Bus Stop

The schedule has been stuffed in your wallet for so long that the paper has gone soft, and the creases obscure the arrival times between 12:41 and 1:16 p.m. But surely it's the same, right? Once established, these plans never change. The bus will appear around the corner, two blocks down, and make it's way to this curbside shelter. And from here it goes reliably and predictably along its route, and you will sit in that seat by the window watching for the familiar landmarks and noting the other passengers disembark at their appointed places until, finally, you pull the string to ring the bell and find yourself right where you are planned to be. Precisely at 3.38 you are where you are supposed to be, where others expect you to be.

In Germany, they set up fake bus stops for patients with dementia. It comforts them to sit there, to believe that they have a place to go, and a time at which to be there. And that at the end of the day another bus will return them home, even if they aren't sure anymore where that home is. We all have buses to catch, and time tables to maintain. Or at least we are supposed to.

The rules on the bus are clear. One gives one's seat to the elderly, or the man on crutches, or--if we are feeling generous that day--to the woman carrying all the bags looking so tired. One does not lean against the vertical pole, lest others need to hang on through the potholes and sharp turns. One does not speak to others; they wouldn't hear you anyway atomized as we are with headphones and texts and feeds filled with pictures of food. And yet, there is a camaraderie, a sort of in-it-together feeling that comes with crying children and the smell of carryout food, and the way that the condensation clings to the windows when it's cold and wet outside. There is a shared sense of purpose: we are all going somewhere. 

But what if the schedule is wrong. What if they changed the times when you were distracted. What if they decided it wasn't worth running your line anymore. What if you are sitting at a bus stop, in the dark, waiting for a ride that is not going to come. Will you, like those aging addled Germans, find comfort in the simple act of sitting there. Is it enough to believe you have a place to be and a schedule to keep, even if you can't remember where you are going, or what you are expected to do there, or even who you hope to be waiting for you when you gingerly make your way down the steps.

If you are alone at the stop, unsure if the bus will ever come or not, are you a fool for sitting there on that hard bench or an optimist for believing that sooner or later, eventually, it will arrive. If your schedule is smeared beyond reading, are you a hero for believing nonetheless that the doors will open at last and that in exchange for a token you will be on your way to your destination, wherever that may be.