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Who can it be now ?

After 2 years and countless bus trips, you'd think I'd have learnt my lesson by now. Sadly, like a plethora of guys out there, I'm a sufferer of what is called the 'Empty Seat Agony' syndrome (ESAS). I didn't stand a chance, really.

Sufferers of ESAS are generally guys who are implicitly aware of the vagaries of Fate & the sinister machinations of the universe. Raised on a special diet of awkward social situations and an instinctive understanding of self-pathos, we're stuck in the limbo of the great evolutionary game. Usually well-read, of above average intelligence, cynical and/or pessimistic, we possess a sense of humour that is devastating & self-depreciating.

We're not loquacious, know the meaning of the word 'loquacious' & of course, cannot (possibly will not) dance to save our lives. Dance, in the ESAS world, is a random flailing of limbs and we cannot be convinced otherwise. In terms of looks, the word most likely to attach itself to us is - Hmm. A number of this species of guy have cornered the market in playing the brother / supportive shoulder to the dame of interest. But the one thing we suffer in common is Empty Seat Agony. There's always a little spark of hope and it refuses to die.

It starts innocuously enough. At Dadar, one example gets on the bus to Pune & takes his seat. Habitual paranoia against the universe means that he'll be there at least 5 - 10 minutes early. The adjoining seat will be empty. He will keep his backpack in the storage, stretch his legs, plug in the earphones and twiddle his thumbs. The wait has begun. You see, that bloody spark of hope will send out enticing signals to the mind, usually along the lines of:

"What are the odds, huh ?"
"Hmm... 5 minutes to go, the other seats are taken and no one yet."
"Nah... no way. Snap out of it. You've been on enough bus rides to know better. But still..."
"Holy crap. Please old uncle, don't sit next to me... whew, he's not."
"Damn. No one is sitting in the next seat. Now what ?"

ESAS happens, is what. From Dadar to Chembur and then on to Vashi, even on the face of irrefutable proof of a thousand previous journeys, the poor sod is praying to high heaven that a reasonably cute dame open to intelligent conversation (with him) will take that empty seat.

Every time, without fail, the seat will be taken by another guy, who's expression will range from a mutually recognised disappointment (because he's another ESAS victim) to complete indifference. The original protagonist is forced to adopt Hamlet's expression of WTF-tinged resignation and pray the music player doesn't give out. Of course, if he's really lucky (and he is, on average) the guy sitting next to him is a combination of the following:
  • Old
  • Suffering from flatulence
  • An incessant & loud phone-talker
  • Obese and sweating
  • Has the flu and no shyness about largesse in spreading it
  • The snorer
  • The noisy eater
  • Anti-deodorant
  • Believes in airing some very ripe socks once he's sat down
  • Is travel-sick and does not have a plastic bag
Frankly, the old guys (with no other afflictions) are pretty decent, apart from possible weak bladders. But a combination of any of the others (take my word for it) is our hero's Waterloo. The obituary might as well say "He died bravely. Smelling faintly of rotten cabbage. Or socks."

The hope destroyer who sat next to me recently brought fresh problems. Hardly had he sat down, that he took out the cellphone and began to play Hangman. Now, I don't know whether he suffered from a lack of understanding on the point of the game or took ghoulish pleasure in failing, but an awful lot of guys were hung during that bus ride. It was like watching a kid come to grips with potty-training. For example, having been clued in that the 5-letter word was a 'direction', this bloke proceeded to stare into the middle distance for about a minute a la Zen exercises. He then proceeded to try the letter E.

I wanted to emulate the game, garrotte the fellow myself and put him and the world out of their misery.

Like I said at the start, its been 2 years and not once have I managed to find myself sitting next to a girl, never mind cute, intelligent OR otherwise. Yes, I should give up the ghost by now. But you know just as well as I do that come the next journey I'll take, there'll be an empty seat next to me and hope will clear its throat and begin humming a song. Its the Empty Seat Agony Syndrome, I tell you.

We are like this only.

Song for the moment: Poor Boy - Cliff & the Shadows

And yes, the music player gave out 20 minutes out of Vashi. Go figure.


k said…
Brilliant post! I would not be able to comment about the other characteristics of the ESAS world, but yes I did suffer the ESA syndrome. (I still do, but shhh!)

We are just very hopeful creatures aren't we! :)

On a related (praying to high heaven that a reasonably cute dame open to intelligent conversation (with him)) note, have you read Woody Allen's short story 'The Whore of Mensa'?
girish said…
:) Thanks man. And no, I haven't read Allen's story, but will definitely look it up.
k said…
You can find the link here:
Nitin Michael said…
Never is it??.. :)
girish said…
@ Nitin - Yea, thanks to you :)

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