Friday, 16 September 2011

On Being Stood Up

What is it about waiting for a bus that makes you assess and analyse your life with toothpick detection? I am early for the 3:17. Not unbelievably, embarassingly early, but early enough. Sensibly so. And yet, what is it about waiting for a bus that draws an energy of pity from passing cars? Like they know I've been stood up before I do.
I kick at an autumn leaf (not its fault, poor thing), I study the slats of the Vine Cottage roof with PhD intent, until a nervy face in the window warns me to back off. I smile at a small cross little girl who is sucking her thumb in the comfort of her mother's Fiat Volvo, but even she shakes her head, like she knows.
I hitch my handbag a little higher and think murderous thoughts about that weatherman who claimed rain, but isn't that the sun snickering at me behind a pathetically spineless cloud?
3:22. I whip my head around at every sound; every vehicle on God's earth sashays past me, some don't even bother with the up-and-down look of pity. They just move straight on to reflected humiliation. Get a life! they seem to suggest. Get a car! Walk! Do something!
What is it about waiting for a bus that slows time right down to the wettest and thickest of crawls?? In a small village that only contains a telephone booth library and a fish and chips, you stand out when you are stood up.

I grit my teeth. I breathe. I start to walk home, with dignity. I will not under any circumstances, run, even if... just if... that bus shows up now.
Drawings: Kev Anderson at trailofbreadcrumbs.com and Helen at PomPom Illustrations.

9 comments:

steven said...

shaista i smiled as i read this recalling the oh-so-many-times that i waited for buses that didn't show until i had walked sufficiently far away from the stop that the bus could show up and drive by as if no one was ever waiting half an hour there in the wind-whipping snow-blowing weather!!! now i bicycle - everywhere .... or i bum a ride of people with cars!!! steven

Shaista said...

Steven, I know that is the smart thing to do! I need to get a bike :) Of course it would help if I learnt how to cycle again... it has been at least 15 years... they say you don't forget, but what if that's old wives tales??

nene said...

Shaista,
Then you fall off the cycle then you get back on, 'Life's Parable'. Make sure you get a large and sturdy lock and chain because 'Life's sad irony' is that someone will eventually want to rob you of it not knowing or caring how important it is to you.

Sarah Laurence said...

Well captured! I remember well the stress of waiting for buses and trains. Still, I wish my town in Maine had more public transport. Do get a bike - you never forget, right?

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh this is so true. I never feel as down-at-heels and impoverished as when I am queing for the bus in the city with my frizzy hair, counting out my coins. Hee hee. You show such wonderful spirit in your ability to write about something as simple as waiting for a bus and showing the common humanity in it. Loved it!

Ruth said...

Oh embarrassment, yes, sore thumb. Me smiling too. Every second is an eternity when waiting like that. Every sound a promise, then a disappointment.

What a moment you created here.

Jeanne-ming said...

I am smiling too! I am in sydney, Australia presently and was trying to get aorund on a bus. Hopelessly lost! You describe exactly how I felt!

miss you. ears burning? been talking about you all week!

Marion said...

Oh poor Shaista. Yes, the awful waiting. You captured it perfectly!

Agnes said...

Your post made me smile nevertheless. The illustrations are great :-)

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