I love riding the bus. Which is probably no surprise to anyone who knows me, given the fact that I hate, no, LOATHE driving. But it’s more than that really. After a long day of work, I like sitting on the bus surrounded by, but not actually interacting with, people. It’s probably some short-coming in my character like my tendency to procrastinate or love of puns. It’s taking the easy way out; having such affection for people as long as they don’t require anything from me.

Also, it’s an endearing testimony to our collective social contract. A bunch of strangers agree to sit close, sometimes very close, together without disturbing one another…. or at least we did, before the advent of cell phones. And even those just serve to point out the outliers, making it easier to pick out who NOT to sit with. Contrast that with driving, where everyone drives in their own private womb, for god’s sake; they control the music, the temperature, the angle of their seat and still end up whipped into a misanthropic frenzy by people trying to turn left on a busy street during rush hour. Individual freedom does not necessarily lead to civilized behavior. On the bus, we control NOTHING and 80% of us still remember to say “thank you” to the driver.

But it’s the people that make the trip so enjoyable. My fellow riders are at once fascinating and endearing. I saw a woman on the bus the other day. A girl, really. Sitting with her friend and speaking in what I think was Amharic. She was luminous in that way that teen girls often are; chattering away, leaning into her friend and giggling. At one point, she was laughing hysterically and in the next moment she looked…stricken. The change was so sudden and so remarkable that I needed to remind myself “We do not hug total strangers on public transportation.” I don’t know exactly what the conversation was, or what caused the change but it made me think of how often in our unguarded moments we let our emotions play on our face.

This is not always a good thing.

I am often crabby, especially in the mornings, and find myself thinking dark and crabby thoughts. Thoughts I don’t particularly prescribe to, after my second cup of coffee. It would be unfortunate if someone were to read on my face the sheer depth of my anger toward the entire human race in those times. On a really bad morning, their head might conceivably burst into flame. If I were in my car, bad things could happen. The causes of peace and love would not be advanced. But on the bus, I must reign in homicidal thoughts for the good of the whole, public-transportation riding community.

I take the responsibility very seriously. Because lovely things can be happening on the bus, all the time. Like the dad who picks his daughter up from preschool in time to catch the 3:50 p.m. bus. (Her favorite color is pink, judging from everything she has ever worn.) Or, oh my gosh, the young lovers I saw tonight. Maybe 16 years old, she with the cappuccino skin and gorgeous halo of hair and him with the long, floppy bangs. They sat together so quietly, not saying much of anything. But once in a while, they would lean their foreheads together and just…breathe. I almost swooned. They were completely still and content. Do you remember having nothing else to do but look at your sweetheart? I can think of 57 things I need to do just off the top of my head, but these two……I’m fainting from the cuteness. And maybe just the teensiest bit of jealousy.

So that’s it. No big morale or “ha-ha” moment. I just absolutely love riding the bus. I hope to see you there…I may seem to ignore you, but know that I’m loving you all the same.

The Rise & Fall of a Momocracy

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