The Bus Commute

Written by Trina Mioner

I hopped on the bus at 5th and Main. My first bus ride in ten years. Something told me to walk five blocks down to guarantee myself a seat, but I did not listen to my inner voice. I mentally kicked myself. There is no such thing as a young man getting up and giving you his seat anymore. I tell myself not to be so negative, I am sure there are still gentlemen. I remembered back as a teenager when we first started catching public buses to school. My mother would remind my sister, my brother and me that if an elderly person needs a seat, get up and offer yours. Manners were drilled into us, yes ma’am, no ma’am to all grownups.

I shook the memory out of my head and looked around for a seat without making eye contact. The bus was so new it looked futuristic. There was a lady, but she was as big as I am, my butt would have been hanging off the seat. The only other seat was next to a man that looked unkempt, maybe homeless, definitely homeless. Before I could turn away, he looked up and our eyes met. Who am I to think I’m better than him? I turned to the side and moved my way down the aisle to the only empty seat. Oh my God, the smell was awful. I wondered what events would allow a person to go down what I considered such a rugged path.

I forced myself to do the Christian thing, I cracked a smile and asked him how his day was going. There was a lady sitting across from us with a bag of groceries. That must be hard I thought, to have to buy your groceries and tote them on the bus but she had a smile on her face. I noticed people talking to each other. These are probably regular commuters they see each other everyday riding the same bus at the same time.

I noticed a tattered book in the stranger’s lap. I dared to intrude and asked him what he was reading. It was Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. I thought to myself this man is reading the classics. I struggled with understanding the book in college. I told him I enjoyed reading Dante Inferno. His description of the fifth hell blew my mind. We connected and he told me his story. He explained to me that he was a workaholic who lost his family pursuing the American dream. To me, that seemed to be an oxymoron. I thought family is the American dream.

He said it was easy to get caught up in earning money. He laughed and said he was a dropout. “I have a bus card and I’m never hungry. He revealed to me that he was studying for the bar exam just because he could. I did not know in some states you do not have to go to law school to take the exam. Everyday he caught the bus and sat in the courthouse observing interesting open court cases. For a minute I was envious of this stranger.

He was intelligent and was living life on his terms. His smell was offensive, but the conversation was stimulating. He got up, excused himself and said he wanted to give his seat to a lady.

It may be another ten years before I catch a bus again but it’s good to know there are still gentlemen in our world that would give their seat to a stranger.

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