Karma Rides The Bus

“Man, I have to tell you, you are swimming in karma.”  This was my complement to the stranger who had been sitting a few rows ahead of me on the bus.  “Thanks.”  His reply was one of mild astonishment.  It’s not often a total stranger gives you accolades.

 The energy about him was warm.  Positive vibes accompanied him from the moment he boarded.  For the commuters aboard our bus, his actions brightened an otherwise solemn commute home after a long day at work.

 “Really,” I emphasized, “You gave up your seat to the mom and her son.”

 “It wasn’t much,” he replied.  “I’d hope that someone would do the same for me and my own.”

 It was standing room only.  His gesture had a ripple effect.  Soon thereafter, I noticed younger passengers offering their seats to their elder counterparts.  It was refreshing to see one gesture start a small chain reaction of kind acts.

 We continued on our way.  With each stop, the bus’ load lightened.  A young man rose and made his way to the front, chatting with the driver as we neared his stop.  The stranger called out to him, “Excuse me.  Is that your phone?”

 He had left his phone on the seat in his hurry to exit the bus.  “Yeah, that’s it!  Thanks, man!  I woulda been kinda hard off without it.”

 “Anytime,” replied the stranger.  He spoke matter-of-factly.  His tone was cool and smooth.  His voice matched his swagger.

 “You really lightened up this ride,” I said to the stranger.  “Good things seem to follow you.  It’s good stuff.”  The stranger coyly smiled in return to my further complements.  I smiled back, put my hand out, and we made our introductions.

 We continued on our way, sinking into our seats, taking in the extra space made by the departing riders.  The frenzied commute had subsided.

 Until she entered.  She was a hot mess.  From the moment she boarded we were held captive by her inept and brusque behaviors.  The bus driver waited to continue on as she fumbled for her fare.  Traffic halted as the stale green light above faded to yellow, then red.

 She finally made her way down the aisle, gum wrappers spilling from her pockets and papers flapping out of her purse.  Passing up empty seats, she chose to sit next to some unfortunate soul.  She dropped beside him aimlessly, pressing his face into the window, which was covered in a wet film, the human moisture inside having condensed against the cool glass.

 My new companion and I exchanged glances and shrugs of the eyebrows.  What a contrast this was to the beginning of our ride.

 The excitement didn’t stop there!  She reached over to another passenger across the aisle, tapped his shoulder, and said, “I need to use your phone.”  This passenger spoke very little English, but she didn’t relent.  She gestured to his phone, placed her hand against her ear, and spoke to him in a rudimentary fashion.  “Call.  Need to make call.  Use phone?”  I was surprised that the end of her demand was inflected like a question.  How kind of her!

 Before he could fully extend the phone, she swiped it from his hand.  Dialing a friend, her call lasted close to five full minutes.  It was more of a conversation than to confirm with the friend what time they would meet at her stop.

 The woman signaled to the driver for her stop.  With the bus at the side of the road, waiting, she continued to talk.  The bus driver turned to say something, but before he could talk, she raised a finger and said, “Just one minute.”  No one said anything; instead we all stared.

She hung up, turned to the driver, and told him, “Next stop.”  She gave the passenger his phone, without even muttering a simple “Thank you.”  She didn’t apologize for the delay or her behaviors – no, we didn’t even exist in her eyes.  It was all about her, and getting what she wanted.

Her bags and body thumped along the aisle seats as she made her way, and exited the bus to our collective pleasure.  The hydraulic doors gasped as they opened, letting out a sigh of relief that blew through all of us.  She stumbled out, spilling into society, to wreak havoc elsewhere that evening.

The bus pulled from the curb.  As we eased back into traffic, I saw her tailing the bus with arms wide open and yelling, but to no avail.  The driver noticed, but kept moving.

A moment later, the driver called out, “Anyone missing a purse?”  None of the passengers, all men, owned up to it.  “I guess it’ll go to the lost and found,” was the driver’s final remark.

My new companion shot a glance my way.  With a bemused smile, he exclaimed, “Friend, now that’s karma!”

—George MacMillan