In praise of everyday things

Why don’t we tell people when they do a good job?

Bus passengers, 1952

Dear Fellow Bus Passenger

I wanted to let you know I think you are great. I hope this doesn’t sound creepy. I see you every morning on the bus but we don’t speak.

I am invisible; I am there every day and I talk to my friend who sits next to me. We are getting old and you are so young your eyes don’t see us. I see you though and I am amazed. Initially you don’t seem to have many advantages in life. You aren’t beautiful by popular standards. You are large and overweight and don’t seem to have much interest in fashion. It’s fine by me because I’m not interested in those things either, but I suspect many young people are. Certainly judging by the way they talk and shop anyway. You do dress in young clothes, low hanging jeans which reveal more of your person than perhaps I would recommend – but what would an invisible old lady like me know? I do know other passengers exchange those kind of looks which often are accompanied by snide remarks or smirks as though they were models for Vogue.

You don’t seem aware of it. Maybe you hide it well, or maybe you are too tired to notice. Perhaps you are too nice to think others would think like that about you. You are on a very early bus and you are on the same bus home as well. It’s quite a bit sooner than my stop so you start work earlier and finish later to travel with me. You work hard.

Lots of people are like that though. It’s not amazing. What is amazing is that you have this kid. He’s a beauty. You bring him on the bus every day for the workplace crèche. You get up early and then you get him up and dressed and fed and to the bus on time, and he isn’t crying and you don’t seem stressed. All the time on the bus you talk to him about what you can see, or tell him stories. You tell him he’s good. He is. In the evening sometimes he’s a little tired and whiny, and I’m pretty sure you feel that way too because I do, and most of the other passengers look like they do too. The only difference is that little kids haven’t learned to keep it to themselves. They are still outraged at the unfairness of the world.

So he may snivel a bit, but you cheer him up and keep calm and he calms down too. You play a little with him but you keep him quiet and calm and happy.

You do this every single day.

I have watched your child grow up and become old enough for school and suddenly you are alone on the bus again. Everything else is the same from your clothes to the other passengers. But somehow the bus seems emptier and you seem smaller without him.

You have been doing a great job and I bet people don’t tell you often enough. So I wanted to tell you now.

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