I’ve had discussions in the past with people about this. Somebody once said to me “I’m not like you Al, I don’t want to talk to strangers, I have enough friends.”
It’s a comment I’ve pondered at various times over the years, when thinking about the peculiar beast which is friendship and the various joys and frustrations associated with any people based relationship. How the hell do you define “enough friends”? And how can you say that absolutely when you’re only in your early 30s?
See, it’s not that I “want” to speak to strangers per se. But some of the most interesting things I know, and some of the most entertaining random experiences I have had, come from encounters with people that I would never have met if I “didn’t have room on my bus”.
To me claiming your bus is full is an open declaration that you’ve learnt all you need to learn and that life would be best if it never ever changed.
And that makes me feel claustrophobic in the extreme.
People are absolutely the most brilliant thing about being alive.
There are people on my bus that invariably going to get off. Some I will ask to leave, some will jump off without paying and others will get off because they got to where they are going. Some might decide they don’t like the way I drive. Some people never even got on my bus, or anybody’s bus, and learn nothing more than can be gleaned from the bus stop closest to their home.
But there are people on my bus like the chap on the Perth train last month. They get up and dance. They start sing-alongs even though they can’t sing. They scratch their name into the back windows so that their mark is permanent no matter whether they stay the entire journey. These people are the passengers which others often remark on and always remember – even if not entirely for the right reasons.
There are those on my bus who will get off and push if we break down. There are those that sit quietly reading in the front of the bus. They sit alongside those that sit at the front purely so they can watch what is going on and keep up a running commentary about the rest of the passengers.
There are those sitting half way along that are doing their own thing but remember to catch my eye in the rear view mirror and give me a broad smile and a thumbs up whenever they get a chance. There are those laughing and laughing and laughing and while I never have a clue what is going on, they bring a lot of joy to the journey.
There are those that have jumped on along the way that have added value to the bus trip in so many immeasurable ways I wonder how the journey began without them. There are those that got on, got off, got on, got off and are back on again and that is perfectly okay. Not everybody likes to travel the same way and those breaks are good for everybody.
There are those that get on the bus accidentally and you wonder what a trip without them would look like and you hope you never have to find out. There are those you make a detour for so that even though they are not going to be regular passengers, you’ve helped them find the bus that is right for them and it’s always great to wave at them as you pass by.
There are those that ride for free and those that buy life time passes. There are those that drive you to exasperation by sneaking in the back door even though you swore they couldn’t come on the bus and yet somehow, they journey would have kind of sucked without them.
There are those that stick their head out the roof and scream for the sheer hell of it and their infectious crazy antics make you wish you had the courage to live with such wild, joyful abandon even though you know that you will probably have to visit them in hospital when they hit their head on an overhead traffic light. There are those that remember to fill their water bottles before they get on the bus and know CPR and don’t mind speaking to the nutters in the third row and there is never a time on your journey where you are not grateful for their kindness and good sense.
Some bring more baggage then fits in the lockers, and others have a small bag that would make Mary Poppins envious. There are those that you know will still be there when you pull into the bus station at the end no matter how long the journey or how obscure the end destination or how crowded the bus may be.
So is my bus full? No.
There are times when it’s pretty close to capacity because the terrain is a bit crazy and you have to be careful to make sure the bus doesn’t tip, but when it comes down to it – it’s the passengers on the bus or waiting at the next stop that look out for you, get out and push if you get stuck and stick their hands in the air and yell ‘Wheeeeeeee’ when it’s downhill and obstacle free.
Maybe I’m just somebody that has been blessed with a bendy bus or a double decker bus or maybe it’s just that until I reach the final destination, the bus is has got to keep moving. And I have no desire to be on that bus alone because the journey would be dull, deathly dull.
So I choose to love the passengers I have, wish the ones that get off all the best and always, always be ready to let on new passengers. Sure it might get squishy sometimes but I bet you anything I never have to sing “The wheels on the bus” alone.