Monday through Friday I take the bus to and from work. The commute occupies a little over two hours of each day. If I take the math a step further that’s roughly ten hours each week. Ten hours in a moving tube stuffed with strangers. That occasionally smells like farts.
Yes, some days the negatives outweigh the positives. Like when a clearly tortured soul feels it necessary to listen to screechy hardcore metal music without headphones. However, positives do exist. Last year I read over 30 books!
My inclination towards open-mindedness and my hobby of spinning observations into moments of whimsy suit this daily routine quite well. I visualize myself as an anthropologist. Collecting field notes. The study: The People on the Bus.
Moments of Human Connection
- The morning after I broke up with my ex-boyfriend I felt like a fresh bruise. No part of me looked forward to the day of work ahead. I sat on the bus like a bundle of feelings bound to spill over. And spill over they did. Despite my best efforts I began to cry. I put on my sunglasses and looked out the window and hoped to stifle an inevitable avalanche of emotions. I felt a warm hand gently touch the top of mine only for a second. The hand belonged to the woman sitting beside me. She said: “Honey, I know it doesn’t feel like it right now…but it does get better.” She smiled and returned to her book. This stranger, without knowing the context of my tears, gave me a little light to take me through the rest of my day.
- One afternoon I sat next to a retired merchant sailor on his way home after volunteering at the VA. With very little prompting he told me that his daughter recently got married. He shared a beautiful metaphor about his parenting ideas. As a little girl, he treated her like a caterpillar. Helping her to form a secure cocoon by providing her with the essentials (love, shelter, food, education). Now as an adult woman he sees her as a butterfly. Fragile, yes, however, beautiful and requiring less parental control and more patient observation from afar. He spoke with a positive and contagious energy. He recently renewed his passport even though he didn’t know his next trip. His favorite book is Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. Mostly because of the no-name cat. His newest hobby is sculpting with clay. We met and connected in the span of thirty minutes.
Intimate & Silly Moments Witnessed
- A mom and her young daughter sit across from each other on the bus. The little girl is fussing with her little pony backpack. The mom beckons for her to sit next to her. Closer. So she can wrap her little frame in a full embrace. The girl reluctant at first, then settles comfortably against her mom’s body. Nestling into the soft places. Instantaneously the little girl drifts into sleep. The mom tenderly brushes a hand over both small cheeks. Runs a finger down her nose. She even gently touches both closed eyelids. Smiling all the while. Lastly, she kisses her forehead. A ritual of love and connection. A practice, I imagine, beginning when her daughter was a baby. Same cheeks. Same nose. Same set of eye lids.
- A group of Hispanic women collect in the back of the bus every morning. Like clockwork they all open their respective purses and tote bags. Pulling out flaky pastries. Opening steaming thermoses filled with coffee. They share without pause their breakfasts. Passing around granola bars and oranges to be stored for later. They seem to create a circle. A community. Stories in Spanish punctuated by belly-laughter.
- Two gentlemen, one young, one old, eagerly wait at the back door exit as their stop approaches. The bus lurches to a stop causing the older gentleman to almost lose his footing. He grabs the side rail and rights himself as the younger man reflexively reaches out to assist him. The older man puts a hand on the younger man’s elbow and says: “You alright? Hold on now!” A beautiful execution of humility.
- “Now here’s a question: who invented the caterpillar?”
- “Don’t play cards with stoned people”
- “There ain’t nothin’ wrong with being size medium!”
- “Tomorrow is a new salad”
- “Your only choice is forward”