Who are the people in your neighborhood?
…in your neighborhood?
…in your neighborhood?
Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet on the bus…
As I’m wrapping up my week on the bus and bike routes, I’m thinking about the people. Some people I had conversations with. Some people I overheard conversations. Some people I avoided. Here are some of the highlights.
- First things first – the driver sets the mood, and the drivers all had a great attitude. Every time I got on or off a bus – the driver was welcoming and friendly and always wished people well when they left the bus.
- Good start to my week: Conversation with dude on my first bus when we got off at the same transfer stop. Guess what – new to town! Moved here from Baltimore two weeks ago to start a new job, and RTA is his main source of transportation. He wasn’t a fan of the B-more mass transit; he considers the Dayton system to be comprehensive and easy to use. Already he’s a pro and was totally helping me and giving me advice on how to catch the right bus and not to get stuck in “alternating routes.” Super nice.
- When I climbed onto my first really full bus, I slid to the back and tried to get out of the aisle. A gentleman offered me his seat. Now, I’m not limping or on crutches or with multiple bags, but I am a girl in heels who’s trying to hold on. And he offered me his seat. Not turning this into a ‘Giving Tree’ moment – I know it was just a seat on a bus – but I was grateful for the simple demonstration of courtesy. Three cheers for Midwestern politeness, because you don’t always get that.
- On one ride, I decide to be a snoop; I’m wondering what people are doing on the bus. Lots just sitting, lots reading, multiple ipod buds in ears. Right in front of me is a lady reviewing her daughter’s writing assignment (yeah, I looked) and there’s woman with a toddler playing across the aisle. People just doing their thing and getting where they’re going. As an older guy got on, a 20-something girl proactively moved to the back to give him her seat. He passed it by and wandered toward the back where someone else made the move and stood for him.
- You already know that the grocery shopping wasn’t an easy experience for me. But what made it better was help from the people who were waiting at the stop with me. As I started to pick up my bags, the young guy waiting offered to help carry them. Then, a woman (who already had her hands full) said she could rearrange and take a bag or two. It wasn’t necessary, but it was so incredibly nice.
- When the intention is good, but the delivery fails, those acts of kindness can be tougher to see. That’s when it becomes a challenge to give someone the benefit of the doubt. I got off the bus at the hub downtown, and I got hit on with the fancy line: “You make me wish I was taller. You’re real pretty.” I’m an independent woman, don’t hit on me, you can’t demean me like that way, I want to say, “of course, because the only reason we’re not dating is because I’m taller than you.” But I resist the urge to be a big jerk and I say, “Thank you.” That simple acknowledgement solicited “It’s hot today, you be careful and have a nice day.” And he walked on… He wasn’t aggressive. He didn’t want money, he just wanted to (politely, albeit awkwardly) compliment a girl who was walking by.
- Of course, sometimes what could be uncomfortable turns into something slightly humorous when you’re sharing it with other people. On one crowded bus, a rider was speaking loudly into his phone. He was explaining that he had purchased food (“a fish sandwich and fries… and it smells good”) with his paycheck and not drugs. A little weird? Yup. Kinda funny? Yup – especially if you consider the woman across the aisle from me who was offering commentary under her breath. He wasn’t threatening anyone; he wasn’t even addressing anyone on the bus. He was having his own conversation and we just happened to be present. It was one of those events that bonds you to other people who are experiencing it.
- There was also the woman at the bus stop who really, really wanted to talk to me. She shared personal tidbits about her medication and conversations she has with her doctor. She talked about her family. She talked about which bus she was going to take. And she talked about a few other things that I couldn’t catch. My response? I listened and talked with her for a bit and then decided that I was done, so I picked up my cell phone and excused myself b/c I had to make a call.
- I also got to enjoy a handful of musical interpretations. Hanging out at the hub, there are plenty of people listening to music via earbuds. One particularly boisterous teenager included some dancing and singing as he was enjoying his music. He was doing it for himself – perfectly content to feel the music and let it come out. We just happened to be honored and/or annoyed to witness it.
- AND bike related: I don’t know if cyclists follow the rules of the sea, but everyone I passed who was on a bike when I was on my bike either nodded or said hello or somehow acknowledged that we share a common bond. I almost felt like a fake (“I’m not really one of you”), until I embraced it and decided that regardless of what comes tomorrow – I’m a cyclist today!
So, what am I getting at? I think when my car is my main source of transportation, I lose that personal interaction. And some of that interaction is creepy. And some of it makes you uncomfortable or compels you to hold your purse closer. But some of it is just someone wishing you a nice day and wanting to offer a smile. Some of it is a person offering a total stranger a seat. But, even when it was weird, it was okay. For good or bad, those are the people in my neighborhood.
“Excuse me, sir – what is your job in the neighborhood?”
“You’re kidding me.”
“No, really – what’s your job?”
“I’m an elephant trainer… Look at me – I’m driving a bus!”
“Then you must be a bus driver.”
“Oh, you’re brilliant.”