April 23, 2010

I was standing on a very crowded bus yesterday when we came to a stop and a few people got on, including an old woman. It was obvious that she wanted to sit down, but there were no free seats and nobody got up to offer her one. Everyone had boarded the bus but it didn’t move.

“Is somebody going to give this woman a seat?” the bus driver finally asked, pointedly, over the speaker. At this point somebody did indeed get up and offer her his seat, which she accepted. Once she was sitting comfortably, the bus got going again. “It’s nice to be important,” announced the bus driver, “but it’s more important to be nice.”

This left me with two questions:

1. How can I possibly not have heard this platitude before? Its symmetry and simplicity place it on par with “When you assume you make an ass out of u and me,” a platitude I first heard (and found profound and revealing) at the age of nine. How can my ears not have lost their virginity to this one?

2. Why was I deeply moved? Have I gone over the edge? E.S. points out that I am particularly vulnerable to the pathos of old women in movies and on television; was this an extension of that vulnerability? Or have I jumped the shark?

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8 Responses to I was standing on a very crowded bus yesterday when we came to

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Careful. I believe this is how Golden Girls gets all us gays to be lifetime fans … or maybe that’s just MAK.

  2. Jeffrey, I gave in to that one long before yesterday.

  3. Roxzana Sudo says:

    I think what the bus driver did was fantastic. As the mother of a boy with special needs, I have become especially attuned to the elderly, the “marginalized,” the “outcast” in our society. You were deeply moved for all the right reasons. May it happen again.

  4. Roxzana, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that next time the bus driver won’t need to do anything.

  5. Esther says:

    Perhaps you have heard it before but it didn’t attract your 9-year-old (and up) ears that were listening for “bad” words like “ass” in what you heard? Maybe this bland but intelligent admonition (appreciated more by adults, I’m sure) went right past you….

    Maybe the bus driver used to be a kindergarten teacher? Or drove for a school district where the teachers climbed on board to calm the unruly little monsters with such pithy statements. I do like it; I’m going to share it with my away-at-college son who is planning on being a kindergarten teacher. He’ll probably tell me he’s known it forever.

    Maybe you were moved not so much for the little old lady who got a seat, but because you didn’t think up the saying yourself. Don’t you just hate when someone else beats you to the clever statements?

    So would you have gotten up to give the woman your seat? Even if you’d had a really really crappy day? Before or after the bus driver asked?

  6. Aidan says:

    My sweet Babu. I think you were all verklempt because, subconsciously, you hold out hope that when you are a little old lady riding the bus, someone will give up their seat for you.

    Either that or you were raised right and know that we as a society are diminished when we stop giving up our seats to the elderly and infirm.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Darling, one day we’ll all be little old ladies, which is why I plan to carry a cane that I may smite those who do not instinctively and immediately make way for me, in the event that all bus drivers aren’t as conscientious as the one you met.

  8. Joel:

    Did you know that “… make an ass out of you and me” is from the Neil Simon play THE ODD COUPLE? Truly a great line.


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