There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Through the looking glass

It was as if I were looking in a mirror. It was disconcerting. My left was his right. We shared a core experience, but our perception of the world was reversed.

I met this mirror image of myself riding home on the 82 line. Where I am quiet and bookish -- literally -- he is gregarious and loud, possessed of a voice with the the power to penetrate well beyond normal limits.

He boards the bus at Sac State and takes the first seat facing front, the one reserved for the elderly and the handicapped. He puts his feet up on the bench in front of him and slouches comfortably. This is his routine.

He is quiet as we leave the university and head over the J Street bridge. But eventually, as the bus empties, he starts a conversation with the woman driving the bus. From my perspective in the rear of the bus, this is a one-sided conversation. I think the driver is talking but her voice doesn't travel like his.

I saw myself in the mirror on our first meeting. He was whining about having to ride the bus.

"I'm still spending three hours of my life in transit each day," he said.

But where I have carefully crafted my transitarian enthusiasm for the opportunities for self-improvement that this extra time affords, he sees only waste.

Where I enjoy the benefits of a structure I can build upon to help pace my day, he feels "robbed of any chance of spontaneity."

We both live very close to a bus stop on the 82 line. We both find the commute to and from work convenient and reliable. And yet he sees the transit glass half empty and I see a transitarian glass half full.

A creeking sound announces the opening of a door. Doubts creep silently into my thoughts. My faith is tested.

I think I'll take a later bus today and avoid the question.

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