When the bus arrived, I nestled into a comfortable seat at the middle portion where I could have a full window view of the city I now call "home". I quickly surveyed the passengers within my viewing range - a lady in her thirties seated across my seat, deeply engrossed in a pocket book; two black teenage girls with their long black tightly-braided hair in place, surreptitiously giggling over "you know what" girlish things; a father and kindergarten son tandem probably of european descent, the father instructing the kid to eat the sandwich properly so as not to spill on the latter's face, some very polite, soft-spoken latina nannies and some mestizo school boys all wearing i-pod headsets. Each passenger seemed to build an invisible fence around his private little space in the bus where strangers cannot thread into. I felt the same way too.
For the first few minutes, I was grateful that no one has decided to sit with me at any of the stops we made. I didn't want to miss my bus stop number so I focused intently on the sceneries outside the bus, careful to mark the number of each and every station that the bus passed by. I was amused by all the doll house-like bungalows that lined-up the road pavements and wondered about the people who live there. There were tall and small structures, lanky andbig trees about to bloom, busy streets, graffiti on the wall, men and women in corporate suits walking down the street, cars hurrying to beat the traffic - all the hallmarks of an urban life.
Everything was totally new and unfamiliar to me so that every now and then I had to secretly glance at the map safely tucked inside my folder. What a relief that the bus was actually plying the same route appearing in my downloaded map. Of course, I was careful not to show my map to other passengers, else I can become an easy target of some mean people out there ready to take advantage of my ignorance. When you're in a new place like this, much as you would like to trust people, wisdom also dictates never to throw caution into the wind.
And then as if somebody was reading my thoughts, out of nowhere popped two very odd-looking middle-aged couple at the Selkirk area. They were almost triple my size, exceptionally huge and tall and probably of aboriginal descent based on their physical features. To protect their tribe, I will refrain from physically describing them. To my great surprise, they decided to sit next to me despite the many vacant seats around.
So what's wrong with having someone like them seated next to you? Nothing actually, except that I have heard a lot of negative stories about them, like how they can be so unruly and rude in public, or how easy it is for them to pick up a fight with just anybody. The stories are a bit scary although I know deep in my heart that some of them may not necessarily be true. In fact, the first time I heard about them, I instinctively ran to their defense as if I've known them long enough. I felt that they are being unfairly stereotyped, placed in labels that are actually applicable to other races as well, Filipinos like myself included. Why, I have seen a lot of other nationalities who have displayed rude character and rough behavior so I knew it is truly not right to judge them this way. It was very unchristian to say the least.
But being actually with them now seemed to be a different story. The paranoid in me started to dominate my thoughts. What if the stories were true? What if they harm me now? What if they ask money from me? But the better side of me whispered "come on now, where is your sense of fairness? you have no right to judge them". Good thing I let the good side of me dominate my thoughts. Indeed, nothing could be truer that the battle is in the mind. I managed to say "hi" and flashed a smile towards them. They smiled back, albeit sheepishly.
Over the next couple of minutes, my seatmates were simply there - sitting peacefully in their couches, doing their own thing in that little corner of their world, dutifully awaiting for their bus stop. A few minutes later, the man politely excused himself as he pulled off the yellow string tied at the window near my side to signal that they were getting off. And when they were finally off the bus and have walked several steps away, I saw the man placed his right hand over the shoulder of the lady. That's it. I smiled knowingly. They were such a beautiful sight to behold in such a sunny day!
Although my first bus was incident-less, it was one of the most insightful experiences I had during my first few days in Canada. It affirmed what I already knew to be true in my heart all along. There is nothing to fear about riding the bus just as there is nothing to fear about other people, or about other nationalities. There is inherent kindness in everyone. The tough-looking stranger that sits next to you is just like everyone else - beneath the exterior lies a gentle heart, capable of kindness, capable of loving. Most passengers, myself included, are like mushrooms who seem to get on in the middle of nowhere, and then get off a few minutes later, again in the middle of nowhere. Most passengers just like to quietly get on with their lives, eagerly anticipating for their destination wherever that is.