German. And frankly, I don't care if you think I'm a puppet or not.

Posted by Amelia | August 12, 2008 1:50 AM

Try riding the 150 from Kent some time. It's a portal for DWIs and wife beaters coming in and out of the "Norm Maleng Justice Center".

Be sure to sit in the back..

Posted by John Bailo | August 12, 2008 3:55 AM

Actually, the problem here is assuming they're assholes. I have come to the opinion that that's not really what the problem is. Sheer brainlessness is the main obstacle here. A vast majority of people simply no longer are aware, or even know how to be aware, of what's going on around them. Therefore, if and when one does decide to call them on theie obliviousness, it merely adds to the problem, since they have no clue as to what they were (or were not) doing wrong to begin with.

Oh, and @6 - please try and go get hit by a bus. Today, if possible. Trucks and/or cars are also acceptable if no buses are convenient.

Posted by By and large, a nation is what it elects, you know | August 12, 2008 7:39 AM

@6 -- I'm glad to know that after I work a 12 hour day, I am free to stand in front of the bus door and block people's exit because being "overworked or understimulated" is a valid excuse for being inconsiderate.

And all this time, I have tried to be polite by moving to the back of the bus and not blocking the doors, so that the other overworked folks can have a more pleasant ride home. Never more...

Posted by Julie | August 12, 2008 7:50 AM

dogs are allowed on busses, dumbshit. Do some research before you bitch. I'm no fan of pitbulls to be honest, but that lady did nothing wrong, and you're actually an urban asshole yourself, congrats.

Posted by Walrus-Lord | August 12, 2008 7:52 AM

Ask yourself if it's worth getting stabbed or shot over. People who deliberatly try to provoke you many times have a plan to do you harm.

Posted by Vince | August 12, 2008 7:58 AM

@28 - Metro sez:

Large dogs, leashed, pay the same fare as their owner and may not occupy a seat, but should ride on the floor of the coach next to their owner.

The dog in Chicago Fan's story was on a seat. Yer wrong. Asshole.

Posted by cdc | August 12, 2008 8:05 AM


Do some research before you bitch
Posted by You should take your own advice | August 12, 2008 8:22 AM

I hate the bus! I leave a half an hour early so I can walk downtown.

And while I probably wouldn't have "provoked" the dog I would have told the other woman blocking the aisle, "excuse me, you're blocking the exit."

That is, you know, you could actually get me on a bus.

Posted by monkey | August 12, 2008 8:25 AM

If you've ever been on the bus when someone has "said something," you might think twice about wanting to join that particular group. Usually the person saying something is significantly more self righteous and irritating that the people doing the original offending. And if the original offender doesn't back down it can escalate into a conflict that causes the entire bus to stop while the supervisors or police are called.

In my experience, people on the bus aren't jerks because they haven't been called on it, they're just plain assholes who thrive on conflict.

Posted by Chris | August 12, 2008 8:37 AM

Seattle specializes in the passive agressive. It's our forte.

Posted by Gitai | August 12, 2008 8:50 AM

Back exit squatters are idiots and I find it great fun to snap at them to get the hell out of the way.

Posted by michael strangeways | August 12, 2008 9:09 AM

CDC - if the bus is crowded, I would rather have the dog sharing a two seat with its owner than blocking the aisle as people file in and out.

Posted by J | August 12, 2008 9:22 AM

it's really simple - you open your mouth and say something to the people who are committing these acts. it's the only way anything will change. not saying anything and then bitching about it in the stranger blog is just as passive-aggressive as the behavior you are bitching about!

Posted by xina | August 12, 2008 9:26 AM

I think every city’s bus system has problems, I dont really find Seattle’s that problematic, maybe Im missing something or maybe I grew up in Philly. The buses here are pretty safe and I ride the 42 late at night and all the other “problem” routes, I ve never had a problem, and when I ask people to move, they move, when I say excuse me, they comply. I don’t know, I just don’t see a big problem. That is not to say that occasionally the buses don’t get rowdy, or insane people act menancingly, but man compared to Chicago’s Seattle’s buses are waaaaaaaaaaay safer or maybe Chicago continues to be the same segregated city that it was when I visited my aunt during the summers back in da day.

Chicago has had 1,500 hundred criminal incidents (to date) on their buses, including rape, armed robbery, beatings, shootings, assaults, thefts.. I mean, yeah some people act a fool on the buses here, but come on now, they’re not that bad. Don’t hate on our transit. yeah those are examples of people acting like fools, but you find them in every city, not just here. I like to see people blogging about the CTA’s problem routes instead of our 174. You will see some real urban problems there. Please, when was the last time ONE person got shot on our buses. In Chicago it doesnt even make the news.Yeah the CTA has great trains and all that, but crime on the buses has always been a huge problem in Chicago.

Posted by SeMe | August 12, 2008 9:34 AM

@11 hit the mark.

Isn't inner urban life so wonderful?

I often sit and marvel at you folks who insist at trying to live the social experiment. You can mock me all you want, call me names, look down your nose at me. At the end of the day, my commute in my car took me 17 minutes in traffic, I had a lovely cool breeze blowing on me from my air conditioning, and I played exactly the music I wanted to relax to on the ride home.

Not once did I have to deal with engine noise, obnoxious drunks, other people's odor, or vicious dogs.

I think I'll keep my yuppie semi rural life in the 'burbs. I'll gladly sacrifice the extra $$$ expense and not have to deal with all those needless annoyances.

