Thursday, March 8, 2007

Riding the bus

Sometimes my mood for the day is affected by how the morning bus ride goes.

Today I was running late and crossed the street on a red light (shocker!) to make it on the bus. The bus was pretty packed, but I didn’t want to be any later than I already was. I was the last one on, teetering on the steps. I squeezed my way into the crowd and looked for something to hold onto.

Suddenly a voice to my right said, “Don’t worry, I’m holding on to you.” It was the conductor. She was a very pleasant young woman. I immediately relaxed. I heard her giving helpful comments to other passengers too.

At the next stop, an elderly woman got on. But not so elderly that she couldn’t do some pushing. She was swathed in bulky winter clothes with only her eyes showing (it’s 40 degrees outside) and had a big bag and tried shoving her way into the crowd. The conductor said gently, “Let’s not push.” The babushka answered unkindly.

After ranting and raving for a few minutes, the old lady asked,
“Are you the conductor or something?”
“Yes.”
Then instead of apologizing, she said, “We used to have better conductors. I remember a good conductor who would always stay in his place and not get in the way.”
The conductor said calmly, "Yes, sounds like a good conductor." I wondered if she was a Christian.

Everyone immediately began to defend the conductor.
“She’s a good conductor!”
“I like her! She’s a splendid young lady!”
“She’s just doing her job!”
To which the old lady replied, “She is doing her job for her own comfort and not to make other people comfortable.”

Still no apparent remorse felt by her. She continued, “You all don’t know how to behave yourselves in a crowd! You should learn something from the Chinese! They know how!”
“Then why don’t you move to China?”

And so on. I felt like I was back in elementary school where you choose sides and keep arguing even when you’ve clearly lost.

I was encouraged that people behaved positively toward the conductor. But I was sad about the babushka. I prayed for her as we finally arrived at the metro and burst free from the bus.

She walked away still arguing, but no one was listening.

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