Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Whilst You Were Sleeping

I've quit my job and we're just about to move cities. It's a big change and suddenly my senses with regards to the mundane events of everyday life have become heightened. Despite remaining very keen to go, there are lots of 'this will be the last time I...' type thoughts going through my head, particularly when I'm on my own on the same route to the work that I've travelled for over six years.

I doubt I'm alone in the world when I say that this journey is simultaneously an isolating and a communal experience. There's a whole bunch of us all going in the same direction, day after day. We travel independently but en masse. We know each others faces, work outfits, bus stops and newspapers but will never know each other’s names. I've often thought of breaking through the paper wall and saying hello to a fellow traveller. But then what happens on days when I don't want to talk to people or say hello and just want to sit quietly in my little bubble. It's always enough to keep me in my shell.

Despite the six years of repetition, this journey (usually undertaken half-asleep) seems to throw up something interesting every day - people yawning, people immaculate, people trying to sign me up for a cause, people selling flashing pens and badges and other charity paraphernalia, people giving away breakfast cereal and cough sweets, tourists asking for directions, people asking for change, people crying, people drunk, people making like they are in Europe and drinking short blacks with cigarettes, people angry at buses to the point of physical abuse.

Today on the way to work I saw a group of folks chasing a duck through the streets of Sydney. They were all trying to make sure the duck (who had no intention of flying back the way he came into the city) didn't wander into the busy road and get squished. One guy from the council had a box with air holes ready prepared. People stopped and stared but there wasn't really anything to see; just a duck wandering up a busy city street like the rest of us, and a lot of people shielding the road. You take these things in your stride at 7am. I didn't stay long to watch in case it all turned bad. I didn’t want to write in here about how a duck got run over... it wouldn't have made for a happy ending for anyone, least of all the duck. So instead let's all pretend that he (or she) made it safely back to where they lived and some guy with a box had a nice story to tell his kids this evening.

The duck incident happened in the same place as another 7am surprise a few months ago when I was surrounded by 30 people in yellow babygro costumes all laughing and cheering. Like I said, some days I'm in my shell and some days I'm out. If they'd caught me on another day I'd probably have been annoyed, but that day I was out with the sunshine and their enthusiasm and cheer amongst the surly ipod-ers and mobile-phone talkers made me city made me laugh. They were raising money for cancer research and let me take their picture for a couple of bucks. I think I wanted the picture to remind myself that some of the stuff that happens in life isn't a dream. Here's the picture - it still makes me smile.

Now, I've got 7 days to find out the name of all those people on my bus before they're gone forever.

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