The Bus of American Awkwardness

It was the summer before my sophomore year of college and my at-the-time girlfriend and I were planning a trip to Washington, DC. I grew up in the Dominican Republic and in The Bronx, but I repeat myself. College for me was an entirely different country. Fortunately my girlfriend had lived in Brazil and Spain and also spoke French, which basically meant that we never spoke English to one another. In fact, speaking English instead of Portuguese would often  lead to arguments. I guess English truly is a Germanic language designed for tribal warfare, but I digress.
Anyway, we somehow end up in Manhattan, and a mutual friend invites us down to DC. We got on a Chinatown Bus, but it could have been any bus in the North East. The ticket did not specify a seat, so as people trickled into the bus they occupied an empty pair of seats, leaving the one next to them empty, or putting a bag on it to show that they were truly anti-social. It was a long bus ride and I wanted to talk to my partner, but I was nervous about asking someone to switch seats. I eventually mustered up the courage to ask a redhead: "sorry, is it alright if I sit next to my girlfriend?" and she replied very shocked: "you want me to move!?"
It was a bit loud and the rest of the bus heard me, so I could just see that it was too awkward for me to ask her to move. I sat behind the redhead, next to a guy who never removed his sunglasses or headphones, and my girlfriend sat next to the redhead. I had planned on spending a few hours conversing, so I didn't have a book and my minidisc player was out of battery. All I could think about the whole ride was how paranoid Americans were about their personal space, and about approaching strangers to ask for something.
We got to DC, did our thing, and I didn't even mention how strange I found it that no one offered to switch seats. Eventually we begin making our way back, on the same Chinatown bus, and fortunately my girl and I managed to sit together. But then the bus got semi-full and only a few seats remained.
A Spanish couple stepped in, clearly looking to sit next to each other. There were 8, maybe 9 people sitting next to empty seats, but not a single one offered up their space. Eventually the couple asked in Spanish and to no one in general: "are the seats assigned?" but no one understood. I politely translated, and after a while an Indian guy stood up and sat next to someone else.