On the bus of life

On a double decker bus, I sit on the top deck, at the front. I like the panoramic view. But today there’s an old man sat in my seat. I guess he likes the view too. So I’m sitting behind him looking out the window, and at the back of his head.

It’s busy. There’s a tonne of students travelling into the city. There’s a bunch of pensioners. And it’s cold, so as the journey progresses the windows begin to cloud up from the heat given off by this mixed bag of people. 

At this point, I switch modes. I can no longer see out the window, so I dive back into my book. Today, it’s Goatman, by designer Thomas Thwaites. Check it out. It’s charming.

After a few pages, I look up. The old man’s view out of the window is completely obscured. All he can see is a grey mass of condensation. This scenario has potential for interestingness. So I put my book down to watch how he reacts to being deprived of his view. 

For a few minutes he shifts and fidgets. He’s a pensioner, not a teenager or 20-something, so his first reaction to the onset of boredom isn’t to whip out a phone or tablet. Instead, he just sits. 

I can almost feel the conflict going on in his head. He’s annoyed that he can no longer gaze out the window and over the countryside. But he doesn’t want to make the move and wipe the window so he can see. That draws too much attention. He goes back and forth, back and forth, until, resolution. 

The old man goes still for twenty seconds. It’s like he’s preparing himself. Then he snaps his palm to the window, moves it in a rough, fast circular motion, and brings it back to his lap, satisfied. He doesn’t have the full, panoramic view back. But he can now see enough to spend the rest of the journey content. 

The old man relaxes and looks out the window. I go back to my book.

This scenario got me thinking: we’ve all got a front row seat on the bus of life. In the beginning, we can see where we’re going. But soon, as we collect experience and attain beliefs, knowledge and biases, our window clouds up.

Some don’t mind not being able to see where they’re going. All they know, all they need to know, is that they’re on the bus, going somewhere. Others can’t stand it. They need to see the full picture. To know exactly where they’re going and what’s on the road ahead. And some, like the old man, just need to see a little to be satisfied.