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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bus Lesson: Despite What You May Have Been Told, You’re Not All That Special

The woman in front of me is becoming more irritated by the moment, the very pitch of her head giving off cartoon stink-lines of frustration.

You see, the elderly man sharing a seat with me is tapping his hand on the back of her seat.

It’s not even the back of her seat, per se, that he is patting, but the seat that will eventually be occupied by whoever sits next to her.

Tap. Tap. Tap. His hands are freckled, big-knuckled, and deliberate. He’s not wearing an iPod; but his head is nodding in time, his hand lightly patting the seat.

He hears music.

She turns to glare at him, her shiny, smooth hair swirling prettily with the movement. She is fashionable but anxious, her immaturity lending a thoughtlessness I'll bet she's unaware of to the outfit. She has been inconvenienced. She pulls out her phone and texts in short, staccato bursts.

The world should know how bothered she is.

From the old man’s side, there is no indication that he has seen her expression. Perhaps he’s grown used to it, the frustrated annoyance of a world that goes faster every day. He smiles vaguely at her, a brief acknowledgement of her presence, his thoughts with whatever music is playing in his head.

I want to tap her on the shoulder, tell her to relax, that it’s beyond her control, that someday she, too, will be old and on the bus.

That the light-handed tapping of an old man is nothing to fret about.

But she would never believe me.

And so I do what the bus has taught me: I go back to my iPod, to my own music, leaning back and being appreciative, again, of no longer being young.

Because it looks as exhausting as I remember it.

55 comments:

Scarlet Blue said...

I often remember that being young was exhausting.
I really like the tone of this piece of writing, different from your usual style; gentle.
Sx

Desperate Housemommy said...

Yeah. I so could have been that girl some 20 years ago. I'm not sure when I learned to let stuff go...to, you know, filter...but I'm so glad I did.

Pearl said...

Scarlet, yeah, I'm feeling a little introspective lately and it can't help but come out in my writing. I'm glad you like it -- sometimes I'm torn between writing what I want to write and writing what I think the audience/people want. I keep choosing to write what I want, but can't help but wonder sometimes...

Desperate Housemommy, you and me both, sister. It's good to slow down sometimes -- and it's even better to develop some compassion...

Simply Suthern said...

Being old is exhausting watching the world blow by in a whirlwind of busyness.

Simply Suthern said...

Pearl,

Write what you want. Stay with what got you here hun.

Pearl said...

Simply, do you think? Geez, I hope not. I'm hoping to progressively chill...

Oilfield Trash said...

Your next book definitely needs to be about your bus adventures.

And I could read that book while listening to a Cake cd.

Scarlet Blue said...

I agree, write what you feel.
Sx

Kate Mohler said...

Always write what you want! The people will follow (especially if it's good, which this is). :-) A little introspection never hurt anybody.

Pearl said...

Hey, thanks. Yes, everyone says "write what you know/feel" but where would we be without double-guessing ourselves? :-)

OT, oh, that really works for me. And more and more I'm thinking: yes, a bus book. Then a work book. And then the continuing life and hard times of Liza Bean Bitey...

jabblog said...

The young can never be told and, of course, will never grow old.

rcazares said...

Beautiful, exquisite writing! You always hit the nail with your descriptions, Pearl. I'm gonna read it again.

Daisy said...

Write from your heart Pearl, don't try to guess what's in others.

Oh dear! Do I ever see my elderly self in that woman! Someone tapping on the back of my seat, or kicking it in a theatre, would drive me bonkers. So now I need to do some thinking about me/that! ...which is good ... and I thank you! :-)

Daisy's Barbara ... Daisy sleeps through it all.

Pearl said...

jabblog, ain't that the truth? And I can't help but wonder: given how obnoxious I was at 20, am I equally so, in a different way, in my 40s? I'll bet I am...

rcazares, how kind of you. :-)

powdergirl said...

He may well have been deliberately irritating her, my Dad would have.
But you wouldn't have known it : )
Always write what you feel friend, its why we come here.

