Thursday, December 8, 2011

public transportation anxiety

Hello, my name is Emma, and I am terrified of running into people I know unexpectedly. Where this happens most often is the bus or train. (Let's not even mention Starbucks - there are 1.4 million in the city and yet it never fails...)

What is it about bumping into people you might be quite happy to see in a different context all of the sudden so scary to see them on public transportation? Seriously, this is a phobia of mine.

When I am out and about, on my way to work, going to the coffee shop, heading home from errands, I expect to hop on the bus, put my headphones in, pull out a book, and sit peacefully for my ride of up to 45 minutes. If that ride is disturbed by someone next to me talking that I do not know, it could potentially prove interesting; but if I am struck with the sight of someone I know well enough to not only recognize, but that I should probably have a conversation with, I start itching with anxiety.

Maybe it's because I like people to be in the social situations that I expect them to be. That way, I know who will be there, I know what to expect, I'm ready to face the crowd. When I see an acquaintance on the train, I want to switch cars, put my hood up, and huddle in my journal. Why? Why can't I just smile, say hello, and carry on a normal conversation.

Small talk might be my real anxiety. I have a hard time talking about nothing for long. And then I start trying to make people laugh, or worse, talking extensively about my medical problems.

As I was journaling on the bus a few nights ago about this very subject I was continually interrupted by conversations, both with people I knew and people I didn't. In the end I put my paper away, took out my headphones, and completely listened to the person I didn't know next to me tell me what they do for a living. It was not the most engaging conversation I have ever been in - but I did learn a bit about this woman, and was there with her in that moment.

Definitely need to improve my public presence. I'm a great listener, but only when I want to be. Ugh.

For now on my bad days I'll continue to dash from seat to seat avoiding any familiar faces. And on my good days, I'll remember to look a person straight in the eye, smile, sit right next to and ask them how they are.


Donna Boucher said...

Oh my. Your dad is just like this. I remember walking with him in the Pine Tree mall when we first moved to Marinette. He would ditch in a store to hide from someone he saw coming his way!!

I, on the other hand can talk to anyone about anything. I would make a great interviewer. A talk show. That is my true calling.
Parties can get long for me... I do not have much stanima.
It takes a lot of energy. Don't cha know.

Life with Kaishon said...

I love that you know this about yourself : ) I have always thought people that travel on public transportation are the luckiest people. They don't have to drive and they can engage humanity. One of my friends is using public transportation this year for work and she tells me the most horrific stories of things she sees on her train...OH MY!

I love the new profile picture. Pretty as a picture : )

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