As I've said before, riding the bus during the off hours is an unparalleled treat. I'm not sure why that is, but I had a fun ride yesterday afternoon. It started before I even got on the bus, as a matter of fact. I was waiting on the bus stop when a generic looking man (slacks, button down, gray hair, about 55) walked up to the bus stop and, after standing there for a few minutes, declared very loudly to no one in particular, "Don't forget, beer gives you charisma!" He then walked away. I exchanged a puzzled look with the other woman on the bus stop and went back to my magazine.
Then the 42 arrived and the real adventure began. The driver, a woman, was the most cheerful I've ever experienced (though I'm pretty sure her charisma wasn't due to beer consumption). She was giggling and chatting with passengers as they got on at each stop. At one point, a young woman crossed the street against the light in front of the bus. Our driver said, with a giggle, "Outta my way, Barbie!" before carefully passing the intersection. This was about the same time that a woman with a gigantic backpack (with her bike helmet attached to it) swung into the seat next to me, whacking my knee with the helmet in the process -- without apologizing. I was sitting there fuming for a bit, but the cheeriness of the driver was contagious.
In fact, the best part of all was her singing. As passengers were disembarking, she would sing, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for riding . . . Metro!" It was really endearing. And it was hard not to smile. It got me thinking, what if we had cheerful, smiling (singing even) drivers driving the bus and train every day. What a difference that might make in the city. Can you imagine it? Passengers smiling at each other, saying thank you, apologizing for stepping on your foot or slamming your knee with their bike helmet, or maybe even just not scowling unconsciously as they sit on the bus. It would be a whole other kind of city.
But as I got off the bus, the chorus of the "Thank You" song echoing in my head, I realized that even if we had cheery drivers who sang and smiled, someone would find something to complain about. That was even easier to imagine . . . can you hear them? "I had this awful driver today who sang the 'Thank You' song all out of key so badly my ears were bleeding," or "My dog just died, and that driver had the nerve to smile at me . . . the outrage!" And so I realized that, the same way the 100-degree heat makes us appreciate the air conditioning, the surly drivers and rude passengers make us appreciate the cheerful ones all the more. Maybe they can't all be delightful all the time, but for my part, I'm going to try to do better and not let the surly sour my mood, but don't expect to catch me singing the "Thank You" song any time soon.