Pearl said...

Barbara, I think what we need sometimes is to adjust our expectation between what we can expect in public and what we can expect in private. A bus is for all. We've all paid for a seat on a public conveyance (with exceptions made for the elderly and handicapped) and so cannot expect silence/our own seat/to have things exactly as we want them. There's a certain amount of "letting go" we have to do, to relax and realize we have nothing to add to some situations. I could not sit by and watch illegal activities on the bus -- and will not -- but the guy shaking the seat because he's "rocking out" to his headphones, the woman having a fight on her cell phone, and, heaven help us, the guy picking his nose over there? Sometimes the only thing you can do is turn away and say to yourself, "it certainly is a lovely day outside..."

Pearl said...

powdergirl, hey! Thank you -- and you know, I'm certainly missing YOUR writing. Hint. Hint. Free beer. Hint.

Glen said...

I hear music too

Douglas said...

What? No "rage against the machine?" A quiet piece, a thoughtful one. The young are rash and easily bothered but so are the old who seem to feel they have suffered enough. It is those in the middle years who have given in and accept the indignities of what we laughingly call existence.

Don't mind me, I am just cranky lately.

Leenie said...

The creative dilemma: DO what you feel or DO what you think will sell. Then you start to overthink and second guess. Then the whole thing becomes overworked and you're torn between "focus, focus" and "loosen up, you idiot."

Your writing is so distinctive. I think you've got a handle on a happy medium (at least she SEEMS happy). I'm just glad you're sharing the work with all us followers for FREE! (You sure you ain't got no spare change?)

lisleman said...

appreciative of no longer being young - I don't hear that much from women. As you typically do - great observation on the bus.
Even though I need to remind myself, a good motto is - lighten up.

Bossy Betty said...

I am in the middle of writing a post about easily offended people. Have you been following my brain again? I can just see this woman on the bus!

Shrinky said...

So astutely observed, and tenderly recounted. Age certainly softens our impatience, doesn't it?

Pat said...

One of the things I don't miss about flying is having some child spend the time kicking the back of my seat.
'Age certainly softens our impatience, doesn't it? '
So Shrinky you got it wrong there ducks!

GreatGranny said...

Write what's on your mind and in your heart.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh did you NAIL the young--their boundless energy for criticism and BEING HAPPY NO MATTER WHAT.

WrathofDawn said...

Oh, the outrage. Just maintaining the constant outrage was exhausting, wasn't it?

"appreciative of no longer being young" - The only women who can't appreciate the gifts of age are the shallow ones whose only thought is for what they look like to the world. I have always preferred to concentrate on what the world looks like to me.

That said, I'd kill to get my 20-year old skin back. I would really prefer to keep the 54-year old's knowledge and perspective though...

Sarah Has Moxie said...

Beautiful post, Pearl. Loved this. :)

Cheeseboy said...

I think it may be the generation after mine has learned to be less patient and more easily annoyed. Just a thought.

mrwriteon said...

And if one is colossaly immature like I can be at moments, then it continues to be exhausting.

Caleb said...

I hear music all the time, and constantly tap, stomp, and groove my way through life. I forget that it even bothers people. Turns out, it does. Oh well- suck it.

Current head-song? Eye of the Tiger. I had an idea for an epic video post involving my 2 friends (each having a 10"... member). I was going to flesh (heh heh) the plan out more, but I got so wrapped up in the song in my head that I can't concentrate.

Old man: 1, bitchy bus girl: 0.

Flea said...

Oh heavens. Being young certainly was exhausting. Sitting back and smiling at that foolishness is amusing.

Mustang Sally said...

Oh my, yes, it WAS exhausting. Every little thing was like OMG IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!! I just don't have that kind of energy anymore. I've learned to pick my battles ... and not sweat the small stuff. Great observations.

Bouncin' Barb said...

