The Bus and Mrs. Human

The moment I thought about writing about how content I felt sitting on the bus, the moment was ruined.

Before this, I was thinking about all the people sitting in bumper to bumper traffic at that very moment. Oh the stress that would cover the road if it were to materialize as a visible cloud — however that would work.

And there I was, moving through traffic with my eyes closed. I was listening to an audiobook about Tao. I was breathing slowly and deeply. I felt content.

“Is this meditation?” I wondered.

Well, my mind was occasionally drifting elsewhere, so it couldn’t be meditation in the pure sense of the word, but it was certainly on the spectrum.

Perhaps that’s why the thought about writing ruined the moment in the first place. My mind had ventured away from the moment and thought about another one.

Smack dab in the middle of that moment, a lady sat down next me. She was bundled up in a hooded jacket and had a bright face that looked a tad like Marge Gunderson in Fargo, but with a few extra years of wrinkles.

She turned towards me, and I pulled out an earbud to see what she was saying.

“I’ll be on here until Westgate, the last stop. Which stop are you getting off?”

She looked like a talker, and so far was proving me correct.

I told her my stop and put the earbud back in zone-out position.

She turned and said something again.

Okay, she’s definitely a talker. I pulled out the earbuds and jumped in to see where this would go. I happen to enjoy talking to strangers, but I was really digging this semi-meditation thing I had going on.

Then again, I suppose I ruined it first by thinking about something else, which must have subtlety opened up the invitation for strangers to derail the moment further.

Then again again, isn’t true zen about molding with the nature of ever-changing moments such as this one?

I buckled up.

Turns out, she’s lived in Austin most of her life, and she spent most of the ride complaining about how the city has changed. “Oh the tall buildlings! Back in the day they weren’t allowed to build anything higher than the Capitol … and oh the filth! It was dirty back in the day and it’s even dirtier now … and oh the traffic now! All these people moving here … and oh …”

This went on and on.

Somehow, we eventually segued to her husband, who she referred to in the past tense with a tone of affection and lament, which told me he had probably passed away.

“You won’t believe me, but he used to talk to animals,” she exclaimed. “He was like Dr. Doolittle.”

And she went on and on about all these stories of animals her husband used to talk to. She claimed he could speak grackle, horse, goat, cow, and whole bunch of others.

Interestingly, she referred to every animal as Mr., Mrs., or Ms. — so it was Mrs. Hawk and Ms Cardinal, Mr Pig, and so on. She complained that Mr. Blue Jay was one of the worst because he would snatch baby birds from their nests. Oh, and then there’s Mrs. Hawk, another notorious one, apparently because she would swoop down and pick up little mice and birds.

“Every animal has to eat, doesn’t it?” I asked.

She disregarded the question and continued with stories of good animals and bad animals. She also told me of the importance of praying for baby animals when it’s so cold like this.

“How about snakes?” I asked.

“Oh I hate snakes. My husband used to kill them all for me. He was a real snake killer.”

And she continued to tell me gruesome stories of snakes he had decapitated.

Of course, as someone who loves snakes, I wasn’t gonna just let this fly. I calmly explained that they play a crucial role in the ecosystem, eating mice that spread Lhyme disease, for example.”

“Oh that’s what the owls are for,” she responded.

“Eh, I believe all animals play their part and should all be respected,” I explained.

By this moment, I realized my stop had come up, and by the time I got up we were moving forward again. To my relief, the bus suddenly stopped at a gas station, which happened to be just across the street from my apartment; the driver opened the door and got out to run into the store, and I hopped out with him to walk home.

I thought about the reason I opened this note in the first place, to share how the bus can be such a calming place compared to driving through rush hour traffic.

It just comes with a few extra surprises, and if you go with it, something interesting may come along, like Mrs. Human.


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