How corrupted has my view on the world become? Tainted by over 25 years in a competitive corporate environment, coping with the screeching pitch of urban life.
Thus I wondered, sitting in a regional bus that took me into the countryside. Questioning my own surprise at people simply being friendly and patient.
How was it possible that I had been startled by the mere fact that people said “thanks, goodbye” when getting off the bus, that I had been astonished that the driver answered, too! And this was not just about the cosy familiarity of lifelong village-neighbours. Because, actually, the public on the bus was quite varied: Polish and Asian women riding out the city to their cleaning job in the suburbs, commuting schoolchildren, elderly couples doing their daily shopping.
How was it possible that I was amazed at the bus driver’s patience with an old man’s perilous procedure to get off. The old man was dressed as if for an outing ( incl. a neatly starched “pochette” handkerchief) and one could only admire his daring. Because simply leaving the bus was quite a feat for him – slowly shuffling to the exit, ensuring a firm grip of the door’s handle bar, cautiously descending the steps, foot by foot, then doing an elaborate rebalancing on the ground, turning and finally grinning victoriously before sedately moving on.
And all the while the bus driver had been intently watching the old man’s manoeuvres in his rear view mirror, making sure the doors didn’t close before he had gotten safely out.
Later on, at the annual corporate seminar in a lakeside hotel, I was to engage in earnest discussions on how to improve productivity and performance. I was to publicly worry about project-deadlines, privately worry about not being up to scratch, about not being able to play the corporate game for another 15 years, at least.
But in the evening that same bus would be waiting for me at the local station. It would take me home though dark forests, an illuminated capsule propelled by a considerate driver. And when I would get off at the first Brussels bus stop, I would wave and shout “thanks, good night!” to the driver.