Inspired by the price of gas, environmental guilt and approaching dotage - addicted as I still am to the future and preparing for the day my driving skills are rotted through - I have begun regularly taking the bus to work.
Quite to my surprise, not only am I enjoying the ride, I'm also discovering new opportunities to practice presence.
Our city is not known for its fine public transportation - quite the opposite. But our house is three blocks from the stop for a bus that takes me within easy walking distance of my workplace. Drops me at the door of a coffee shop, matter of fact - a happy side benefit. I no longer need to chauffeur children to school and activities, I rarely go out for lunch, there's really no excuse for me not to ride the bus, especially when it can save me a buck or so a day, which I can then put to productive use at the coffee shop....
Among those in our town who don't ride the bus, there 's a stereotypical view of those who do, and I don't necessarily fit the stereotype. But now that I've joined the bus-riding ranks, I find that I fit quite nicely within the broad range of local humanity around me.
This morning's passenger profile, for instance, included a woman who might best be described as a bag lady, a man in a crisp black suit and tie, a young man wearing a starched white jacket heading to his hotel catering job, and lots of what appeared to be office workers across the age and income spectrum. People with Blackberries, college students, a baggy-pants teenager hooked up to an I-pod -- the first to give up his seat to an elderly woman, I noted -- and a tall, willowy blonde with expensive-looking shoes.
I planned to use my time on the bus to catch up on reading, but it's much more fun to watch the passing scene and eavesdrop on conversations. This morning I overheard a creative director at an ad agency complain about her job. Yesterday, it a young accountant who spoke much more enthusiastically about his.
And last week, it was a 20-something white guy telling the middle-aged African-American woman in the next seat about the demise of his relationship with a 40-ish mother of two. He wanted to take the relationship further, but his lady friend apparently couldn't get past the age difference. "She told me if I was a few years older, I'd be the perfect man for her," he said sadly, as his seatmate nodded sympathetically. "I told her, all I know is right now, all I know is what we have today, and it's good. But she just couldn't accept that."
Hmmm. Sounds like another case for Mr. James. Or at least a trip or two on the city bus.
Riding the bus is giving me a new appreciation for my city and its people. From the windows of the bus, I see houses, parks, restaurants, businesses and churches that escape my attention when I'm behind the wheel of my car. These are places I've passed by for decades, but never really noticed, and they're worth the look.
Which I figure is pretty much the whole point being in the moment.
12 hours ago