Yep those $700,000 squatters condos in Seattle are looking more and more appealing every day.


Posted by Reality Check | August 12, 2008 9:37 AM

i'd rather have a poorly trained pit on a seat where i can keep an eye on him than down at my feet, lurching about from the g forces on a crowded run.

Posted by max solomon | August 12, 2008 9:55 AM

@10 - The new black baby.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | August 12, 2008 10:13 AM

What is it with Seattleites that they won't say something in the situation where the woman is blocking the door? You don't have to be rude. You can give them a face-saving way out by saying with a smile something like "Excuse me. You probably don't realize that you're blocking the door for people who are trying to get off the bus." It doesn't have to be a confrontation.

As for the woman with the dog on the seat, her body language was showing that she was ready to confront anyone who said anything to her. If it's really bothering you, that's when you need to tell the driver. Otherwise just accept that there are some assholes in this world that aren't worth fighting with.

Posted by seattle mike | August 12, 2008 10:24 AM

welcome back, real amelia!

reality check: it is wonderful, even if there are inconveniences occasionally... unlike your attitude, which is to use money and privilege as a way to isolate yourself from your community, we try to make the life experience better for all.

but it is also one of many morally sound ways to live. it's not buying your safety. it's not refusing to be a part of a community. it's not putting your wants above those of others and concerns for the environment or a sustainable existence.

Posted by infrequent | August 12, 2008 10:39 AM

@38 - I'm not sure this post was all about how the Seattle bus system has problems. More like, where are there so many people in urban areas who are so either aggressively or obliviously inconsiderate?

That being said, I live in Chicago, and you better believe that if someone was shot on the bus (or anywhere else, really), it would make the news. I have ridden many bus routes here (at all times of the day) in the eight years I've lived here and never felt unsafe. I think you're sort of overplaying the safety issue a bit.

Posted by Julie | August 12, 2008 11:07 AM

Adrian Ryan, go back to rehab, you espèce de salaud. Do you think it's wise to stir up hatred against women from the insecure men in Karl Rove exurbs surrounding this city? Maybe you need to learn to love yourself.

Posted by Amelia | August 12, 2008 11:23 AM

is your own CTA stats not mine. see the link, no overplay on my part. i dont feel unsafe riding the bus, i never have in any of the cities ive lived. i understand the post is about stupid behaviour, im just saying that there are way less incidents of "bad conduct" on the buses in seattle. i dont really have a problem with telling people to move no matter what city i am in, but in seattle youre more likely to get somebody to comply.

Posted by SeMe | August 12, 2008 12:10 PM

39: Congratulations asshole, I'm so happy for you!

Posted by Jay | August 12, 2008 12:24 PM

Certain routes attract certain types. I had a substitute 32 driver once tell me that the 174 was known as the gnarliest route, the one drivers chose last.

Shout out to Don, mornings on the 32! Best and nicest Metro driver (and friend). Don runs a tight ship, but we all like him. And he has turned several of his regular passengers into friends.

Posted by 32 Regular | August 12, 2008 12:36 PM

@18 You might add that clinically, passive aggressive is often an unconscious action. Thus, the loss of tickets (in your linked example) by accident is not always intentional to the person.

In the bus examples the exit blocker might be acting passive aggressively toward the other passengers. The dog owner less likely passive and more likely intentionally antisocial.

Posted by LMSW | August 12, 2008 12:56 PM

And if you say something... you're branded as Urban Asshole #4 -- that jerk who doesn't mind his own business.

I once told these aggressive (drunk) men who were harassing a (presumably) lesbian woman to stop and everyone else on the bus just looked at the floor and got embarrassed.

The men got off and I swear people gave me and the woman both dirty looks. She thanked me though, and ultimately that's all that matters.

Posted by Dawgson | August 12, 2008 2:20 PM


Bystanders also do that shit to women who defend themselves from aggressive assholes. Although in that case, those women are usually branded as crazy bitches.

But, anyway, thanks for sticking up for that woman. Our society is incredibly efficient at punishing people who do the right thing.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 12, 2008 3:23 PM

Yeah, yeah- I know the main point of this post is not about how bad Metro is, but I have to add my two cents re: the horrid, horrible #174.

My last two experiences on that bus (last week):

1) A swarm of stinky Ave-Rat types who insisted upon standing in the articulated section in a big, smelly mass. The one standing nearest me was wrapped in a blanket which was full of crawling insects.

2) A drug deal was negotiated and both money and drugs were exchanged right across me! I was too engrossed in my "you don't exist" transit bubble (reading, music) to realize what was going on until it was, literally, under my nose.

I absolutely hate that bus. My only other choice is the #23: I'll save that rant for another day.

Posted by 174 has its own circle in hell | August 12, 2008 10:01 PM

That was my first slog post, go me! I are suck at html. But there were no line breaks in the preview!

Posted by i eat cocks; but the 174 still sucks | August 12, 2008 10:05 PM

My service dog rides between my feet, under the seats that face the aisle. Where in the hell was the bus driver in all this. S/he has a responsibility to tell folks to get their dogs off the seats and get out of the doorways. Myself, I hate oblivious bus drivers that let idiots get away with this shit.
BTW, the biggest guide dog I've ever seen knew how to fit himself under the seat between his owner's feet, and didn't stick out.

Posted by Silverstar98121 | August 13, 2008 12:49 AM

I do not see how the race of these "urban assholes" is relevant to this post. At all.

Posted by hunh? | August 13, 2008 11:11 PM

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