What if our lives were as miserable as we look on the bus?
Arms crossed; fits clenched; bags clutched to tightly wounded chests....
Imagine if this swarm of travelers got to their jobs, their homes, and their loved ones as miserable as they looked on this n55 bus ride from Uniondale to Hempstead?
I'm guessing they don't.
Because about 11 half smiles and 20 sighs of relief greet the dingy hempstead air as a sea of suddenly alive bodies jolt, and unapologetically scrape past each other to run off the cursed contraption.
And I get it.
There's nothing fun about being jerked by a turbulent bus. Having to sit next to a stranger who does not share your ideas about personal space. Holding on desperately to a pole; with as much strength, and hood-bus gusto as you can muster- to avoid being flung to the other side of the bus; when all you want to do is sleep. No one in their right mind enjoys bus rides. Except the lady sitting across from me. There is something about her half smile, and the off beat swinging of her feet that makes me want to take off my jacket.
I used to ride the bus with my jacket off.
I thought nothing of it; until a close friend scolded me about it. There was a metaphysical danger, he thought- in being carefree on the n55. It didn't matter that I was enclosed in a tight and humid space. The very fact that I saw it fit to let my guard down in a traveling machine within a 5 mile radius of a town like Hempstead said something about my character. Something I wasn't supposed to like. And after a "harmless" conversation that ended with me running off the bus with spit in my eye, and a man twice my age demanding for my number- I figured maybe he was right.
But there was something about this lady; and her unassuming smile that made me feel like that I didn't have to keep my jacket on today. She might have just been crazy. Maybe she had an exceptionally good run; as per her obviously new tennis shoes. Or maybe she was feeling closer to her new year resolution weight goal.
Whatever it was--it made me half smile too. It reminded me that getting away from the 6 inches too friendly stranger was as simple as moving to another seat. And that should the bus jerk harder than I could handle--should I have fallen and tumbled down the 3 step stairs; there were emergency rooms within a 10 mile radius.
Her freedom freed me.
It freed me from the notion that bus rides have to be miserable. That the only way to get through uncomfortable transition periods is to inflict a lesser version of happiness on yourself. To be a lesser version of yourself. I was about to reach for my jacket when the bus pulled into the parking lot.
I didn't rush out this time. We were the last two on the bus; smiling lady and I. And while we didn't make eye contact; there was an unspoken joke between us; a lighthearted laugh at the mad rush of passengers to get to a destination less than two feet away, and the fact that we had both opted to enjoy the view.
I don't do this on every bus ride. Sometimes it feels natural to keep my jacket on. Sometimes I need to protect myself. And more often than not, I do join the mad rush- because being on time for the next bus to my final destination feels far more important than enjoying the view.
But once in a while; when the temperature is right, and the realization that time cannot go any faster or slower than it's supposed to dawns on my psyche: I take off my jacket.
Because thanks to off beat bus lady, and my melodramatic approach to life- I have adopted a new philosophy:
Not all transitions have to be awkward.