Lately I’ve been taking the 630am bus (thank goodness there’s a bus stop right outside my house!) to get some extra time in at work. Not having a car, my strict schedule, and my family obligations make it so I can’t stay overtime at work.
It’s another one of life’s little negotiations.
On Auckland buses, the negotiation seems to be that we riders give up some of our alone time for the chance to make some human connections. Even though most of us ideally want our own seat, we still enjoy the proximity of familiar people. It’s comforting to watch them grow and change over time and to see their patterns..
So a few stops into the route on this particular day I see a guy get on the bus I’ve seen every morning for the past few weeks. He usually rides with a co-worker, and they seem to have a good relationship. They listen to music together, each one of them gets one headphone to listen to and they laugh and chat and wind down from their night shift.
But today only one of them is at the bus stop. He usually gets on with a big sigh that says, “I’m done working now. Sleep awaits.” Only this day, he breaks his routine by announcing to the driver:
“Driver, today’s my last day on your bus.”
Wow. In one quick phrase he managed to capture all that is riding the bus, and life itself. People share similar paths, joined by common experience, only to change course and go their separate ways.
A brief chat ensues and the driver inquires where the man is headed next. Does he have a new job? How about his friend, is he moving on as well? The conversation tapers off after a short time, both driver and passenger seemingly content with this sharing of news. Their social negotiation agreed upon, they leave it at that, short and sweet. Complete. Uncomplicated, yet still very sweet.
My attention to their conversation has lasted long after it ended. I feel like I’m still replaying that scene in my mind, reanalysing it like I’m cutting a movie; trying to save the choicest bits in order to glean as much from it as I can. Looking at it from every possible angle.
I was really amazed at the simplicity of their conversation and how such a potentially sad separation seemed more like a fond farewell, or more like a casual goodbye between acquaintances?
But you see, part of the negotiation that is riding the bus is we agree to share our lives, but only up to a certain point. It is too painful for us to connect and become friends knowing our time together is temporary, fleeting — not meant to be. We ride the bus together for a while but always end up alone once we reach our stop. Each of us once again engulfed by the city.