12 November 2015

When Two Paths Cross

Originally Posted on June 6, 2015 
If you know me, or if you have even crossed paths with me, be forewarned. You may end up in my blog. And this time the subject is a very unlikely candidate.

When I was hired for my new job, I was thrilled. Finding my way to work was inconsequential. I had the job, and I would get there no matter what.

Then as my first day approached, reality began to set it. I would have to take the bus every single day because my husband needed the car for his job. We have been a one-car family for years, and it has never really been a problem.

But now it kind of is.

I’ll be honest, the idea of riding the bus every single day was not inviting. I have to walk twenty minutes to get to the bus stop, and then it is a forty minute ride to the campus. If I had my own car, it would take one third of that time, and time is precious these days.

But I had the job, so I would get there no matter how.

So I have been riding the bus every day. Some mornings I am spared. If my husband works the later shift, he is kind enough to drive me. But most days I still ride the bus home.
And something interesting happened.

Someone’s path has crossed mine. And he is the subject of my blog today—the bus driver who drives me home most days.

Now being a bus driver is not glamorous, and most bus drivers do just that . . . drive the bus. It is hard, tedious work, and some drivers can be grumpy. Can you blame them? Usually they say hello or good morning and they say goodbye or have a nice night, but mostly they drive the bus without much interaction. My bus driver is different, very different, and he makes a difference.

He carries on conversations with the passengers, and yesterday I was the only passenger on the bus for half the ride home, so I was the lucky passenger he chatted with. I know more about this bus driver than I know about some people I have known for years. But he is not a gossipy kind of guy. He is just nice. He makes the ride pleasant, and I see him as kind of a lesson to me. And I wonder, because I wonder a lot about these things, if our paths were meant to cross. Because two weeks of riding the bus with this bus driver has made me see things in a new way.

I won’t share the personal details about him or his wife or his life. He probably wouldn’t care because he shares it with the bus riders all the time, but to protect his privacy, I won’t get into that. It is how he relates to people that I would like to talk about.

He is cheerful. On the second day, when he picked me up on campus, he said, “I guess I have a new customer.” I blathered on about . . . well, for now and I just got a new job etc. etc. etc., and then he said, “Well, remember me at Christmas, and my birthday is January 23.”

Who says that? He does, and he doesn’t know who he is dealing with. Don’t think I won’t remember what he said.

He is a real people person, and I could learn a lot from that. I am not. It’s not that I don’t like people, but I am an introvert and would rather write than talk. But the moment-to-moment or day-to-day encounters with individual people can really make a difference. I never really understood that until recently. And you don’t have to be a charismatic personality in every day encounters with people. You just have to be kind and be observant and be willing to reciprocate.

I haven’t told anyone this, not even myself really, but here I am telling the world . . . that after some reflection, I have felt like a failure after leaving my job at the public library. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t deal with the public and the pressure and the chaos and the stress. And I felt like a failure. The job helped me at a low time in my life. For that, I will always be grateful, but I felt like a failure when I left.

But the truth is I am not a failure. I endured that job for 2 ½ years. I tried to go against my nature—to be an extrovert, and it never really worked. It created stress in me, and the reality is there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. That is who I am.

But even introverts need people, and certain people, like my bus driver, bring out the best in other people.

Most people ride the bus these days with their ear buds in their ears or their heads in their iPhones, and they are slowly missing these one-on-one, day-to-day, individual encounters. And the lesson I learned is this: you never know whose path might cross yours. And you may miss a great gift if you are looking down instead of looking out . . . And that is how I would really become a failure.

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