Mass transportation in this area can be a horrible experience. The buses are rarely on time, the drivers are usually cranky, and the other passengers are either rude, smelly, or a little creepy. And anyone can completely transform into the Hulk if all the unspoken “mass-transit courtesy” rules are not followed. I’ve seen drivers throw tantrums like 2-year olds when a tourist doesn’t pay with exact change. I’ve seen passengers practically break out into a fistfight because the reading light was on and no one was reading. I even saw a bus driver stop the bus, get up from his drivers seat, walk back to a seated passenger, and yell at them for accidently hitting the stop button. And it doesn’t end with the buses. The subways have their rules too. When you get on, you go to the back or middle to make room for the next group boarding. You don’t talk to anyone, or look at anyone unless you want to get hit on or start a fight. Overall, the experience can be cold and intimidating.
I began to feel jaded, calloused from all the rude and icy behavior. In Nebraska and North Carolina, there is a level of hospitality and politeness I had apparently taken for granted. And because I had grown tired of strangers telling me, “Well clearly, you’re not from around here,” I decided maybe I would just go with the flow and become one of them. No more thanking the driver and wishing him a good night on my way off the bus. No more greeting the passenger who took their seat next to me. And no more “bless you” when they sneezed.
I was even more determined to do this after I saw a giant, angry, Russian bus driver scream at a mentally-challenged passenger because his bus ticket was slightly torn. And with all the dozens of people on the bus and waiting to get on the bus, no one stepped in to defend him. It was actually one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen.
I told my sister that story as I stood at the bus stop, waiting for yet another bus to take me into the city. I ranted about how everyone here is rude and awful. No sooner did the words leave my mouth than the bus pulled up. As I got on board I was greeted by a charming, polite driver who didn’t rush me or didn’t jerk the bus forward, knocking me off my feet while I was still walking to my seat. I was impressed. Then at the next stop, a woman and her 3 young kids boarded the bus and she realized she was short on bus fare. Rather than throwing them off the bus, he smiled and winked, “I gotcha covered, take a seat.” And at the last stop, he said goodbye to everyone as we filed off the bus one by one, wishing us all good day and take care. I texted my sister immediately and told her I had to eat my words because a driver just proved me wrong.
I guess that’s the thing about grouping everyone into the same category. You can’t, because they don’t all belong there. It’s the same with any group of people and any stereotype. Republicans, Democrats, men, women, race, or religion... I was reminded to look at the individual, not the group. What a simple reminder that God does the same with us. After all, humans are generally horrible people, aren’t we? But He looks at the individual. And thank goodness. I’ll do my best to offer the same respect to others.