Whenever Manu and I take the buses here we often notice that when one person moves in to take a seat someone recently vacated they hover over it. Like they are doing wall squats against the bus seat. Not everyone does it, but enough people that it was clear it wasn’t just someone being slow to sit down. But why?Manu hypothesized it was incase the bus jerked suddenly, which it often does, but that didn’t make sense. If you were afraid of falling over wouldn’t you sit down quicker? And in fact this habit first irritated me when a hovering woman almost fell on me as the bus turned. I joked that maybe people were waiting for the seat to cool off from the last person, or they were afraid of some lingering ghost of that person’s essence. After questioning a friend from Bogotá it turned out I was eerily close to the truth: the story goes that if you sit down too fast the heat from the last person will soak into you and give you an infection.
I couldn’t have hoped for a more satisfyingly bizarre answer. I am hoping, for the sake of the grown women who do it, that it is something you are told as a child—which of course you, terrified, believe—and then don’t realize that you continue to do once you get older and (hopefully) no longer believe. I say hopefully because if you think butt heat causes infections the scientific community and the school system are not doing their jobs. What I am now curious to know is if this applies to other things—waiting room seats, park benches—or if the butt ghosts solely prefer bus seats.
Of course everywhere has their odd superstitions, this one is just particularly unforgiving in that it requires a public display, immediately separating the believers from the non-believers. But who am I to say otherwise, I may just have been lucky so far. So next time you think about rushing into that vacant seat, think twice.