Public transit is the ideal opportunity for me to interact, observe, and analyze. Today was one of the first few times taking the bus in Adelaide, though the subject of this entry has more to do with what happens outside of it. As we were heading down North Terrace, our bus stopped for a moment at a red light and I noticed a peculiar scene from across the boulevard. There was another bus pulled over on the busy street, and for some reason there were passengers on board but no driver. It took me a moment to realize that the driver was outside on the sidewalk, waving and calling out to an elderly woman trying to cross from the median towards the bus. He was asking if she needed a ride. She nodded her head and waved back. After the remaining cars passed, the woman crossed the street and made her way onto the bus with the driver's assistance. The driver then got back in and lurched the bus forward.
I always consider it important to look beyond the easy perspective, the one that says he was being a friendly bus driver going the extra step to ensure his passengers were boarded. I saw it slightly differently. The era of fast cars, busy schedules and city living has created a rush culture. It's not that I don't see people stop to smell the roses; I see people not knowing that the roses exist because the roses don't possess immediate personal benefits, there's no price tag on them, and they come without instant gratification. I fall victim of this sometimes as well, such as when someone hands me a flyer in the street to see their show or whatever it is they do. It's uncomfortable to put life on pause for the sake of a stranger. It's impossible to support everyone, to stray from the plan and attend every flyer event. Yet one of the most telling qualities I've observed from people is their reactionary kindness or lack thereof. Yes, it's possible the bus driver was already stopped, saw the lady, thought about it for half a minute, then decided to get out and say something, but I doubt that was the case. I truly believe that upon noticing the woman unable to cross because of wave after wave of cars, he simply reacted to the situation. Despite the fixed bus schedule, despite the possibility of unpleasant passengers grumbling due to the delay, the driver pushed aside the pressures of the world for just a moment to focus on a tiny sliver of it: the old lady. It's not enough to be "nice" anymore. Everyone is "nice". Character is much more than doing the right thing given time and a plan of action. Truly noble citizens posses the predisposition to do so on a moments notice.
So ask yourself this: if given a split second decision, are you the bus driver? Or are you the one that averts your eyes, keeps driving, and at the end of the day recalls a random memory of an old lady standing in the median, unable to get across to the bus stop. And while you wonder if it really was her stop, you become overtaken by the sudden, unforgiving realization that you were just too complacent to act out of bounds and find out...
Sunday, February 22, 2015
My residence has an outdoor lounge on its 7th floor, overlooking Adelaide's lofty cityscape. The view is superb day or night, but it is especially intriguing at night. The skyline is not lit up as well as many American cities (Minneapolis vs. Adelaide), but the interesting part is looking down at the streets, the people, the nightlife.
Life is presented in first-person, therefore it is difficult to imagine what we look like to other people. When I look down at Hindley Street at night, I like to pick out a person from the crowd and imagine what they see. It's similar to this thing I've done for years, and it all started because I got bored of observing the same interest point as everyone else. I've found that it's more captivating to pay attention to the immediate, instantaneous reactions from an event than the event itself. For example, when I'm in a room with a group of people, and someone enters the room; the door opens, a noise ensues, and everyone looks to see who just entered. Instead of looking at the door to find out who or what is entering, I try to look into the eyes of someone else already in the room. Based on their reaction, what can I conclude about the situation? Are they visibly affected by the person entering the room? Do they start to smile, recognizing the person who walked in? For a moment, I imagine life through their eyes. It's not an easy task to get to know someone through direct communication alone. Often, I've noticed it's their reactions to other things, usually uncontrollable, that give away the most striking aspects of their personality. The next time you're at a firework show, drop your attention from the fireworks for a moment to focus on someone else's gaze. Are they visibly entranced by the fireworks, or do they immediately notice you looking at them? Or perhaps they're already looking at you, either in love or wondering what your own eyes tell them about your world...
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Sometimes it takes being in a new place, knowing no one, and having no place to call home to find out where you stand in life. I'm still not sure if I'm frightened or pleased that I can walk down the street, passing hundreds of people and yet not a single person within thousands of miles knows that I exist. As an onlooker in a foreign city, this is how life would be, how life would appear regardless if I'm here or not. Summer in Australia is happening before my eyes, but would it happen if I closed them? Would it keep happening even if I wasn't here? Sure it would. Exactly how it's happening now.
In this world it is possible to exist as a ghost, and it is possible to lose touch with reality via the push of a button or tap of a screen. Regardless, everyone changes the future along with others' lives simply by existing. I don't mind existing in this particular realm, because as I view my current surroundings, maybe there's somebody out there observing me or my environment as well. And as I sit here, anonymously riding the bus, I realize that it's a temporary state. That no matter how long you choose to be a spectator, eventually someone is going to throw you into the game. So why wait for the coach to put you in when the lineup card is in your hands?
There is a reason why many don't believe in ghosts: because they can't fathom the possibility that they're hiding in living people, amongst us in everyday life. They're the outsiders, the foreigners, the homeless, the overlooked aspects of society. And though they may not cross our minds throughout the day, they're out there living life just like the rest of us.
Today the internet is awash with photos to show every place, every view, every discoverable corner Earth has to offer, solving one problem while creating another. With the sudden ease of information access, many forget about the adventure along the way. We can now get from point A to point B faster than ever at the expense of overlooking the area in between. But perhaps the greatest tragedy is allowing oneself to lose the will to discover, the will to endeavor without automation. The world doesn't stop when nobody around knows you exist, it stops when we fail to advance it.
I step out of the bus and into it.