Sunday, December 05, 2010

BUS STORY # 213 (Some Things Are Universal)

Morning Bus Ride, ⓒ All Rights Reserved, originally uploaded by joeysee.

I’m watching what I’ve already assumed is a couple get on the bus.

It’s not that I’m an exceptionally perceptive guy. First, this is a middle-of-the-block stop, and there’s just the two of them. Second, the two of them are male and female who look to be around the same age. And: they are both black.

So I’m watching this man and woman board the bus, put their money in the fare box, then promptly upset my assumption by sitting in different seats. She takes the seat in front of me -- a window seat on the driver’s side of the bus -- and busies herself with her shopping bag and her purse. He takes the window seat directly across the aisle from her and looks out the window.

I have just finished processing this with the old saw, "Never assume, for it makes an ASS out of U and ME,” when the woman starts talking out loud. I don’t know who she’s talking to because she’s looking at the partition behind the driver’s seat. And I don’t know what she’s saying because she’s speaking a foreign language.

The man across the aisle answers her -- in a foreign language! The same foreign language, I assume.

I look over, and he’s looking at her. And now that I’m looking at him, I conclude they’re speaking an African language or dialect.

It’s not just that the sounds have no discernible trace of the Indo-European languages. It’s also that he now looks African to me, in the way the South African faces in the crowds or the Ghana soccer players looked African when I watched some of the World Cup games this summer. African, as distinct from African-American.

On the other hand, looking at the woman in front of me, I can’t see anything distinctly African about her at all. The only thing I notice is that, as the conversation continues, she continues to look straight ahead.

He continues to look at her when he answers, and now I see he’s using hand and arm gestures when he answers that don’t look at all American to me.

Still, I know something of what’s going on here. It’s there in the vocal tones, body language, and where the man is concerned, facial expressions. And that’s how I will realize later that neither of them is from Africa. He is from Mars; she is from Venus.

Some things are universal.

* This story was revised 12/7. See comments for discussion.

The photo at the top of this story is titled “Morning Bus Ride” ⓒ All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the kind permission of joeysee. You can see this photo at:

You can see all joeysee’s photos at:
Photo by JoeySee


Anonymous Brenda said...

It's funny how much power and influence the "weaker sex" has on the male gender. I guess that's why we were created to walk along side one another. We need each other to be whole!

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ohhhh.....Busboy, a great story until the last sentence. Did you just imply that women don't respond to explanation and reason? You are asking for it.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

@ Brenda: I’ve been around long enough to have figured out that, generally speaking, the “weaker sex” is also the smarter sex. I think you're right: put the two strengths together and the odds are better that we both live long and prosper.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

@ Anonymous: My wife had virtually the same reaction, Anonymous. I started to explain why the ending was reasonable, but suddenly came to my senses, smacked myself on the forehead, and exclaimed, “Whatever was Busboy thinking when he posted this conclusion? Silly man!”

6:44 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

12/7: re: post revision:

The original title of this post was “Silly Man.” The original conclusion was: “Still, I know something of what’s going on here. It’s there in the vocal tones, body language, and where the man is concerned, facial expressions. She’s upset with him. He thinks he can fix it with a combination of explanation and reason. Silly man.”

I’m assuming (silly man!) the preceding comments are explanation enough for the change. And, in truth, this is really at the heart of the story. As I have explained to my sons, “Women are different from you and me.” I didn’t have to explain this to my daughter. She figured it out before I did.

5:26 AM  
Blogger JM said...

Looking for the "like" button on your final comment here...

10:40 AM  

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