I was on a weekly visit to the nearest town from college when he got on. He was wearing the standard shirt, pants and carrying a formal briefcase. There was an empty seat opposite mine and he wriggled his way through the congested lanes between seats inside the bus and perches down on the edge of the seat. Guessing from the way he was dressed, it occurred to me that he was a regular office going guy who must be used to taking his own vehicle or an auto to work every day but due to some reason, he relented to take bus that day. In spite of the fact that he looked quite ordinary and was dressed in a minimum wage uniform, something about his body language made him starkly noticeable.
It wasn’t difficult to make out that he wasn’t at all comfortable since he was squirming in his seat. Turning towards the lady seated next to him, he began a conversation. His voice was loud and cold. I heard him ask the woman what the bus fare was. He said that he wasn’t used to taking the bus and was forced to since his car broke down. The woman said she didn’t know the fare for sure and turned away. That is when he looked in my direction.
“Hi!” he said to me. “I don’t usually take the bus.? I wouldn’t have bothered to get on one if it wasn’t an emergency. You see, I try avoiding public transport as much as I can. Could you please tell me what the usual fare is?”
I asked him to go to the conductor with his query. I could have told him myself because I did know what the fare was but it was quite obvious that more than wanting to inquire what it would cost him, he was interesting in broadcasting and making it clear to all the fellow passengers that “he didn’t usually take the bus.”
There are two kinds of people: Those of us who travel by bus. And those who don’t.
Those of us who do not, apparently, feel a class apart. And when I say that, I mean to say that these people feel a class above than the rest of us. Those of us who own our own vehicles, would prefer driving it every day instead of making themselves ride the bus and get subjected to unwanted jostles, sharing seats with complete strangers and suffocation due to overcrowd. Why would we take to cramming ourselves into uncomfortable seats when we could drive in our own vehicles and be our own masters? The Bus is a whole new world for such people. A world they have the deepest aversion for. It is obvious, quite truthfully. When one of these lots is forced to take the bus due to some reason that is uncalled for, the uneasiness does not escape their expressions. They cringe the loudest when somebody’s child starts crying and howling on the seat next to theirs, their annoyance reaches top notch when they are on the phone and someone else, seated not very far from them, makes his own call and starts talking very loudly.
I remember travelling on the bus the other day when a very posh looking woman got on. Her hands shone with stones that would require some of us to trade a kidney for. She got on, very hesitantly, and even though, quite a few seats were empty, looked at them and the people she would require to share her seat with, with disdain in her eyes, and chose to rather stand. Later, it might have occurred to her that her journey was long and it was quite foolish of her to expect herself to stand through the whole run, and so, nose raised and lips puckered in a disapproving expression, she sat down.
Not a word escaped her mouth for a very long time but then, it must have got impossible for her to contain herself. She turned towards the lady on the seat in the front and exclaimed loudly for all of us other passengers in the bus to hear loud and clear, “I don’t take the bus ever. Isn’t it so tacky?”
In my mind that translated to “Hello you guys, I don’t take the bus ever. I am above all of you and taking public transport is somehow putting my life in danger. I am from a galaxy where every person I know owns their own personal vehicle. We do not even ever car pool. We are too elite for that kind of stuff. Due to some dire circumstances, I had to give in and take the bus today. I will make sure that I do not commit this blunder the next time around. I would rather choose to walk than ever share seat with you guys again. Thank you.”
How I would have loved to go over to her, tap her on the shoulder and retort, “Hi strange lady from another galaxy, just because the bus is available for all to ride in, regardless of what class or section they belong to, doesn’t give you the right to mock those who are less privileged than you. We do not ask you to get down to leave us alone, all we ask of you is that if and when people from your galaxy are left with no choice but to travel with us, shut up and stay quiet about how uncomfortable it is for you. We did not invite you to share our ride. The least you can do is to not be obnoxious when we allow you to intrude into our space.”
There. Now I feel better.