There are some things you seldom, if ever, see on the bus. I started noticing these things after I was kept waiting a ridiculously long time for a ride one rainy night. It was late. I was quite done in. My pleasant, smiley self, was long gone by the time that bloody bus stopped. Cold, wet, and miserable, I boarded grumpily and plunked myself into a seat. I fought back tears all the way home.
If you’re asking yourself why I didn’t hail a taxi, it’s because I’m stubborn. Besides, usually a bus does come along. That particular night was odd. I kept thinking, “Surely the bus will be here any second. It’s supposed to be here now…”. 30 minutes passed. Suffice it to say, the experience didn’t unleash my finest moment but it gave way to some inspiration.
Because I spend so much of my time on public transport these days, and since I’ve always been a keen observer of stuff, I decided to look for what we do not see instead of the plethora of sights and sounds most common.
Here’s my list so far:
- Car keys in someone’s hand.
- Eye contact.
- Fur coats.
- Men in suits.
Now, I could get into a few other things. I could tell you, for example, that I don’t see shtreimels or tiaras, covered faces or police. (When I was in Liverpool, police would often ride the bus. It was nice.) Vancouver advertises that it has Transit Police, but I can’t recall seeing them on any bus I’ve been on. Not even late at night. Perhaps they work undercover in plain clothes. Yeah, that must be it.
Regardless, my list is pretty solid, especially numero uno. That one makes sense, though. Why would anyone bother waiting for a stinky, over-crowded bus when they have the means to slide into a comfy car and drive into the sunset? No one, that’s who.
Number two isn’t that much of a surprise, either. Some might argue with me, but I’ve a strong defence. As a smiler, I invite the response. When I don’t ask, I don’t receive. Unless on the faces of those interacting with friends or family members, no one smiles on transit. And that’s the perfect segue into the third observation.
No eye contact. Maybe stoicism demands it. Anywho, let’s not acknowledge one other. Why? Aren’t we all just people stuffed sardine-in-can style into a moving cage? Have we nothing in common? I guess mom’s advice sunk in on a global scale. She’d be happy, I suppose, because we certainly do not talk to strangers. Still, I’m reminded of Woodstock. Friends for a few days. No strangers. Half a million strong…
As for the last three, they’re similar. A woman would have to be adept times ten to travel via public transit in Gaga-style heels. I once – only once – saw a drag queen in full stage garb and asked about the shoes. In a flowing baritone, she told me she was used to them. Plus, they were gigantic wedges, not stilettos.
And lastly, fur coats and suits. Well, I don’t think they need any explanations.
I wish a lot of things today as a result of thinking about people on buses. What has floated to the top is this: Every animal accedes to its surroundings by paying heed to the creatures swimming, walking, running, or simply breathing, in their orbit. I understand very well how draining interactions can be at times, how pressing issues in my day can overwhelm me. Sharing pleasantries with a complete stranger is the last thing I want to do. But shutting down is unhealthy, too. It’s also dangerous. Predators in the wild pick prey who are fearful or solitary. I’m not a proponent of us being victims, though, so will only say that closing ourselves off, shutting down and hiding, does not encourage good will of any kind. A nod, a smile, or mere eye contact acts to acknowledge our shared experience. We are human beings being human as best we can.