Busted!

I caught the bus today, and I got busted by the bus driver!

I’m not used to getting into trouble; in fact it’s a little odd just how rare it is for me to earn anyone’s displeasure. My crime was to hail the bus between stops; something which I now appreciate is verboten, but which in my innocence I had actually thought was quite, well … innocent! Apparently not.

The encounter made me think. It was a taste of life on the other side. As I say, I hardly ever hear a cross word from anyone (… anyone other than the six women in my immediate family, obviously). In part this is because I am male: I’m fairly convinced that the women of our world reserve their choicest invective for one another. Blokes don’t do that! And I suspect I am also protected from people’s worst manners simply by a quirk of height. At 6′ 7″ I seem to command a wholly unearned esteem from the general populace.

Had I been able bodied and upstanding, I doubt very much that I would have been busted by the bus driver. But seated in my wheel chair in the wrong spot I was evidently putting him out, and so he put me down. I realised again how substantial the divisions in our world are; but this time I was not merely a spectator to injustice: I was the victim – minor though this episode surely was.

The world pays respect to ability; we call it ‘respectability’. Our great athletes, our gifted musicians, our most eloquent speakers: all of them earn our respect and are rewarded for their skill. Movie stars and rock gods are fawned on by adoring multitudes. It’s natural enough, and to honor achievement is a grand thing. The problem is that we occasionally do the opposite, and disrespect disability.

There was, however, a darker dimension to my bus driver’s displeasure. He also treated me as just another passenger on his bus! Public busses are a new world to me, they are a window on a different way of life; and, dare I say it, on a different strata of life as well. The bus crowd is … unusual. Most folks on the bus are there because they don’t own a car. There are lots of single mums: young and harried, worn-out toddlers in hand, struggling with battered and overloaded prams. There are school leavers (I wonder why they left?) with angular haircuts and glazed, impersonal eyes. There are young men with piercings that make you wince, and girls with tattoos of things that shouldn’t exist. There are plenty of odd bods – like me – subsisting on one sort of pension or another. And the bus driver (can you believe this?) had the hide to lump me in with all of them! Imagine! He addressed me the same way he spoke to the rest of his truck load of captive humankind. Bemused, I watched him practice his technique on others who unwittingly earned his ire.

If it’s natural to respect ability, could it be unnatural to respect disability? The despots of history have certainly thought that way. Sometimes when hope flees in the dark of night I’m tempted to believe that ‘survival of the fittest’ really is the ultimate truth; that the race is always to the swift. “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor (1 Corinthians 12:22-23). Thankfully our corner of the world is remarkable in the way it respects those less-able. The very fact that B3 and I can get on every bus in our city amazes me. The huge team of dedicated, inspiring people who share with us in the care of our nine year old daughter is testimony to the fact that men and women are capable of great distinction.

Maybe my bus driver friend was just having a bad day? I’ve painted him in a bad light, I know. And as much as I would like to protest, I can’t: because I am far from innocent. You have already seen my hypocrisy: for some reason I don’t feel I should be on the bus! I tell myself I don’t belong on board. In my mind’s eye I am as superior toward my bus peers as the bus driver was toward me, and my attitude betrays my pride.

I didn’t choose to be on the bus any more than my travelling companions did. But there we all are, none the less! Life is a strange and unpredictable journey that requires much patience and grace. A Man well acquainted with its ups and downs said simply, “Love one another”.

 
Rejoice!

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A post script…

A good friend passed away suddenly this week. We were once neighbours, farming a couple of miles apart when our children were young, and through the years I have been privileged to share in many of their joys and some of their trials. I was touched deeply to learn that in recent months she had often read this page, and that somehow my thoughts had moved hers. What a profound privilege it is to share life, and to share life’s truths with one another.

5 Responses to “Busted!”


  1. 1 Diane Trithart June 28, 2010 at 2:14 am

    Once more your words provide “food for thought” and made for stimulating conversation over the breakfast table with our guests from Iowa and others from Massachusets and New Jersey.

    So sorry about the loss of your friend but rejoice in the knowledge you made a difference in another’s life.

    Have a blessed day,

    Diane

  2. 2 roderickmallen June 28, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Thank you Dianne,
    I love the thought of ‘Busted’ being tossed around over a breakfast table on the other side of the planet. That’s terrific!

  3. 3 Jacquie July 1, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Rod,
    I love your quirky sense of humour and the way you view life. Personally I don’t agree that it is your height that protects you from people’s worst manners….I think it is your spirit. You have about you an air of humbleness and genuiness/gentleness. You are a person whom one wants to get to know and once we do we do not wish to offend.
    It’s a pleasure to read your blog…you are inspiring as usual.
    xxJacquie

  4. 4 roderickmallen July 2, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I’m glad you can see humour in it Jacquie. Id like to think that most things I write make people smile, or perhaps sometimes even laugh. There’s always joy around victory. Thank you!

  5. 5 roderickmallen July 4, 2010 at 11:46 am

    A Post Script to ‘Busted’….

    I am a great fan of public transport. Ive just done a trip by bus and train down to Melbourne, and almost every day I’m looking for some opportunity to get out on the busses! I havnt had such independance in months, and I am really amazed by the provision our community makes for wheelchairs. I’m afraid that I painted the poor old bus driver in a too-negative light, and I do think it was just a bad day for him. Ive since met him a couple more times, and once he even gave me my fair back because he felt he had kept me waiting too long, “This is for your patience” he said!


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