Wisdom at the bus stop

By Caitlin McMullen Edited by Jake Watson

A cold and rainy Wednesday afternoon; fate set this up. I hardly catch my local 566 bus, but as it was raining, I thought that I would. Sitting under the bus shelter, waiting for the rain to subside and the bus to approach, a man with a walking stick asked me if he could take a seat next to me, to which I replied, “Of course”.

Now as society would tell me, a man asking questions about me is weird, but this elderly man was different. He had a smile from ear to ear, and although he was limping, he seemed like he was happy to be alive. He smelled like coffee, which for me, as a big coffee drinker, smelled great. In the least creepy-sounding way, he was lovely.

Image taken from Metamorphises on Blog Spot.

Image taken from Metamorphises on Blog Spot.

As I was sitting there, this man in his 70s opened up to me, telling me things I would never tell a stranger. The reason for his limp is that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which is a progressive neurological disease that affects the nerves. Even though this man had a limp, I don’t think the disease had progressed a lot. This joyful man said, “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, while you still can”. He told me sorrowful stories, about his wife passing, and his disease, whilst still having the attitude of loving life. After telling me about his experiences, he asked me what I was doing. I replied I was on my way home from university, where I was studying journalism.

This is why I believe in fate. Not only is he an ex-journalist, but his daughter also studied journalism, and his grandson is currently at university studying sports journalism. The similarities didn’t stop there: his daughter went on exchange whilst studying, which I am doing in the month of June, to the exact same places I am travelling to. I attended the same high school as his grandsons, and finally, he lived next door to where my grandparents used to live.

As a younger generation, we tend to take for granted the opportunities that arise from life. A simple 30 minute conversation with a complete stranger is seen as weird nowadays. It shouldn’t be! Especially with the elderly. On that Wednesday afternoon, I wasn’t feeling great. I was stressed about assignments piling up and the never ending workload, but meeting this man changed my outlook, for longer than a day or a week, with just a little memory of somebody who was willing to have a chat. The half-hour flew by as we talked about our similarities. It’s bizarre that somebody you’ve never spoken to, that you may even be sitting next to right now as you’re reading this, could have so many things in common with you. It brought back that old saying-‘it’s a small world’.

At the end of the day, we are all doing the same thing, getting through our lives as best we can. This man was so genuinely happy for the opportunities arising in my life, yet he had never met me before our conversation. He was thrilled and eager to hear more about my future journalism career and my aspirations.

So if anyone reading catches the 566 bus and meets a man named Neil, please talk to him. In fact not just Neil; why don’t we start talking to people on public transport, or just any complete strangers? After all, they may be very similar to you. They are human, just like you.