Years ago, in my 20’s, carless, I got around Seattle on the bus.  That’s when I first learned to be blind.


I’m sure many of you have experienced this.  There’s a crazy/weird/drunk/creepy person making a loud fuss of some kind on the bus.  You sit in your brown vinyl seat and gaze out the window, or straight ahead.  If the fusser is in front of you, you look over their shoulder, or you close your eyes and pretend to doze, even though you would never really go to sleep on the bus.  It’s an environment that demands vigilance.


When you reach your stop you get up.  If you have to walk by the fusser to get to the door you do so quickly and silently, without even a minute glance in his or her direction.  You see nothing amiss, you hear nothing but the turning of the wheels.  You are the Tommy of Metro Transit.


Once I saw a woman who neglected to be blind.  She asked the young man with the boom box blaring some vile rap tune with bitch-this and ho-that to please turn it down.  She had little kids with her.  “So my kids don’t have to hear that, ok?  For my kids.”


As you might expect, the young man did not take kindly to her suggestion.  He informed her in language gleaned from his musical choices that the kids would be hearing that stuff no matter what, because that’s the kind of world we live in, so what difference did it make? 


Another young man, also forgetting to be blind, stood up and came to the woman’s defense, bravely, I thought, though ultimately to no effect.  Boom box guy continued to curse, declare the world an unchangeable cesspool, and blare his foul tunes.  I was certain the irony was lost on him, but I didn’t say so.  Tommy.


A few months ago I gave Tigger (10 at the time) her first lesson in Mandatory Urban Blindness (MUB).  We were walking down the Ave and came upon a man having a raving, screaming fit at a bus stop.  Before we got too close, I coached her on the proper response.  “You just walk on by.  Don’t get too close to him but don’t be obvious about moving away from him, either.  Don’t stare, don’t remark, and whatever you do, don’t make eye contact.”  We passed by him, he continued raving, taking no notice of us.  Maybe if we don’t see him, he can’t see us either.


This afternoon I wheeled my grocery cart to my minivan in the parking lot of a suburban store.  A woman got out of a car near mine and climbed into the backseat of a car next to mine.  I opened my trunk and began transferring bags of groceries.  By the time I slammed the trunk shut (about 20 seconds later) the woman had gotten out of the back seat and returned to her car.  I guess it was a drug transaction…what else could it have been?  But I can’t say for sure.  I didn’t look. 


I have a deal with all the crazy/weird/drunk/creepy people.  I don’t see you, and you don’t bother me.  Ok?







  1. This happened to me just last night- twice in one trip on public transit.But really, there’s nothing else to be done about it.  If you pay attention to them, it will only make you feel worse, and sometimes cause them to follow you or take up your time.  When I ignore people like this, I’m usually thinking about something else- most people (raving or not) don’t take up more than a second of thought, so I’ve already moved on even though they’re still there being loud.

  2. prostitution is the other thing it could have been.  And I guess, also a drug transaction.  I am such a master at urban blindness I have become invisible.  I once got the highest grade in a law school seminar in which there were only 25 people, and at the end of the semester, the professor told me he had never seen me before.  Seriously.

  3. Actually, that guy on the bus could have been Obama’s pastor.  It pretty much sounded like his sermonizing.   You know, the sermons that the  church-going Obama has managed to sleep through for the past 20 years!

  4. Ah, I am very familiar with this tactic from my many trips into NYC as a child, before Times Square became home to such wholesome stores as Toys R Us and ESPN Zone.  Now we live in the ‘burbs of Richmond, VA, and just the other day I was at a red light heading back from downtown with the kids when one of the “crazy/weird/drunk/creepy people” was wandering down the street staring into people’s cars, really up close and personal.  She was quiet, but had that look about her.  I performed the adjunct maneuver to MUB, which is Subtle Urban Car Locking (SUCL).  Did she stare in my car?  Yup.  Did she do it quietly? Nope.  For some reason, she chose our car as the scene of some sort of wild ranting.  My mom was in the passenger seat and was a pro at the MUB, but she was able to hear the lady better than I was.  She claims that the poor woman was ranting “Aren’t you cute!  You’re all so cute!  The kiddies are the cuties!”  Aw, how sweet!  At least we attracted a nice one.

  5. Hi, just ran across your blog – nice.  While I relate entirely to your experiences on public transport the main reason I avoid it if possible is this: I can’t stand the people, usually women, who loudly describe their operations to a companion so everyone on the bus can hear.  Once I was sitting next to a woman speaking in a foreign language which I could understand well enough to hate hearing about the surgical details, who was talking to a friend across the aisle.  I had the brilliant idea of offering to change seats so they could sit together but the one with all the surgical experience refused my kind offer.  Instead she said in a kindly way, “I’m gonna speak English so you can understand too!”  

  6. I find that a walkman with  headset and a book works great. But then, there’s always some shmuck that sits next to me and wants to chatter on. I ended up perfecting the art of Dozing. That finally got the point across.

  7. This post would be VERY funny if it weren’t so sadly true. I, too, am practiced at “MUB” (ha!), and I have done my fair share of it on trolleys and buses. Once in awhile, I get so angry or worried about someone else’s welfare that I forget to be “Tommy”, but I completely understand what you mean. My stepson made the mistake of noticing that a homeless man was urinating in a public trashcan while we were in Washington, D.C. (yeah, and even that didn’t make me not love that city). Homeless Man noticed that Alex saw him, and began to hurl death threats at us as we continued to move along. He specifically told David to come back so he could kill him. David yelled back that it might not be a good idea to try to fight someone when you can’t keep yourself ambulatory. By the time Homeless Guy digested this, we were around the corner. Whew. Lisa

  8. Interesting, I never thought there was a name for it, just coined or official. Either way, I like it, and will use the term in the future.I’m self-taught at MUB. I’d like to say I’m very good at it. Sadly enough.Good post. (b ‘ ‘)b

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