What the inside of my head looks like.

Sometimes I feel obligated to lie for no other reason than that the truth seems like it would sound even MORE like a lie, and a lie would be more plausible.  Am I the only one who does this?

Case in point: yesterday’s bus ride home from work.

So.  I get on the bus.  It’s fairly crowded.  There are exactly two open seats, both on an aisle next to someone who’s already seated, and right across from each other.  To the left – an African-American guy in his probably early 30s; to the right, a skinny dark-haired hipster girl.  I move towards the guy, who looks friendlier (the girl has a bad case of Sullen Hipster Face).  As soon as I come level with their two seats I realize that A) the girl has helpfully moved her bag to clear the seat for me, and that B) the guy, in the time-honored tradition of men between 16 and 40 years of age who ride buses, is sitting with his legs spread REALLY wide and kind of semi-reclining in his seat.

Immediately I am faced with a decision: the guy looks friendlier than the girl.  BUT, he also looks extremely comfortable, and it would be rude of me to make HIM move when the girl has already moved her bag onto her lap and there’s a free seat.  In the space of about 3.5 seconds, and with several awkward feinting full-body motions in both directions, I have gone back and forth about where to sit like five thousand different times before settling on taking the empty seat next to Sullen Hipster Girl.

Then it hits me – what if someone on the bus thinks I’m racist?

Like any good progressive, Democrat, liberal-arts-educated white girl, I am intermittently paranoid about accidentally creating the perception among strangers that I am racist.  I think we live in a deeply racially-divided country, and I think that Portland is a lily-white city with a blithe and naive idealism about race relations in 21st-century America, as I learned when I moved from Portland to the Bronx and realized just how incredibly ridiculously WHITE this city is, although I still love it and I don’t mean that in a disparaging or negative way.  But it is something that I think about.  So I’m sitting there, next to Pale Hipster Girl Probably Listening To Vampire Weekend Because She Seems Like The Type, thinking to myself the following:

Okay, what if somebody thinks I’m only sitting here, after sort of faking like I was going to sit next to the other guy, because I don’t want to sit next to a black person on the bus?  What if someone said something to me?  What could I say?  I couldn’t say, “I didn’t want to make him move because he looked comfortable,” because that sounds like a lie.   But it’s NOT a lie.  But it SOUNDS like a lie.  It sounds like what you would say if the REAL answer was “GET IN YOUR CELLAR AND LOCK THE DOOR BECAUSE HAVING A BLACK PRESIDENT IS THE FIRST SIGN OF THE END TIMES!!!” but you wanted to hide it by saying something more plausible, like, “I didn’t want to make him move because his knees were spread way apart and he seemed comfortable.”  That’s a RIDICULOUS reason.  That totally sounds like a transparently racism-covering lie.  So, on the off-chance that someone on this bus happens to say to me, “Hey, white lady, are you racist or something?” I need to have a plausible story prepared.

Then it hits me:  A KNEE INJURY.

I immediately stick my outside leg into the aisle.  If someone asks, I can just say that I have a chronic problem with that knee, and always opt for a seat on this side of the bus when possible so I can stretch my leg into the aisle.  They can’t argue with that!  CRISIS AVERTED.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Lots of people SEEM normal and mentally-stable on the outside.  But actually, almost nobody is.


One thought on “What the inside of my head looks like.

  1. Somehow, I missed this entry until now….

    But anyway, I do this EXACT SAME THING every time I get on a crowded bus. And there are a lot more black people in South Bend than in PDX, so I go through the I-don’t-want-to-appear-to-be-racist dance on a pretty regular basis.

    I usually opt to sit next to the middle-aged lady with the biggest hat, or the person wearing the most ostentatiously hideous Obama t-shirt. Yesterday I saw one that had a picture of the Obamas skipping happily across the White House lawn, with the words “America’s Black First Family” written in red, white and blue Bedazzler-sequins underneath it.

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