I was parked at my layover, inside the bus. What was I reading? I don't remember. Probably Middlemarch. I turned the page and looked up, out at our neon-hued urban night, a rain-slicked reflective darkness scattered with the detritus of nature and decay. A movement caught my eye. Something irregular in the periphery.
Yes, that was it: a man had ridden past on his bicycle, on the sidewalk to my right, before stopping suddenly. Interesting, but only so much. I returned to Ms. Eliot's prose. Books distract me from the loneliness of having to work a holiday, and deepen my appreciation of existence. I was straddling worlds, taking comfort in what only books can offer– no waiting for the screen to load or app to start up, no pause while you anticipate a text; just the gentle rhythms of imagination, and the turning of pages which will never freeze or go dark on you.
That was when he knocked loudly on my driver's side window.
I was standing by my driver's seat, using it as a table of sorts to lean on while reading; I never sit on my breaks. What bus driver would? I looked up. The guy on the bike had come over to my window, and was in the roadway trying to get my attention.
"Hey," I said, by way of greeting and reply to his presence. He spoke loudly now, loudly enough to be heard through the glass:
"Hey! Be sure to have a Merry Christmas!!"
Wow, I thought. I had just barely enough time to respond with heartfelt surprise before he rode away. "You too!" I exclaimed with gratitude, my hands joined in a clasp of thanks.
Would that we could decide which moments we'll hang onto. Which will linger as memories, representing all those in-between exchanges our lives are made of? Sure, you remember the epochal milestones, the documented highlights people will always bring up, but what about the daily substance of it all? Was this any less illuminating of how people can be?
Let me store it away with words. Let me repeat the truth of it: a person out there in the world paused, turned back and came over to me. They thought about it. That bus driver's working on the holiday. I should say something.
It was important to him, enough to alter the rhythm of his day and direction. I'll never see him again, and he got nothing out of it. But: the gesture. The surging goodwill afterwards. Is there anything, anything at all, after being kind? Isn't that the final estimation of what it means to be human? To coexist?
Let me not merely admire goodness, but follow it. Let me not only receive or imagine, but do.
It's 2021. We know some things we didn't before.