The Subtle Difference Between Torture And Character Building

Posted: March 9, 2011 in Previous Rants

We all have our own routines, actions we perform daily, subconscious habits that to most would seem bizarre or unusual. One such example is a constant reminder of a traumatising incident that I suffered a while ago.

My initial dislike of public transport began on a mostly empty bus, a journey I’d made hundreds of times, and as always, there was rush hour traffic. From that day on I’d always board the bus and sit or stand at the front, even when it’s empty, anything to avoid reliving what can be referred to in a more positive light as “character building”.

So it can safely be said that I was “on edge” when, torn between once again unsociably remaining alone at the front of the bus, or venturing further up and accepting the challenge my brother had set me…

I didn’t have long to decide, I’d rather it wouldn’t become a subject laughed at or discussed from that day onwards, I shouldn’t be so unsociable he’d said, I had to face my fear. Moments later I found myself perched on the edge of my seat halfway up the bus – close enough to converse and socialise with my brother and several friends. I feared sitting alone in a window seat would be open invitation for a replay of that dreaded day, and so it was an isle seat (and it’s empty window seat) I claimed for myself and my bag. I felt no guilt as the bus began to rapidly fill up, only fear – any moment I expected the sea of accusing eyes to part to reveal unfair punishment – all the while desperately trying to ignoring the glares of “two seats, how dare he?” being sent my way.

I had my iPod in again this time, hoping I could ruthlessly ignore anyone who’d ask for my seat. I daren’t close my eyes – it was sure it would happen again – looking out of the window was my only option. I hoped that this time, the only tap on my shoulder would be my brother letting me know it was our stop. I couldn’t help it – my mind started to wander and I mentally relived the experience…

Besides it being sunny that day, it began like any another morning; I was one of the first ones on the local bus, I sat down at a window seat, minding my own business, listening to some music and idly looking out of the window.

A sudden nostril-assault followed the plummet of the overweight passenger into the seat next to me. Impolitely he’d thrust my bag onto my lap and sinfully invaded my personal space. I’d never known such a vile concoction of smells to exist at once; stale sweat, urine, smoke and a severe case of halitosis. I was certain the passenger was fully aware, and had rather cruelly chosen me to be his victim.

I had tried to catch his attention, hoping there was a way to politely explain there was many other seats to occupy, so as to avoid unfairly polluting an innocent passenger. Within a few minutes of ignoring my plea, he’d somehow fallen asleep and even above my music I heard his snoring – I’d lost the courage to wake him up and ask him to move. The heat of the bus really didn’t help the situation and I didn’t have much remaining seat room between him, the window and the seat in front – it was very difficult to avoid noticing his profuse sweating, and impossible to subtly breathe through my sleeve.

I’m not too sure how I survived such an ordeal – for over an hour I’d suffered in the traffic, and dodged the rivulets of sweat crawling towards me, every second hoping for release from torture, or at least for someone to acknowledge the smell and open a window! If I’d known he wasn’t going to wake up, I wouldn’t have left it so long and would’ve climbed over the seat in front much sooner, I managed to eventually get off the bus; the remaining walk and fresh air couldn’t have been more welcoming.


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