|Sometimes you have to stop and look,|
or you fail to see the wonders.
It's a bit tricky, this dream we call life. Whenever you figure one part out, another challenge arrives. You don't get much time to celebrate the bit victories. It seems though, that we spend most of the time debating options even when the obvious solution travels beside you.
Am I sick? People ask me that and I have to wonder. I feel better now than several days ago. My soul, now that's an entirely different realm. It bounces between realizing each emotion I'm feeling. Too often, I'm angry. Surely, you've noticed that in my writing this year. It's usually directed at our upper management because I truly don't think they "get" what it's like to do this job, and it doesn't feel good to be called "heroes" when we don't believe we're treated as such. Sometimes, I'm too harsh in my criticism. For someone to understand this job, they must do it. That's the main reason I began writing about it. Now, I'm spinning my wheels in an angry ditch, and I'm stuck. Waiting for the tow truck of calm and reason to rescue me. I've put out the call, but the tow needs to come from within, or I'll keep throwing out mud instead of finding even ground again.
Hopefully, those of you who feel the anger in my words realize that some of it is pointed inward. I'm very hard on myself. My own worst critic. Whatever profession I've been in, except one (sales!), I have excelled. This bus gig requires not only a steady hand on the wheel, but a calm reserve and sociological precision. We have to deal with a myriad of personalities, phobias, socioeconomic and cultural differences. People test us daily, sometimes hourly. If we fail at one aspect, others are in peril. It's a constant juggling game, multi-tasking and emotional roller coaster.
Many believe we "just drive a bus". How hard could that be? Anyone who has done it understands how insulting that can feel. People may not intend to demean our profession, but unless they actually watch what we do and all this job entails, it just doesn't register. Once in a while, somebody stops on their way out the door to say "Thanks for driving, I appreciate what you do." To me, that makes up for those who don't acknowledge the service provided them.
Last week on a late outbound trip, I was feeling angry. Unappreciated. I just wanted to finish my run and be done. Earning my paycheck, but nothing more. Then, something wonderful happened: sincere appreciation.
A 20s-something fellow started to exit the front door. In my state, my only thought was to insist he exit through the rear door. After all, the announcement to wear masks, keep distance and then... he stopped as I held up my hand.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly.
Impatiently, I slid the "protective" partition back and said "What? I didn't hear you. Would you please..."
"I know we're supposed to exit to the rear," he interrupted in a soft but pleading tone, "but I wanted to thank you again for what you said a few months ago. You inspired me to chase my dreams."
Immediate embarrassment on the grumpy bus driver's part. Shame. This kid was pleading to be heard, and I had pointed him to the back of the bus. I sighed, put my hand to my temple and drew a deep breath. Calm thyself, bonehead. Stop being a dipshidiot, Dekus Erectus.
I looked up him, acknowledging his need to speak. A tear formed at the corner of his eye, and I felt even worse.
"I told you that?" I asked, somewhat astonished given my current state.
"Yes, you did, and..."
"Oh yeah!" I replied, recognizing his kind face. "And you gave me a ten-spot in gratitude, which you really didn't have to. It was very kind... people don't usually respond like that. Let me just ask you though, did you?" I smiled at him then, for the first time.
"Did I what?"
"Chase your dreams? Are you doing so now?"
He smiled as the tear coursed down his cheek. "Yes, I did. But if you hadn't said what you did that night, I probably wouldn't have. Thank you, again. And, thanks for what you do every day. You made a difference in my life."
With that, he exited. "No," I replied as he walked away, "thank you."
Humbling moments like that tend to hit when we need them most. For months now I have abandoned my "Thought of the Day" because it seemed nobody was listening. Also, my mind and soul have been in turmoil and I refused to force it. I'm the open book kinda guy. You can always tell how I feel by the way I look. My frown needs to bounce the other way around.
The next day, I picked one of my folded up pieces of paper, determined to bring the better side of me to work. I smiled as I read it, putting it in my pocket. Good ol' George Carlin, RIP.
Later as I drove, I took a deep breath. Keying the mic, I read it aloud.
"If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?"
Thanks to my good friends Billy, Bruce and Tommy. You're right. Sometimes it helps us to just "put yourself out there" and let the passengers figure it out on their own. Evidently, it did hit home to one of them.
"Nice quote," she said. "George Carlin, right?" She smiled and winked as she exited... the back door. "Thanks, driver."