It had been going on for the last one month. Everyday, I would walk to the bus station to go to the office, located at the base of ‘Flatirons’, one of the most prominent features of Boulder. On that 10 minute walk, I prepared myself for the day. I listened to the music on the air. I greeted the squirrels and the rabbits on the way.
It was raining that day and I was under a ‘pink umbrella’, which my landlady had generously offered to me. The bottom half of my body was all wet. A generous old lady asked me if I need a ride on the way, but I thanked her and continued walking. As the rain drops powered by wind hit my body, I felt connected to the majestic cloud in the sky. I captured a moment with my camera as the rocky mountains and the cloud played hide and seek.
Usually, it is only me who is walking to the bus station. Several faces greet me from inside the cars while passing me. I smile back and wish them all good.
It was already 8:20. I was fearing that I might have missed, and I saw the bus coming. I got on the bus after crossing the road and thanked the driver for waiting. “If there are no people, the bus is of no use”, the driver replied. I showed my ticket to the driver which was worth $2.25. It was little too expensive to me because I was riding the public bus free in Austin, as a student at the University of Texas at Austin. Fortunately, RTD-Boulder was revising their fare structure and I had given my comments, hopefully will be taken care of. Boulder certainly can learn from Austin in this case.
As usual, few faces greeted me with ‘good morning’s and ‘hi’s. It has been just one month since I started using this bus and many of the people on the bus looked familiar.
While other people were busy themselves either reading or listening to the music, I enjoyed reading their faces. I just sat on the bus and enjoyed being among the people, smiling to and back to the people getting on and off the bus.
Usually, there is silence in the morning in the bus. I could read on many faces that they were unhappy with their work. I had seen those faces smiling in the weekends though. Probably, they were waiting for the happiness to be found in the bars, beer gardens, or parties. Gone are the days when the happiness could be found at home and work.
In the crowd, there was a guy who always had his headphone on his head. His face showed that he has many trouble, which, he wants to forgot with the music. There was another lady who carried a book in her hands titled ‘delivering happiness’. She had that book for at least a week. Another girl read on her kindle which titled something like ‘Achieve Anything in Just One ……….’.
In front of me is a young lady whose bag, shoes, and nail police all are blue for some reason. I had asked her the other day “so you don’t like riding a car? It is so much fun and economical than riding a car, isn’t it?” She had laughed and said, “well! I will, when I can’.
Seated on the front corner are two ladies who wore ‘Burka’ on their head. Both of them carried ‘English Grammar’ book on their hands. Inside the Burkas, they carried calm, beautiful, and shy faces. They always smiled at me, but never made eye-contact. Sometimes they talked with each other in Arabic, at other times they just stared at their large-screen smart phones.
Another color in the spectrum is an old man, who lived in Boulder for more than 50 years. He always told his story to whoever was seated next to him. The other day, he told me as much as he could about himself but didn’t ask anything about me. He came from Germany in this teenage, and remained here afterwards. He met his wife while riding on the bus.
It was Arapahoe Road and Foothills Parkway. A familiar face entered the bus. His hands reached his pocket only to know that he didn’t have the exact change to pay the fare. After a quick look inside the bus, he decided to leave the bus. Suddenly there were voices on air. ‘What do you need?’ ‘How much do you need?’ I also added ‘You can borrow from me’. A person stood up and approached him offering a quarter that he was looking for. The bus was certainly more than a bus. It was a community.
At the following station, a gentleman waited for the bus with a white cane in his one hand. Though he was unable to sense the physical world in the visible spectrum, he seemed to be aware of everything around him. A young man who was seated inside stepped out and guided him into the bus.
Next to me sat an old woman. She was little curious about me. I told her that I am a PhD student and am here for a research visit to National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). She appreciated and said, “we need more scientists like you in the US.” After a pause, she asked again, “Is the Earth really warming?”. I said, “I don’t know, it depends on the timescale and region of interest.” She gave a wide-eyed look to me, which read ‘Tell me Yes or No.’
A girl on my left had tattoo on her right arm. It looked like she had her tattoo done recently because she looked at her arm frequently. Another person with a tattoo took the opportunity to talk to her and showed his tattoo on his back by flipping over his t-shirt. Later, they got off at the same station. In my opinion, it was a tattoo-crush.
Two teenagers seated behind me. I couldn’t understand much of what they were talking but they utterly abused the word ‘like’.
Thirty minute elapsed and it was time to leave the bus until the next day.
As soon as I got off the bus, I saw a woman sitting near the bus stand who apparently had her one hand fractured. She approached me and asked, “Do you mind helping me?” I asked her about where she lives while I tightened her forearm support. She replied, “Under the sky.” While going away, she asked again, “Do you have money?” I handed her a 10 dollar bill and asked not to drink alcohol with that money.
As I stepped forward, I realized that it was my last day in Boulder. I stepped back and offered my unused bus tickets to a person who was waiting for the bus.
While I have already returned to Austin, those familiar faces on the bus are still in my mind. I didn’t talk to many of them, but their presence (and their vibe) certainly affected me in many ways. I can only wish them all the very best.