Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lady on the bus

I watched a lady getting on the bus the other day. As the bus pulled up, she didn’t do the standard hand out signal…

A brief editorial aside: When I signal for the bus, I do it as nonchalantly, bordering on grudgingly, as possible. I try to make as little external deal as I can about signaling that I’d like to get on this bus. Internally, I am screaming, pleading for the bus to stop. As a person who has previously (naively) thought that the bus would stop if you were standing at the agreed upon bus advancement location, only to walk serenely toward the street and get splashed with puddle as the bus zooms past at mach 7, I know the importance of a good external signal. You have to strike the right balance between seeming almost too cool for the bus like you might call it back, but only after at least a week, like you are doing it a favor by riding on it and hand-wringing desperation- PLEEEEEASE STOOOOOP-I’ve-already-left-7-messages-on-your-voice-mail-but-I-swear-I’m-not-crazy-I-just-stopped-my-medication-because-I’m-actually-doing-a-lot-better-just-ask-my-cat-Schnoodles. This is important because if the bus doesn’t stop, that’s you screwed for another half an hour on the side of the road- IF the busses are running on time. And remember, you are in Aberdeen, where more than likely, if it’s not raining, it will soon.

Secondary editorial aside: it’s been absolutely beautiful in Aberdeen for the past 5 days, so based on my experience, there’s a 10/365 (2%) chance that it won’t be raining.

Back to the lady getting on the bus. What struck me was that she didn’t do the blasé hand out nor the anxiety spasm. She waved for the bus. Almost like you’d wave when you are at the airport and see your family car coming around the bend toward the pick up area. It was that kind of happy wave. The bus stopped (obviously, how could you not, she’s obviously happy to see you) and she got on. She immediately struck up a conversation with the bus driver, oblivious to his curt answers and lack of eye contact. She mentioned the weather (‘bonny’), how she’d counted out her change to be ready just for him (‘1.50 on the nose, thankfully I found that extra 5p in my pocket!’), and that she was going to the ASDA for her weekly shop (‘I always do on a Thursday’).

As this lady walked down the aisle she looked and made eye contact with almost everyone. Rule 1 in the Laws of Interacting With Strangers is Don’t Ever Make Eye Contact. You are basically giving all those people permission to talk to you, to interact with you, and you have no idea what could happen next.

Another aside: I have been known to be an ‘Eye Looker’. I look everyone in the eye as they pass, and I sometimes smile if they make eye contact with me. One day, I did this, and ended up spending the next 30 minutes on a street corner in Rochester, MN talking to a woman who was an 87 year old, chain smoking, mail order bride from Russia. She was nice enough, but she was Crazy. I try to limit my ‘eye looking’ to days when I don’t have much to do.

This lady on the bus had absolutely no regard for these rules. She looked everyone, even the drunk people, square in the eyes, smiled, and proceeded down the aisle. Although there were many open seats on the bus, she chose one sitting next to another woman, directly in front of me. She smiled at the woman, and sat down. She was quiet for a few moments as the bus pulled back into traffic. I could see her sizing the lady next to her up- it was almost like she was deciding the best way to initiate an interaction. This is the 2nd rule of the Laws of Interacting With Strangers- if no one has said anything to you, you don’t have to start anything. But this lady… she went right ahead, complimented the bus rider on her shoes, and asked her where she was off to on ‘such a bonny day’.

I took off one of my headphones (tactic to avoid talking to strangers) and eavesdropped on these two women chatting. They were lovely. Perhaps it’s that Aberdeen has a small town, everyone-knows-everyone feel, or that they were just both extremely kind people, but they were both very willing to chat away to each other. They somehow got onto their kids and grandkids, realizing that their grandsons played football (soccer) together. It was a lovely thing to watch. I was watching a relationship form. It was really… refreshing.

When the bus got near to the ASDA, the ladies were wrapping up their conversation, saying that they’d probably see each other at one of the upcoming matches. And the one lady got up. She didn’t have my vantage point, but I saw the driver look in his mirror at her as she rose, and slow down a bit, so that the stop wouldn’t be quite as jolting. This could’ve been because of her age, or it could’ve been, and I choose to believe that this is the reason, because he wanted to do something nice for her, in his small way. Perhaps he appreciated that she was oblivious to him acting like a stranger to her. She instantly brought him, the lady sitting next to her, and me all into her world. She welcomed us in, in fact. I admired her willingness to connect, her openness to the possibility that it’s worth saying hi to someone, and to try to find a way to connect with them, regardless of the potential risks. I thought it was really lovely the way she didn’t give anyone a choice in whether or not they would be part of her world. She just made it so.

As she rose and gathered her bag, I caught her eye, and we both smiled.

Monday, April 5, 2010


In the last 6 years, Mike and I have lived in 8 houses, 6 cities, 5 states, and 2 countries. Needless to say, we're getting pretty good at moving. We have packing down to an art- Mike is better at the meticulous stuff, fitting all his video games into one box just perfectly. I am better at the organization stuff- making sure we have a car big enough for all our crap, making sure we have all the appropriate keys, making sure there's gas in the car, getting directions, etc. We always throw out a boatload of stuff every time we move. We've done this so many times, that we don't even have to have a game plan any more. I know which things I am supposed to pack, and Mike knows what he's supposed to do. We don't even fight anymore about what goes where.

That's the good stuff.

The less good stuff: we both HATE moving. HATE packing. HATE unpacking. CAN. NOT. STAND. IT. Plus, I don't really think that moving so many times is a thing to brag about. It's not good to have to send bi-annual 'new address' emails. It doesn't take a psychologist to know that it doesn't take much for people to stop trying to find you, because you've made it so difficult to do so. It's not anyone's fault but ours. We both realize this nomadic-ish existance makes it tough to create lasting friendships, which is why we so deeply value those that make the effort to be friends with us, and stay friends with us, despite all this... and why we both feel that facebook is one of the greatest inventions of our time.

I titled this post 'Moving exclamation point!' for a reason. We are moving into a great new place, a little further out of town, but much better for Opie, and the house is absolutely lovely. It's a bit more than we need, but it's got some great benefits. The downstairs is laminant flooring, which means we can actually clean the floors (as opposed to basically moving the dog hair around on the carpet at our previous flat), the kitchen is great, with lots of cabinets and cookware. The neighbors seem to be really nice, which is always a bonus. We feel really fortunate.

I was in the local giant superstore on Friday afternoon after we'd done the majority of the moving, and realized that I have a mental list of most of the things that we always need when we move:

1) Swiffer- greatest invention ever. even above facebook.
2) throw-away kitchen cloths- for cleaning the new place.
3) hand towels- because I throw away all the ones from the old place.
4) candles- to make it more homey, and smell nice.
5) light blanket- somehow we always need one of these. And maybe by 'we' I mean 'me'.
6) dog toy for Opie- so he likes the new place.
7) beer and wine- so we like the new place.

If we have these things, we're okay. Silly, but true. There may be others depending on where we move, but these are the constants.

So here we go. We moved into the new house- swiffer and all. There's a bunch of photos of our new back yard, and Opie's new outdoor dog run. There's the lovely new kitchen, very modern looking, and our living room (with roundy staircase?!?). The bedroom and bathroom are both great, very nice size for us. We are very happy.