Today I arrived at the bus station just as a 95 bus pulled up. I could already see that it was quite full and that three other 95 buses were coming. As is my practice in these situations, I pulled back to catch one of the emptier buses. But today, as the full bus was getting fuller, three 95 buses, all considerably emptier, rushed by instead of stopping behind the full bus. Sensing that I would be left without a bus I quickly jumped on the full bus at the last moment, muttering under my breath about the stupidity of how one of the other buses could and should have stopped. Didn’t they know I wanted a seat? I was annoyed because I now had to stand and couldn’t read my book that I had stashed in my backpack.
After another stop, the bus got even fuller. That’s when the bus driver began to speak. “Ladies and gentlemen you can see we have a full bus. I am unable to see to the back of the bus, so if you’re having difficulty getting to a door at your stop just yell at me…I’m used to it, I’ve been married for 38 years…six months and 2 days, but who’s counting.” As I looked around the bus I could see many mouths curl upwards. The driver continued. “If you’re going to yell at me, please use my first name, it’s Carl. I’ll only get annoyed with you if you call me Carol because that’s a girl’s name and I will take that personally.” At this point as I looked around the bus, the grin on people’s faces was firmly ensconced in either an appreciative manner or in a “this is corny but I can’t help but smile,” kind of way.
Carl continued in this manner throughout the half hour bus ride. At various points if people looked like they were getting pushy, Carl would make a comment about how eager everyone was to get to work today, what with everyone clambering for the doors. He told them not to worry, he understood what it meant to have a job that you love and he would be sure to get everyone to their destination safe and on time. As new people got on the bus, he left his microphone on and greeted them, often explaining the perils of a packed bus but assuring them that we were all in this together.
As I listened to Carl, I realized how my annoyance had dissipated the moment he had begun his light hearted banter. Stop after stop, not only was I appreciative of Carl’s attitude and humour, but I was genuinely thankful that I was on this bus. In a hyper-Calvinistic way I might say that I was thankful to God for putting me on the jam packed bus because if I had caught one of the other emptier 95’s, I might never have had the Carl experience. When we arrived at the University of Ottawa, I took the time to go to the front of the bus (a lot emptier now as most people get off near the downtown executive core) and thank Carl. He smiled and said, “You fine sir have a wonderful day.”
As I now sit at my desk at work, I recognize how these small ordained moments of the day can change a person, a day, and the collective ethos of a community of people. I don’t know if Carl is a Christian, but the spirit of God was certainly at work in him and through him. What I experienced was gracious generosity or what we might otherwise call, the heart of God. I thank God for the Carl’s of the world and yes Carl, I will have a wonderful day.