I got on the bus the other day, greeted the driver, grabbed a seat and settled in. It was stormy outside and the mini shuttle bus, the kind that serves the outlying ‘burbs, soon filled up. Being at the terminus station we had to wait a few minutes before starting on our journey. The passengers sat quietly or murmured to one another while drying out from the heavy shower that doused us before loading. I sat and pondered my navel as I am wont to do on buses—they are a good place for inner reflection; silent meditation and journaling. Perhaps it is because you are in the centre of this microcosm of humanity, a haphazard composition of life, all journeying somewhere while images of what could be flash by your window. If you can take yourself out of it—be the observer; the witness of this frenetic whirlwind—there is an absolute stillness that only a bus can provide.
Needless to say, I like riding the busses. I also, for the most part, like bus drivers. They tend to be a congenial sort and, like most of us, when treated with respect, give it back. I’ve had plenty of good laughs and conversation but also quiet camaraderie. It is a tough job and I appreciate them.
Just before leaving the bus driver stood up and addressed us. He told us how “amazing” we were. Seriously. It would have been humorous, even lovely, if he had stopped there but no, he continued. From the pulpit of driver’s domain, he lectured us—that is the only way I can describe it—about how amazing we are in our humanness. He must have used the amazing word ten, maybe twenty times in his monologue. It was over the top. It was like listening to a born again on a sugar high. I wanted to take my amazing fist and hit his amazing self.
The funny thing is, I agree with him, we are amazing: special in our uniqueness but spellbinding as a species. But there on the bus it was like continually being hit over the head with a soft baton: amusing at first and then downright irritating. He soon ended his speech but reinstituted a shortened version at each person’s stop: You are amazing, don’t forget it; have an amazing evening.
After fifteen minutes of this, it was my turn to get off. I respectfully said goodbye and was eternally grateful for his lack of comments on my amazing being-ness. Perhaps he had finally tired of it; more likely he sensed I was not a devotee. Regardless, the silence greeting me as I walked down the street made me almost delirious.
I had a few minutes to spare so I got some tea and sat outside while the newly arrived sun pushed the clouds away. I opened up my still wet umbrella and set it beside me to dry. The soft gentle breeze and the warming rays filled me with joy when a little girl, probably not much more than four, stopped in front of me. She looked at the umbrella and then looked at me. It’s not raining, she said. I know, I replied, it’s wonderfully sunny but my umbrella needs to dry out. She nodded her head sagely and gently brushed away some remnant drops. I will help it, she said. I thanked her. She started to walk away and then bent down to pick up a small branch. It was covered with bits of moss and lichen, probably blown from the trees in the recently passed storm. I want you to have this, she said, but in the summer. Thank you, said I, I will gladly take it … in the summer. Once again she nodded, you promise? I promise, I said, and she skipped away.
Maybe the bus driver’s speech opened my heart, thereby allowing me to have this most lovely encounter. But of this I am not so sure— I was rather disgruntled when I left his presence. No, I think he was there more to act as a foil. In his grandiose sermon in praise of humanness he only served to highlight what truly is amazing in our hyperbolic world of slogans, affirmations and promotional rhetoric: the small and the subtle; the skip of a young child; the drop of rain.