Monday, April 16, 2007

Riding the bus

I wonder why it is that people riding the bus try so incredibly hard to as appear mean and solitary creatures. The world is surely a grim and unpleasant enough place without making it worse by appearing to hate those around us.

Today, I was lucky enough to be part of a brief moment on the bus when that shell of petulant, sullen resentment that seems to radiate from most of the passengers was briefly dispelled. There was a young man with very little mobility in a motorized wheelchair who was on the bus, and when it came time for him to get ready to get off, he turned as best he could to me and asked me to put the hood on his jacket up for him to protect him from the rain that was starting to fall outside.

I had my briefcase and umbrella with me, and was reading a book at the time, and didn’t want to leave it all on my seat while I got up to help him, knowing that the lurching of the bus would send it all over the place. So I handed the book to the young lady on one side of me, and the umbrella to the woman on my other side, and went to tie up the guy’s hood.

When I was done and went to sit down again, collecting my book and umbrella, there was a moment when I noticed that several people around me were smiling, some at the guy in the chair, some at me, and others at the people who had been pressed into service to help me. The spell of gloom and irritability was briefly dispelled.

Then the guy in the chair left, the seat, which has been put out of the way to make room for him, was put back, the bus moved on, and as the usual pall of sulky antipathy settled back over the passenger, I reflected with regret that things had returned to normal.

But for a moment there, we had, in fact, all smiled at one another.
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