Riding the bus is the perfect place to observe people and their habits.
Most of the people who take "sardine cans on wheels" are average people, ranging from migrant workers moving their giant bundles from one work site to another, to young professionals trying to save money to buy a car.
Of course everyone wants a seat if possible, and nowadays, people are getting better at giving up their seats for seniors. It's not an automatic reaction per se, as the bus attendant asks someone to give up their seat, but it's starting to become a reflex action.
Those who are intent on having their butts firmly planted in their seats feign drowsiness and either pretend to sleep or really do fall asleep. I've had people nod off and even land their head on my shoulder.
Some people have headphones on, others chat away on the phone oblivious to others listening in, or stare intently on the small TV screens even if it's the same advertisement for tea that promises to help you lose weight.
What's annoying at times is when the bus is already pretty packed and some selfish commuters insist on wrapping their arm around the pole or leaning against it so there is practically no way you can hold onto it.
Bus attendants and drivers don't make much money -- 1,000 RMB and 2,000 RMB respectively -- which makes you wonder how much they care about their jobs. Some bus attendants are really knowledgeable about all the bus lines; others robotically call out the next stop, or don't even bother. I've even seen some fall asleep on the job. Luckily the bus drivers don't and are in complete control of their vehicles. They seem to be able to manoeuvre the bus through any situation and a loud honk to get others to move out of the way seems to do the trick too.
Nevertheless, overall bus etiquette is pretty good, though some bus attendants feel they have the privilege of ordering around migrant workers when they bring all their belongings on the bus. Why treat them differently? It's as if someone brought several suitcases on the bus to go to the airport or train station.
Unfortunately the migrant workers have no choice but to accept this treatment. They seem to understand they play the role of country bumpkin and the discrimination comes with the territory. But why not have more respect for these people who build the roads, buildings and homes for us in Beijing?
Of all the people in Beijing, migrant workers deserve a break -- and a decent bus ride would be a good start.