I believe in the quotidian unforeseen
I have always listened to “This I Believe” with great enjoyment – I can recall several essays that have given me pause, even changed my life in specific ways, but I have never thought about contributing until this morning and a 2-minute transit ride. I live in Pasadena, California, and I am fortunate enough to be able to take our fledgling public transit system to work in downtown Los Angeles. The usually temperate climate makes my morning walk to the train a pleasure, though I often find myself enjoying the walk a little too much (usually by petting one too many dogs!) and I end up running late. This morning was one of those days and the dog in question was a beagle named Nacho. I was heading for my connecting metro train at Union Station and as I walked down the stairs I saw the train waiting with open doors. I started to run down the stairs and toward the car. The driver was looking out his window and I figured he was waiting to close the doors until the last stragglers jumped aboard. To my surprise, he spoke to me as I approached saying “stop…stop…slow down.” I did as I was told, at first wondering if maybe I was too late to board. But he was smiling and I smiled back; then he said “you are so beautiful, just beautiful…slow down.” At my age those sorts of compliments aren’t exactly coming on a daily basis, so I continued to smile and boarded the train, feeling pretty good indeed. Shortly thereafter the doors closed and the next thing the passengers on the crowded cars heard was a robust “Good Morning!” from our driver. “I hope you are all having a wonderful day!! Take a minute and say good morning to your neighbor.” As I looked around the train, I saw people looking up and smiling — and several did say “good morning” out loud! Keep in mind this is downtown Los Angeles, where even eye contact is not a given, let alone conversation with strangers. His cheerful, animated banter continued and by the time he got to the usual “no smoking, eating, drinking or loud music” we were all actually listening. Those required admonitions were accompanied by “be considerate of your neighbors so you all can enjoy this beautiful ride and this beautiful Wednesday.” I have ridden the trains enough to have the drivers’ script memorized: when the doors open, the line is “be sure your have all your personal belongings, thank you for riding Metrorail.” This morning, “personal belongings” was embellished with all the probable things a passenger might forget – cell phone, purse, lunch, glasses, etc. Suddenly, I was a 12-year-old, leaving the house for school accompanied by my mother’s mantra “glasses, pen and pencil?” Since my mother passed away in the last year, the driver’s check-list tugged at my heart. His list was a followed by a wish to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and this new day. As we exited the train, to a person, we each turned our head to look at this man who had, in the space of about 2 minutes, touched our lives. Again, to a person, we all waved and smiled as he did the same. I felt like I was leaving a friend. All I could think about was how much such a seemingly small thing had changed my outlook — all day long I have been aware of how I greet people and that my demeanor might possibly change someone’s day. What a delightful and extraordinary possibility. I immediately regretted not walking back and asking his name, but was determined to find out who this driver of the Purple Line was.
I will end by saying that I also believe in saying “Thank You” – So, thank you Doug Billups, driver on the Purple Line, for the unforgettable ride and for the wonderful Wednesday.
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