What a great post. It's so true. I'm guilty of not having patience with seniors and that included my dad. I wish he was still here so I could do it over again with a little more knowledge and appreciation of what happens to all of us through the years.

Meg said...

I love the last line of this post. Well done.

Doubting Thomas said...

Glad you wrote this post! It's all one big, happy Pearl-smorgasboard. Keep it coming :)

Oh, and I hope Liza Bean co-authors the next book. That would be AWESOME ;)

-DT

vanilla said...

Too right you are, Pearl. To be young is exhausting. It just wears a person out. Ages him/her, so to speak.

Belle said...

You can enjoy the world so much more when little things don't bother you. Why waste the time?

GYPSYWOMAN said...

your bus adventures always remind me of the wonderful times i spent on the metro in DC - now, there is a public transportation UNIVERSE! and traveling during rush hour! be still my heart! talk about fodder for blogging posts!!! ;)

PAMO said...

Amen! I use to be one of those horribly impatient persons and I am always taken aback when I see some young woman behave like I use to. So much wasted energy.

Gigi said...

Perfect post, Pearl! Write what you feel - that's what people want. And the fact that you write so well makes it that much better.

And yeah, being young and indignant all the time was exhausting!

jenny_o said...

So there I was, nodding in agreement with the post and the comments, and then slowly starting to realize I am just as impatient and indignant as I ever was, just over different things. Instead of getting upset over the tapping or the baby crying, I now get upset at OTHERS who get upset at the tapping or the baby crying...

Yep, it's still exhausting.

Ron said...

"I want to tap her on the shoulder, tell her to relax, that it’s beyond her control, that someday she, too, will be old and on the bus."

AMEN, Pearl!

Living in a city, I see this kind of stuff all day long - rush, rush, rush, hurry, hurry, hurry.

"Because it looks as exhausting as I remember it."

Ah yes, being young!

Eva Gallant said...

I love your descriptions. I can envision both the old man and the girl texting.

Linda O'Connell said...

You can take the most mundane topic and make it interesting.

HermanTurnip said...

Some people need to learn to pick their battles. Tapping on a seat is nothing to get riled up about. Just think of it as a form of vibrating massage. Ahhhh....

The Jules said...

I hope it was Gangsta Rap he was tapping along to in his head.

Also, only write good stuff Pearl, never any rubbish . . . oh, you have done.

Carry on.

Cheryl K said...

“Who among us hasn't envied a cat's ability to ignore the cares of daily life and to relax completely?” - Karen Brademeyer

...and here's a glass raised to getting old!!

loveable_homebody said...

Tapping makes me anxious too. I'd be that woman on the bus trying to give signals that it's really annoying her. Your narrator (You? This has the fluidity, creativity and observation of fiction) is so wise. I'll think of this next time someone is tapping.

I love your writing, Pearl. Please write a novel.

hocam said...

Great piece. Really enjoyed the piece. You paint the picture so clearly I can hear the music too.

lime said...

brilliant. true. wise. thank you.

savannah said...

I'm old, so at this point in my life, I'm either going with the flow or channeling Malcolm Tucker* these days. I know, right? Total contradictions, 180 mentality, but hot damn, it is fun! ;) xoxo

p.s. re: writing, I'm in the write what you want when you want camp because I'll read it!

*from "The Thick of It"

Nancy Lattery said...

Beautiful!!!! Reminded me of my recent train ride on Amtrak. If you want to train somewhere, well, keep me in mind:) Keep writing what you want...... it will always be the best.

Jocelyn said...

1) I totally agree a bus book would be ammmazing from you; the bus posts hit something special inside of me;

2) I am so with you in being torn between wanting to write "real" versus "safe"...had to write a blog post about it the other week, in fact. I totally understand.

Jocelyn said...

I left a comment before but think it didn't post.

1) I would be all all over a "bus book" from you. YES.

2) I am with you in feeling torn between wanting to write "real" versus "safe." It's frustrating--I even wrote a post about that tension the other week. So: I feel you, sister.