Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Shuttle Man

The University I go to, The University of Warwick, is very big. Roughly 750 acres. I consider myself lucky that my college is a 10 minute leisurely walk from where I stay and the Student Union a further 10 minutes. I know people who spend the better part of an hour walking from one place to another (its a great way to keep fit!). Taxis are an occasional luxury for students, not to mention a dent in the pocket. And also the idea of traveling within the campus in a cab is a little stupid and makes you feel like a dull cow reluctant to move the big, fat ass. So, we usually walk. 

However, the management has been thoughtful enough to provide a free of charge Shuttle Bus Service around the campus after dark, from 7pm to 1am. This bus can accommodate about 17 persons and stops at 10 places, revisiting every stop approximately every half hour. It is white in color, a blessing for tired and /or lazy people and is driven by a dear old man. Thinking of it, its rather funny how I've never asked him his name. We were happy simply calling him The Shuttle Man. I remember countless remarks, jokes and sniggers over how his job is the most unexciting and boring one in the planet. Can you imagine driving a bus on a fixed route, going round and round the same place, picking up and dropping people, for 6 hours? Everyday! Forget about adventure and challenge, there is nothing remotely attractive about the profession unless of course if he's a sci-fi freak imagining himself as a space capsule orbiting a planet and giving a free ride to aliens and other celestial beings. 

Whatever his reasons maybe, as I said earlier he's a dear old man. Never have I seen him irritable or cranky. Shower or snow, he always greets you with an endearing smile and a friendly hello. Well, there was this one time when he didn't let me enter the shuttle with a can of beer and I was a little pissed off but that's another story!
Right now let me tell you about last night. Last night my friends and I were at the University House Learning Grid eating Domino's and trying to study. At around quarter to 12 we decided to go back to our residences. It wasn't too cold outside. In fact it was quite pleasant and walking back home would have been ideal considering the pizza binging we'd done. But why strain your legs when such a wonderful option (read The Shuttle Man) was at hand!!

We boarded the shuttle and were welcomed with a genial smile and a warm greeting. I thought to my self, "Such a happy man! I must learn something from him." I sat down in the front row and made myself comfortable - my stop was a good 15-20 minutes away. As we moved smoothly from stop to stop I witnessed something very ordinary but at the same time overwhelming. This driver cheerfully smiled and greeted every person who got on, politely requested them to shut the door properly by pushing it harder and dropped off everyone one by one right outside their doors (although he didn't have to) with a friendly goodnight. I looked a little more closely at him. He seemed to be enjoying an interview on the radio. He may have worries but his countenance revealed nothing, if at all then just joyfulness and equanimity.
 Do you understand what I'm trying to express? I doubt but I'll try again.

Shortly we approached my stop. As I got down I glanced back at him to say thank you as usual. "Goodnight", he said. The tone was deep and amiable, the voice of a friend. He was quite old. I could know from his thinning, silver hair and light pink wrinkled skin. Such a likable demeanor!( He must have been quite a sensation in his heyday). His eyes were twinkling with good spirits and then I saw him smile. It was a full smile and as they say it reached his eyes. To tell the truth his smile illuminated his entire face and the positivity spread throughout the shuttle. At that instant I do not know what happened to me. Something exploded within me and I was overcome with a volley of emotions. For a split second I just wanted to climb back and give The Shuttle Man a big hug and tell him how wonderful he was. 

I still don't know what happened to me - it was such an emotional moment. The feeling quickly passed but the thought stayed with me. Bemused, I shut the door and watched the shuttle as it continued its journey. 

Feeling a little embarrassed I shared the thought with a friend who was with me. She didn't laugh at me and said she understood. She told me, "Tanny, have you ever considered he might have spent his entire life doing this?" And then it dawned on me. Sometimes somethings become a part of our lives, a part of us, an inherent part. There is no room for concepts like boredom, good or bad. It’s more about embracing what life has to offer, about unconditional acceptance, about simplicity and satisfaction. About Happiness.
I don't know him at all. But I have a feeling he's a happy man. Because Happiness shows. Happiness spreads. Happiness changes lives.