Empty Seat Effect
So I take the bus to work every other morning. Usually if I’m early the bus is nice and peaceful and I’m the only person on it save the driver. We even chat sometimes. But then sometimes when I’m “late” (on time) it’s packed and musty with foggy windows and filled with people with gruesome injuries going to the hospital, people with mental disorders going to the hospital, and homeless people. It’s crazy. Two days ago I was running a bit late but was able to get on right before the rush. There were a few empty seats, although I knew that would change at the stop before the hospital. So I sat and waited.
We got to the stop and the RUSH started. Seats started filling up and eventually it was packed. People standing up and everything. Then I realized that I still had an empty seat beside me. I even beckoned an old Asian lady to take the seat but she declined. Even the homeless person with the Santa Claus beard had a person sitting beside him. Then I realized what had happened.
I was the only Black Guy on the bus. Although I’m not a very intimidating fellow (I don’t think so) and I had on an incredibly modest outfit of a cardigan, jeans, and loafers, I was still apparently more intimidating than THE HOMELESS GUY! THE HOMELESS GUY??? I mean he smelled like onion soup and was reading the newspaper upside down. And I was somehow more threatening than him? What did people think that I was gonna steal their purses while taking a break from checking stock quotes on my phone? Oh.
I call this phenomenon the “Empty Seat Effect.” I believe it is a cousin of the “Purse-Clutching Effect” and the “Locking Car Doors Effect” where members of other races unknowingly go into survival fight-or-flight mode around black men. I don’t really mind it in this context. Hell it’s more space for me. But I just can’t believe that they chose the HOMELESS GUY over me! Man.