There are times when taking public transport is meditative. Then there are times when it’s a challenge of endurance, character and restraint.
I’ve found a new kind of zen not trying to find a park in the city, where finding a space is often harder than catching the Snitch in a game of Quidditch. While on that: As a lover of most sports, I feel J.K. Rowling failed to suspend my disbelief with Quidditch. Surely she mustn’t be a true sports nut. No game can be won with all previous points, goals, tries, three-pointers or penalties not counting at all, simply by grabbing one golden ball. How is that sport? That’s not how sport works. It bothered me greatly when I was reading the books to my kids, and still makes my eye twitch.
I feel better having voiced that.
Parking in the city is utterly ludicrous. Nearly every park is private or occupied by the dreaded army of road cones. The orange cone makers must be billionaires now. I wish I’d invented the orange cone. Not glamorous, but the wealth! As the cones take over the world, many of us have taken to the bus or train.
Some nights it’s beautiful. I have Eat, Pray, Love type spiritual awakenings. Without the eat. You can’t eat on the bus, unless you surreptitiously nibble away at a Mrs Higgins cookie tucked in your purse.
Yes, some nights on the bus I find a sense of warm comfort that someone else, albeit a bus driver, is in charge of my final destiny.
Some days – like today, locked in the window seat next to a man who wanted to know if I knew every single radio and TV personality from the past 30 years – I had no zen. No peace. No cookie.
“Hey Pauline! How’s the radio?”
“Oh good, thanks. I’m starting something new soon.”
“How’s Grant? Sleeping in today?”
“How about Hilary Barry?”
“Oh, I don’t know Hilary.”
“You should be on The Breeze.”
“Oh no, I don’t think so. A bit conservative for me.”
“Jason Gunn? Jeremy Wells? Phil O’Brien? Toni Street? What about John Campbell?
“Yes, John Campbell is a lovely man.”
“Nick Tansley? Peter Williams? John Macbeth?”
“Very nice men – all of them.”
“You on More FM, eh?”
“No, not anymore.”
“What time do you have to get up for that, eh?”
“So you’re on holiday?”
“Yes.” (Much easier I decide)
“Trev James? Keith Quinn? Grant Walker? Samantha Fox?”
(I believe he means Samantha Hayes. I smile but don’t correct him).
“Robert Rakete? The Edge?”
“Yes, Dom Harvey is a friend.”
“I don’t know him,” he says.
“He’s very good,” I reply.
“Kim Hill? Simon Barnett?”
I know he’s nearing his stop, because he has to catch another bus to see his nephew who’s had a stroke. I’m desperate to stop the radio quizzing.
“Oh no, your nephew has had a stroke? How old is he?”
“85.” I figure he may mean uncle.
A few months ago I would have found this all unbearable, but with my mother’s accelerated dementia, I am patient.
I behave well. I answer the questions where I can, even if not truthfully.
Sometimes the bus can be a haven for quiet reflection, knowing there is no parking or road rage involved. Sometimes it challenges me to be a better person, more aware of the cruel ravages of time.
I’ve somehow never met Hilary Barry, but I believe she is really lovely. I’ve never heard a bad word. I somehow doubt she catches buses though.
Eat, pray, love and breathe Polly. Just breathe.