11 AM a bus fills with packed commuters, the bustle and hum saturates the air. Laughter, children’s voices echo in the cramped space. Moments pass like any other, then words- unfriendly, harsh, shoot out for all to hear. “Are you talking to me?” Sniper has hit its mark, someone responds to the barb. Voices die down, laughter seems to defuse, distanced by those simple sounding words. Anger, curses follow, bullets reloading a gun. Rage cuts back and forth, duelling tongues, no purpose in the litany of their rants. Commuters instinctively draw in to their seats, standing patrons lean away as if to avoid any stray words, fearful of the ricochet if any stray bile hits.
These two volcanos, who unexpectedly erupt, change the energy of this rectangular metal box. We need to get to our destination, we are unsure of where this volley of anger will go so we remain, frozen in reluctant anticipation. In a moment the place, public, dormant, becomes a minefield we must cautiously tread.
The moment passes, the snipers retreat, tension dies, a nervous laugh in the distance breaks the haze, the bus driver closes the door and drives off. I sit in my seat starring outside as we pass the gray city, moisture from the condensation outside pools in the corner, transformed to liquid, tear like as it glides down the window pane.
I am reminded that words have power good or bad. Their residue lingers long after the dust settles. Why is it that in a country laboured with reminders to be PC (politically correct) we forget that often times kindness to one another is ignored in favour of extremes: cautious politeness or pointless arguments amongst strangers. I often wonder why some people (we’ve all met them at some time or another) make the choice, in that defining moment to retaliate rather than calmly walk away. I’m not talking about aggression towards one’s body, or child or loved one, those aren’t the moments I am referring to- it’s when an ignorant or angry person, among strangers, choose to hurl words and the fact that there is someone willing to take the bait. We in kind as public commuters must endure their voices, choke on their tension, have their words stain our minds. It saddens me when the higher road is neglected, when the easy path becomes the default.
I love this city, understand what comes with riding public transit but respect among humans is something I won’t loose faith on, even in moments such as these. In fact I demand we remember that when we hurl words that sting and cut- flesh and blood is at the end of that force.
2:50 PM I am sitting on the bus ride home, less packed with commuters.The bus driver announces “have a great day everyone.” I quietly smile, ring the bell and as I descend, wish her the same.