You know those grumpy old men who order you around like they own the world? I encountered one of them today, followed by two gentlemen who totally made up for his royal grumpiness. All within the space of half an hour, I went from being on the verge of tears to truly believing that peace in the middle east is possible.
I got on bus no. 7 at the university, heading toward my boyfriend’s house. The driver was driving like a complete maniac, speeding a stopping without slowing down. My stomach turned over. I put on my sea band but I was still nauseated. I finally got up and sat in the seat right behind the driver, which was a small improvement. About ten minutes later, a man got on the bus and tried to sit next to me. The problem was, the bench wasn’t big enough for two people. I told him this, and he said, “So move!” .When I didn’t, he sat down practically on top of me. I asked him if he was comfortable, and he replied:
“No, you should stand up. I’m handicapped, see? I have an electronic device here! You’ll never get to be my age, I curse you that you’ll never get to be my age, and you’ll remember that!”
Needless to say, I was a lot less motivated to stand up for him then. I told him I was feeling sick and was afraid that if I got up I’d throw up. People behind us started shouting that I should get up. (It’s important to know that there were other seats available on the bus.) But I didn’t get up, because I didn’t want to throw up. I got off the bus two stops later to switch to the number 8, and I said to him, “I hope you have a great day, may you be blessed with grandchildren and great grandchildren and everything good.” Why? Mostly because I wanted to make him feel bad about himself.
I did feel a bit bad afterwards. Maybe I should have gotten up for him. If there had been nowhere else to sit I would have in a heartbeat. But because I felt so sick, and there were other seats available, and he had cursed me to die young, I decided it was OK that I just didn’t feel like getting up.
When I got off the bus to wait for the next one, another old man sat down next to me at the stop. I recognized him as the security guard from my high school. I remembered his name, and asked him how he was doing. He smiled so broadly and seemed so happy to see me, even though I was sure he’d have no idea who I was. He knew I was from the high school where he used to work. We had a friendly discussion about his job and my degree. He told me he was very happy to see me. I was shocked. I used to greet him every day when I walked into school, but I doubt he ever knew my name.
The number 8 driver was just as bad as the previous one, and this time there was no room to sit. I held on to two of the yellow columns so I wouldn’t fly out the windshield. On one particularly quick stop I groaned and a man sitting in front of me said, “Are you okay?”
I told him I was fine, just a little nauseated, and he told me he also got nauseated so times from the bus. He insisted I take his seat. I refused but he got up anyway, so I sat down next to his wife and thanked him graciously. They were Muslims, not that that matters. It made me realize that there are people who are capable of seeing past the invisible lines drawn by our societies and our governments. It made me believe that peace in the Middle East is really possible.
These three people managed to impress upon me the power of kind words and small acts of kindness. You never know what saying “Good morning” might mean to a person, or what giving up your seat on the bus for them might make them believe.