It's a cold January morning and you're sitting on the bus.
The condensed breath of your fellow passengers has left the windows cloudy so you've no real sense of exactly where you are, though familiar faces getting on and off at their usual stops gives you a clue.
In front of you someone gets up and hits the bell.
It's that one guy that has been coughing and sniffling for the entire journey.
You watch in disgust as he mashes the bell with a cough-moistened palm and then proceeds to caress every one of the balance assisting handles on the bus.
You know that you're going to have to touch those handles too… But it's OK, you've got a plan.
As your stop approaches you stand up and use your forearm to steady yourself against any and all surfaces that will allow it, no handrail holding required… but it won’t last. Sooner or later the bus will jerk to the side or stop abruptly. This is where the real genius part of the plan comes into play.
You don’t just reach out and grab it like everyone else, you look for the most awkward place that you can hold on to and still maintain balance.
A place that no one would normally touch.
That might be up high where the handle meets the ceiling, or down low, right where the handle meets the wall. Anywhere unintuitive will work.
The same technique works equally well in toilets: forearms, elbows and non-standard handle grabbing.
What if other people do this too?
What does it all mean?
Food, water & shelter.
That's it - everything I need to survive as an animal.
However my life is now set up so that the list of things that concern me includes ‘where to hold handles in public places such that I minimize my indirect contact with other humans’.
There was a time where humans would wake up in the morning thankful that some other animal hadn't killed them during the night. They would then proceed directly to worrying about where their next meal was coming from. That's it.
The things they did mapped directly to their survival, they didn't have a million different layers of indirection that separated their actions from their end goal.
Here I stand, their proud descendant, top of the food chain, awkwardly gripping a bus handle with my index and middle fingers and pushing my forearm against the panel opposite the pole.
When I escape the bus I will go to a building owned by someone else to manage a bunch of people who write code to build a game that is published by another company and played by people all around the world. Those people will spend money in the game and that money will go through four other companies before ending up back in the company I work for. Some of that money will then find its way to my bank account and from there I will use it for my shelter, food and water.
It’s scary to me how ill-equipped most people are to live in the natural world. How trivial the focus of our attention often is. How unskilled we are in the most basic of survival techniques.
I don’t think we all need to be self sufficient in every way… but we should all be self sufficient in some way.
Oh and I should definitely spend less of my time thinking about how I’m going to grab a bus handrail or open a toilet door.