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Are We There Yet?

There is nothing worse than missing a bus. Whether you are heading to work, school, or a social gathering, the soul-crushing effect of watching your chances of punctuality disappear in the form of an exhaust-spewing city bus is the same. The effect becomes much worse after you have thrown all caution and pride to the wind and ran to catch it, still missing it by that much. I have become quite familiar with this breathless disappointment.

All through my non-driving adolescence, I was notorious for missing buses. Every morning, no matter how early I got up or how good my intentions were, it would always end the same way: with me running out the door in disarray the exact minute the bus was supposed to arrive. Sometimes my morning dash was successful, but more often than not, I was 30 seconds too late. There was only one bus that I was consistently able to catch; the one that came at 8:02 every morning. I always caught this bus because the driver— a man named Murray who soon came to be my friend— always waited that extra 30 seconds, knowing that I would come around the corner shortly, a sprinting mess.

Murray was a very personable man. He was kind and understanding to everyone, and he always greeted each passenger with a smile and a cheery "Good Morning!" He treated all of his passengers as friends, and would dutifully remember details of each of their lives, including always remembering their names right. Murray was the kind of bus driver that waited long enough for everyone to get on— even the unorganized and late stragglers like me— while somehow always managing to stay on schedule.

Once I got on the bus each morning, Murray and I would talk about our days, our families, and just life in general. Murray would ask about my latest projects and performances, and I would in turn ask about his shift that day, which usually started at around 3:00 am and dragged on until 9 or 10 in the morning. Murray would give a fairly optimistic recount of the morning, always commenting on the way the sunrise looked and how quiet the roads were. Our discussions were engaging and friendly, and lasted the entire commute to school.

One morning in my grade 12 year, as we discussed careers and the future, Murray mentioned that he had been a bus driver for 28 years. For some inexplicable reason, this struck me as sad. Here was a man who was smart, multi-skilled, and easy to get along with, someone who would be a valuable asset to any workplace and who could thrive in any job he chose. And yet he had spent 28 years doing the same old thankless job, driving a bus around and around the same routes every day early in the morning for tired and grumpy people who couldn't or didn't drive themselves. I found myself almost pitying him, thinking that it was devastating for someone with so much potential to have ended up in such a disappointing job. Before I could really catch myself, I asked "Do you like it?"

Murray responded with a grin and a good-hearted chuckle, seemingly able to read my previous thoughts.

"I love it. I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Flabbergasted, I again rudely blurted a question, this time asking: “why?”

To my relief, Murray didn't take offense to my shocked inquisition and instead gave me a proud smile and an answer I would never forget.

"I love my job," Murray explained simply. "Each morning I drive to work with my wife and there is no traffic on the road. I start my route when it is still dark, so I get to see the sunrise. It is my favourite part of the morning and I look forward to it every day. On top of that, I get to have a routine and by driving the same route, I meet all kinds of people and get to know all of the regulars, like you. I am the first person my passengers see after leaving in the mornings, and I get to be the one to start their day off right. Best of all, even if it's just for their five-minute commute to work, I get to make people's lives a little bit easier— maybe even better."

Naturally, after hearing this, I was speechless. I had not stopped to think about all of the little things Murray did—how, in his own little way, he made a difference in the lives of everyone he encountered. He was a contributor to the simple joys of life, things like catching a bus on time or having someone remember your name right the first try. The things that, though they seem small and insignificant, really can make the difference between a good day and a bad day.

As a soon-to-be high school graduate, I was feeling the pressure to become something impressive and great. My classmates and I all wanted to go out and change the world in big ways and do big things.

But perhaps it was not just the big things that made a difference. Maybe the little details, the simple joys, were what make the biggest impact. Things like taking the bus seem so tedious and insignificant, just a thing that you have to do. But sometimes it's just about stopping for a minute or two to appreciate the world going by along the way.

That day, as I rode to school on the city bus, the same as any other morning, I realized that perhaps it was not about getting somewhere big and magnificent. Perhaps it was just about finding your own sunrise, your little thing that brings you happiness each day, because sometimes that is all you need. I also realized something else that seemingly ordinary day: Sometimes life itself is like a ride on the bus.

It starts early, and sometimes you aren’t quite ready for it. There is a destination that you slowly journey towards, with many milestones— or bus stops—along the way. Often we get impatient and forget to look out the window and enjoy the ride. How fast we get where we are going is out of our hands.

Life is like a ride on the bus, and if you are not careful, and without the help of a few good friends, you just might miss it.

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