Since I moved to a new neighborhood, I’ve been taking the bus more often instead of walking. It’s unfortunately very convenient when I’m late, hot, tired, or feeling just plain lazy.
Sometimes I feel the crush of humanity and I regret getting on the bus, so I get off to walk because it’s just too crowded, uncomfortable, hot, and weird.
Sometimes everyone has their own double seat and we can all comfortably ignore each other.
Sometimes it’s entertaining to just people-watch.
One guy was standing in the area reserved for wheelchairs. In Israel, you are more likely to see moms with their strollers using the space. A stroller was parked practically on his feet and he still didn’t move. Not until the mom very loudly said, “EXCUSE ME!” “Oh, sorry, sorry…I didn’t see you,” he muttered as he shuffled away focused on his phone.
Teenagers are plugged into their music (I’m guessing; they aren’t bobbing their heads or dancing to the beat of an unheard drummer).
Perfectly made-up Barbie-doll Russian women are softly talking business on their hands-free Bluetooth devices, covering their mouths so that you can’t hear them.
An Israeli man with a white knitted kippa covering his graying hair is shouting on his phone that there is no way, no how, no conceivable possibility that he would ever agree, and he’s willing to say that to whomever’s face any time, any day. “Mo-o-om, I’m telling you, you tell him I said so!”
Four religious Australian teens are talking about getting high (in English, as if no one else understands them).
There are moments when we are all in it together.
The bus driver slams on his brakes nearly rear-ending someone. All the passengers, many of us standing, are hanging on for dear life hoping not to fly through the windows. We all nervously laugh together and mumble our agreement when a few people voice their criticisms.
At the top of the hour, the bus driver turns up the radio really loudly so that everyone can hear the news.
One bus driver seemed to have forgotten the bus route. The first time he nearly took a wrong turn, he was startled in time when half the bus yelled, “DRIVER!” After most of the bus passengers yelled “DRIVER!” again to avoid the second wrong turn, he actually had to back up to take the correct turn. Cue the mumbling among ourselves about what the heck is wrong with this guy and we need to get off this crazy bus asap.
Once in a while, something nice happens.
My friend was visiting from Costa Rica and texted me that she was on the bus on the way to my house. My plan was to get home before her, so I flew out of the office to catch the next bus home.
As I clambered onto the bus to pay my fare, I looked down the center aisle to see if my friend was on this bus. I heard someone call my name and from among the sea of faces on the crowded bus, there she was!
We haven’t seen each other in 17 years, but we recognized each other immediately. And in that moment, it was as if no time had passed.
And to paraphrase Confucius: Is it not a pleasure to meet friends from afar, even if it’s on a bus?