“… You can’t see a person more nakedly than that, when they don’t know they’re being watched, studied.”
― Jo Nesbø, Blood on Snow
When the going gets tough, I think of the bus.
It was a typical day at school, quite the balanced mixture of embarrassment, awkwardness and laughs. We walk to the bus stop where the bus waits for a few minutes to pick a new set of passengers, talking and laughing to not bore ourselves with the walk, while I exist as the silent listener and occasional contributor.
Once we’re on the bus though – oh, it’s the most exciting thing ever. The bus is akin to a vehicle of life itself, with several stories from all walks of life, permitting its passengers to observe epitomes of life from such close vantage points. And observe, I do.
I prefer window seats but you’re not really given the liberty of a choice on a crowded bus and it makes it, all the more realistic. This isn’t a fairy tale where the evil walks out the door, and the good triumphs, all in a span of a few pages.
The bus has started on its journey and there’s a woman at the front, asking if she can get a discount, owing to her daily commute. The conductor is laughing but nods his head at the end.
You never know what people are going through and it isn’t just a slogan – it really is true. Most conductors who work with private companies don’t earn much, just enough to get by but even that depends on people who are always on the lookout for the earliest bus. This leads to people developing a relationship with the bus and feel the need to remain faithful to it, passing on the buses that come early – almost to show solidarity with the common human need to survive.
But once you go by bus a few times, you’ll learn that students aren’t required to pay the whole ticket fare, they get a discount by virtue of their being students and conductors respect that in their own ways; sometimes by letting a child on for free or not charging a passenger’s child even when they’re too young to be a student. And the very nature of it all is beautiful through life’s lens because it matters in a way of its own. And it’s the sort of thing that goes unseen.
There’s another daily commuter, yet another woman, in her sixties or so and you can hear her pour her pain which appears to be in abundance, talking about her struggles to anyone who listens, and no one stops her. Not because it isn’t uncomfortable at all, but because we want her to talk. We, the group of strangers she doesn’t know and probably never will, want her, to let herself free from this burden of tangled pain she’s kept locked up for so long.
A few moments later, a friend of the conductor’s goes up to the front and you get to witness him giving the unhappy woman a therapy session at no additional charge. And this is beautiful too because you get to see humanity when it’s most raw.
I know it doesn’t seem important but only because we judge importance by our answer to “How am I benefitting from this?” or “What has this taught me?” You don’t have to gain anything or learn anything to attribute importance to a moment in time, if it leaves you feeling human, that’s important enough.
As the therapy session goes on at the front, new passengers keep coming in. There’s a woman next to me who looks well-dressed but she’s been fidgeting anxiously ever since the conductor walked off with the money she handed him, without giving her the due balance. There’s a child with a small green bag who seems adamant on wanting to sit with his granny, despite the obvious lack of space and ends up on her lap, clutching the bus fare with his tiny hands. There’s a couple of boys at the back chattering loudly, mostly about football and apparently how it was great, some teacher didn’t show up.
There’s the group of usual silent window-lookers who keep their eyes wide open clinging onto the passing sights outside, looking out for their stops or simply on the verge of falling asleep. There’s a man a few rows to the back who looks terribly exhausted, but he’s focused on the session at the front, desperately trying to not fall asleep, lest he misses his stop. And you have the usual group of youth on their phones, furiously chatting away or browsing the news.
I enjoy making up stories for every character on the bus because it’s an interesting way to pass the time. I find the girl a few rows ahead, staring at me and I know what she’s doing. Maybe it’s something most of us do, albeit in ways of our own. We’re all writing our own stories anyway, might as well write more.
Just as I’m about to get off this beautiful bus with such splendid characters, I hear the conductor apologising for the delay, as he hands the anxious woman her precious balance.
I’ll choose this over anything else, every day of the week, because this random group of strangers are the only ones who know my story, just as I know theirs.
“We only know a tiny proportion about the complexity of the natural world. Wherever you look, there are still things we don’t know about and don’t understand. […] There are always new things to find out if you go looking for them.”
― David Attenborough
The embed song below was shared by ben Alexander @ The Skeptick’s Kaddish and I thought it was a fun perspective on the same idea!
From December 2021 to May of next year, the months are specked with exams albeit, with breaks in between but it might be a few months before I can get back online. However, I’ll try to pop back in every now and then, especially for Christmas! The posts for October, November and December have been scheduled beforehand.
As always, I appreciate your constant support and look forward to reading your posts as soon as I get back!