City folk catch busses when they want to, Country folk catch busses because they have to. Most of my travelling companions on the town bus are there because they don’t drive, for one reason or another. It’s not that bussing is a bad way to get around, but in a town where everything is ten minutes away by car, you only spend an hour on a bus if there’s no alternative. Busses in the city are transport for the general public. Country busses are designated for the diagnosed, carriages for the categorised, rides for the restricted. If you’re on a country bus, there’s a reason you are there, and it’s rarely as simple as your destination. This is good and bad. Bad because there are some decidedly odd people onboard with peculiar backgrounds and stories; and good because there are some decidedly odd people onboard with peculiar backgrounds and stories.
Let me introduce you to someone who inspires me.
Stan is a fellow wheelchair user, a double amputee who rides a green, somewhat ancient power chair. He is of another generation, a quiet and courteous man who holds his own council and moves with grace at a speed of his own choosing. The truely remarkable thing about Stan is that he is also blind. When Stan boards the bus he does so with the chair controller in one hand, and a white cane in the other: a remarkable feat. I recall how nervous I was when I first tackled the daunting ramp on a public bus: building enough speed to climb the ramp but not so much that you miss the sharp right hand turn and crash into the driver’s door instead. Then there’s a U-turn to perform, sometimes a three pointer, before one can park in the designated wheelchair space. Not to mention letting the driver know where you are heading, tapping your Opal Card or paying your fair. Here’s a thing: In the country you can only pay the driver with cash. Cash! It’s tricky work. And I recall how nervous I am still when its raining and my wheels slip and spin and my umbrella gets stuck and I feel every set of eyes on the bus willing me to just-get-it-done! so we can all get out of here. Stan juggles all this and so much more, and without a hint of complaint or frustration; not ever.
Stan inspires me still, even though its now several years since he graced our busses and I learned recently that he had died. I ought not to have written about him in the present tense, but I couldn’t do otherwise. He was a person with an abiding sense of contentment and presence.
There are people we know well, some we know about, and others we know of; and then there are people we barely know and yet we know them. We know who and what they are, somehow glimpsing the soul that shines in the moments of our meeting, however brief. My first thought was that these people are few and far between, but that’s not right. I think that there are a great many people of grace, people formed by grace, but we are rarely quiet enough or slow enough to notice them. So, look up from your phone (blight of the modern pilgrim and passenger), and see.