Tired, frazzled, and thoroughly exhausted, I boarded the bus from Manhattan to New Jersey, looking forward to 40 minutes with my eyes closed and listening to my iPod as I made my way back home from a long day in the city. My head was pounding, my feet were blistered, and my muscles ached from shivering non-stop for the last 8 hours. Thankfully, I was early enough in line to be assured a seat, which I decided that I would take, no matter who I saw being force to stand as the crowd gathered. I don't care, I thought. I was here early enough, and I deserve a seat! I vowed.
When I finally sat down near the front of the bus, I breathed a deep sigh, took out my earphones, and put the Raising Sand album on repeat. I closed my eyes and rested my head on the back of the chair. One by one, the seats filled with people anxious to get home and inevitably, some were forced to stand in the aisle - a miserable ride I know from experience, dealing with jerks, bumps, sudden stops and accelerations. That's when an small, old woman stepped onto the bus. The driver warned to her, "Standing room only," then she announced over her shoulder, "Can anyone give up their seat for this senior citizen?" And in that split-second, I knew I could not hesitate. It was only after I felt myself stand up that I mourned the loss of my comfy chair. I motioned to the woman to take my seat. She looked stunned and grateful. And then I realized, she had no idea that the bus driver made that announcement. She didn't speak English.
For the next 40 miserable minutes, I was tossed to and fro, holding a tight grip to the luggage rack. Oh well, I thought. I'll be home soon. And then, 5 minutes from my stop, the inside bus lights came up, illuminating the seating area from the pitch dark night. I saw the old woman glance over her shoulder. She was searching for something. For me. Finally, she found me and that's when I saw how truly grateful she was for her chair. I was right about her language. She did not mouth "thank you" to me. She only held up an "A-OK" sign with her hand. I could tell by her eyes that she wanted to say more, but could not. I smiled sincerely and nodded. We held our gaze for a moment longer and the bus lights went back down. I no longer felt tired anymore. I wasn't that cold either. I was just glad that woman had a place to rest.