There are moments in life that simply blow me away. They are not so common anymore as 1) I have been an avid people watcher for years and am not surprised at all anymore, as to the level of cruelty people can attain to, as well as the level of heroism and kindness a few good men and women exemplify on any given day, completely unnoticed….and 2) few people are kind when traveling on Rapid Transit, therefore I usually expect problems. Rarely is this expectation disappointed.
A public bus is much too smelly, sweaty and overall oppressive for kindness to poke its head out of the sand. It’s a truism. People are people and when people are packed like sardines into a tin can, they get cranky….and stinky….and difficult to deal with. Every now and again it does however (kindness that is), rear its beautiful head and the result is a fantastic moment that will forever be written in the memory of others and carried on in story, as I am doing today. Picture this…
The 6 bus is late. It is always late during rush hour as it has to accomplish an incredible route from the ‘burbs up in Thornton through the heart of Downtown Denver, on into the ‘burbs of Aurora, Colorado. It is a tedious route and more often than not, an exercise in patience.
My thoughts whilst stewing on the bus en route?
“We are late!”
“I can’t be late for work!”
“I am soooo gonna hear it from the boss man (or boss lady as in my case).”
“What excuse will I give… Who can I blame this FUBAR on?”
These are the substance of my thoughts as I make the trek into Downtown. As you can tell, I am in that classic spot so many of us get ourselves into during even moderately stressful situations like this…It’s all about Trav! The universe revolves around me! Terminally unique to the end. Yep. We are our own favorite subjects are we not?
Half way through the Downtown area we stop and pick up a young woman who seemed overly eager to stand by the driver, peppering him with questions about the bus route. Not an uncommon site, especially in the ‘burbs where rookie transit takers abound. The driver, patient as can be, answered each and every one of her questions until this young woman appeared to have her satisfaction.
But In my mind?
“PLEASE lady! Just sit down so we can go!”
(This is the “G” version of course)
It was not overly abusive, yet not at all loving nor conducive to a balanced mental state needed for the upcoming twelve hour shift I am accustomed to doing on Friday nights.
This young lady finally did decide to sit and we were off again (“Thankfully!”). The driver then proceeds to make up lost time at an incredible rate of speed. Surprisingly, he makes it to the stop just before my destination in almost record time for this run. He applies the brake (“That’s good.”). Then he shuts down the bus (“Oh no!”). He stands up and prepares to address the four or five of us still riding along (“What the heck is going on?!”).
Over his shoulder, I can see my stop several hundred yards away and yet? It wasn’t close enough. My thoughts are already angry and getting more frustrated as this little “teaching moment” in tedious behavior, progresses forward.
“Folks, I made up several minutes to get to this stop. The schedule shows I have one minute before we have to leave. This young woman is blind and has gotten herself turned around. She’s lost. I am going to take the minute we have made up, and walk her across the street (a busy one) and get her on the proper bus going the other direction.”
He then turns to the woman (not waiting for any reply from us, the peanut gallery), who happens to be as surprised as the rest of us, and offers her his hand. The driver then gives an elbow for her to hold on to as they exit the bus. He treats her like the lady she is, with utmost respect, helping her off the bus and slowly shuffles along with her down the sidewalk towards a very busy intersection. This driver is patient and he kindly keeps her feet on steady ground, guiding the young woman to the proper stop several hundred feet away, negotiating the cars like the professional he is. After securing her at the stop, he offers a few last minute instructions and returns to the bus, where the rest of us sit in sheepish silence.
My face, as it always seems to be when embarrassed at my own behavior, is surely and humbly red. Center of the world? Not at this point. At this point my attitude turned from sour Mr. Grumpy Pants to enlightened philosopher, all at the drop of a ten cent bus token.
RTD drivers have a difficult job, and it shows. Some can be very impatient and cranky. I have seen some drivers reject those in need of help with a certain callousness that bothered me to no end…a lot like the callousness that had been playing across the avenues of my self-obsessed mind just moments earlier huh? This particular driver? No. This particular fella had the wherewithal to listen, to plan ahead and then handle the needs of the one person on that bus who, in reality, was the only one who truly needed an assist from him.
He handled it. He handled it very well.
Kindness is a rarity in life. Close friends and family commonly turn on each other, tearing each other up in hopes of protecting vulnerable egos. I guess that’s normal. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I lament this part of humanity almost daily. Imagine then, how hard it is to be kind to a stranger? And professionalism? Even in the work place this can be a rarity, especially on a bus, plagued with old memories of sweat, stale air and cranky people.
Professionalism combined with kindness makes this particular driver one of the most important people I have met this week, possibly the entire month. A spiritual person is one (among many characteristics) who sees a need and seeks to fill that need in the face of opposition and fear, without expecting anything in return. RTD drivers (on a daily basis) are verbally abused, tongue lashed and ridiculed, all the while trying to negotiate terrible traffic situations and still expected to hold their own tongues and act as if nothing gets to them. Self-control is a must, yet rarely possessed in the majority of humanity. Imagine his thoughts as he told 5 burly men he was leaving them (possibly making them late) to help a blind woman cross the street?
Careful attentiveness? Gentleness? Patience? Kindness? Long suffering? This man had them all and it showed on the young woman’s relieved face and smiling lips. She needed him and he filled that need with a guiding hand, going against several major constraints, one being time. RTD drivers are held accountable by the timing of their routes.
Who is willing to stand up for what he believes yet still acknowledge that other people are different and have struggles unique to their own situations, accepting those differences and accommodating them? Very few indeed. Wise men believe that “It is not living that matters, but living rightly.” That is Socrates by the way.
In leading a blind woman to her destination, my own self-imposed blindness at the time became quite evident and living rightly, as this fine man was doing, dwarfed my need to just live in my own little world of time and schedules. A great big “hats off” to this anonymous bus driver as well as a much deserved acknowledgment to a spiritual warrior’s great heart.