Today I took the 13:15 to the call center that I work at. It’s usually a half hour ride to the city from my hometown, and I normally get to cover the 2 to 8 shift. It’s not exactly the best, but it’s either this or the night shift, you see. And I hate night shifts. But I really dont have much of a choice, considering the fact that I am an intern here. The bus rides to my workplace are usually hectic and claustrophobia inducing nightmares for me. There can be a lot of pushing and unintentional shoving among the passengers, and most of the time the bus driver turns out to be the sole reason for the commotion due to his piss poor driving skills and his fascination for sudden brakes. Needless to say, I am not a big fan of this ordeal. I do love solo bus rides, but only if I get a window seat among the two-seater rows. My eccentricities and antisocial tendencies kick in when I’m on the three-seaters. And I worried that it would today, because I happened to be sharing a three seater with one another passenger, whom no one else wanted to sit with. Only because he was an immigrant, and he did not seem tidy enough to the others to be socialized with. I looked at the man who everyone else seemed to be avoiding like the plague, and his clothes were indeed disheveled, oversized and dirty. He was sleeping with his head rested on the window, and he seemed to be totally out of place. The only thing that seemed to be in place were the pair of earphones that he had plugged in his ears. The conductor gestured a man who was standing and scanning for a seat, to sit down between the two of us but the man waved it off saying that he was fine. I looked at him and then at the disheveled man sharing the three-seater with me who had now woken up. He asked me in his mother tongue where the bus had reached and I told him the name of my hometown. He gave me a puzzled look and then stared out the window. I asked him, out of courtesy where he was headed but he had decided that it was best to ignore me. I asked him again, a little louder this time, thinking that he might have not heard me because of the earphones in his ears. He stared at me for a while, ignored my question again and went back to looking out the window. I was taken aback at this point. Here I was, about to tap his shoulder and ask him for the third time, but stopped myself when I realized that I really didn’t care where he was going anymore. This wasn’t about the good samaritan in me at all.
This had turned into an episode where I was trying to feed my hungry ego.
The space between the two of us remained unoccupied for a while until the bus halted to pick a couple of ladies going the same direction. The bus was already full, but that didn’t stop anyone from boarding it. I have this tendency to check my seat before occupying. You see Felicity, the buses here have seats exclusively for women. They are the first five rows out of the eleven. I usually occupy the sixth or seven and hence, I have this habit to check before sitting on mine, so that I don’t have to get up and move.
But of all the days, today I happened to be sitting in one of those rows.
‘Give priority to Women’
That was exactly what was written above the one that I sat in.
I got up and moved out for two women who were having a tough time trying to balance themselves well, as the bus rolled over every gutter it could find as it raced on. As they occupied, I took another glance at the words written above the seat that I was using until a moment ago. And I got a jolt as I read the same thing again, but only this time, I saw the strike over the words. It wasn’t clear when I looked from the seat that I sat a while ago. It was an error from the guy who had painted the words in the first place. He had painted it above the wrong row, and instead of using a remover, he had decided to cut his costs by simply drawing a line over it.
And there I stood, voluntarily stuck between sweaty men, without a seat only because I thought I was doing the right thing, when in reality there was no right thing to do in the first place.
I looked at the row right in front, only to find it occupied by men when clearly it was meant for the women standing. I guess the men were forgiven because they couldn’t read the language. The words were written in my mother tongue, Felicity. And the immigrants couldn’t read the language. Hell, they can’t speak our language, so what was I expecting? I guess no one wanted any business with the immigrants in the end other than when it came to cheap labor, and they were just being avoided every other time.
To be honest, I felt stupid, and then disgusted with myself for being so fickle minded. I mean, one second here I was doing something good, only to realize the next second, I frankly did not have to and then being angry with myself for doing the right thing. Makes me wonder Felicity, are we all inherently bad, or deep down are we good?
I happened to find myself another seat, sooner than later. And this time when I sat, I did make it a point to look and read, and the words kind of made me chuckle.
‘For the differently abled’
After all the various things that I did think about in the last few minutes, I felt that I deserved this seat more than anyone else on that bus, for my fickle and backward mindedness. The seat may be meant for the physically disabled. But I was certain that they all would actually overlook that tiny detail this one time, because of the mess that I was.
Two minutes later, I got a tap on my shoulder from a cripple. He asked me politely to move so that he could sit in his designated seat.
He had just boarded the bus.
And I stood for the rest of my trip.
Bus rides, right?
Hope you are doing well.