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Keywords:

  • social disengagement;
  • Goffman;
  • Greyhound bus;
  • nonsocial behavior;
  • public space

Based on two years of observations and engaging in informal conversations with passengers on Greyhound Line buses, this article describes the long-distance bus journey and the ways in which people actively disengage from others over the course of the ride. Using the Greyhound buses and stations as a microcosm of other such public spaces, I examine its unspoken rules and behavior. I paint a picture of the buses and stations, the patrons, the employees, and the transactions that take place between them. Using ideas from Goffman's civil inattention theory, Lofland's thoughts on strangers, and symbolic interactionism, I explain what I call “nonsocial transient behavior” and “nonsocial transient space.” The reasons nonsocial transient behavior emerges and thus encourages disengagement are identified as follows: uncertainty about strangers, lack of privacy or absence of a personal space, and exhaustion.