We can all get along. I know because I’ve seen us do it.
On Saturday I took the bus downtown, as I do on most weekends. It’s about a thirty-minute ride and in that time I saw people of various ages, ethnicities, and abilities helping each other out. At a guess, I’d say we ranged in age from a few months old to about eighty years. Many of us were Caucasian, some of us appeared to be Muslim, some were of Asian heritage, some were of African origin, and some were probably First Nations people. Judging from their appearances, the passengers were also from a wide range of income brackets with one woman wearing a stylish coat, and one man carrying a big bag of empty cans to take to the recycling centre. The only thing we all had in common was that we were taking a bus instead of driving a car.
After I had been on the bus only a short while, an older lady asked the bus driver which bus she needed to connect with in order to get to a particular place. He told her he thought it was the #2 bus, and she got off the bus at the next stop. Then the bus driver opened the door and call her back in to the bus. He said he wasn’t sure he’d given her the right advice and asked her to wait while he checked in a big book of bus routes. The person sitting in front of me was a young woman with her head completely shaved except for a small thin ponytail on top. She had obviously heard the same exchange as I did and she yelled out “It’s the #3!” The driver and the older woman thanked her, and the woman left the bus.
Shortly after that, a young man in a wheelchair got on the bus. When the passengers in the front seats saw him getting on, they all quickly vacated their seats to make room for him. One man raised up the bench seats to make room for the wheelchair. When he saw that the man in the wheelchair was being followed by a couple with a baby stroller, he raised up the opposite bench as well, then he walked to the back of the bus. Even a man with limited walking ability made room for them. He had a large stick that he was using as a cane, and it was clear that walking was painful for him, but he made room for the man in the wheelchair and the couple with the stroller.
When an older woman got on the bus a few stops later, the husband got up from his seat near the front next to his wife in order to make room for her. As the bus started moving away from the stop, the woman was unsteady and could not find anything to hold on to except the baby stroller. The baby’s mother then stood up, gave the woman her arm, and guided her back to the seat that her husband had just vacated.
At one stop, someone on the sidewalk called out to the bus driver to wait for someone he could see was running to catch the bus. At another stop, a man on the bus asked the driver to wait for a woman who was slow in getting to the door to exit the bus.
None of these people knew each other, as far as I could tell, but they all knew what was the decent thing to do, and they were all happy to help each other out. About half of the passengers also called out a “Thank You” to the driver as they disembarked. How nice is that? If you want to be reminded of what it takes for us all to get along, I recommend that you ride the bus. In Edmonton, at least, you’ll be pleased to see how ordinary it can be.