Last week I made the reluctant decision to take the bus into work.
Usually I prefer to take the train as it’s much quicker but I had much on my mind and I thought I would benefit from the extra thinking time.
I’ve always found public transport journeys into work quite mundane and repetitive.
You purchase your ticket. You fight for a seat. You play with your phone. You fight to get off.
It was a Tuesday morning. I was sat towards the rear of the bus on my way to work reading the newspaper. My eyes fleeted around the bus, carefully observing my surroundings. I noticed the usual solemn faces. A young couple were arguing over who should pay the bill for dinner that evening. A baby was crying in the arms of a distressed looking mother. A group of schoolboys were discussing the morality of algebra. It was an active journey. I continued to read the newspaper.
Halfway through my journey the bus pulls in at a bus-stop and an old lady hops on. She pays her fare and then proceeds to skip along to the middle of the bus and holds on to one of the handrails. One of the schoolboys stands up to offer her a seat but she politely refuses with a broad smile and a gentle shake of her head.
She wore a purple wooly hat that was a few sizes too small. The cardigan she wore was fluffy and cosy and her shoes were dainty with silver buckles on each side. She must have been close to 70 years old but her demeanour was that of a lady in her 20s. She had an elegant posture. She stood upright with her back straight. She stood as if she owned the world.
There was something about this old lady. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
I observed carefully as she reached into her handbag and pulled out a walkman cassette player. (I thought they’d stopped making those) She put on her headphones and pressed play.
What followed can only be described as sheer entertainment.
She began to nod her heard and tap her dainty shoes on the deck of the bus. Then she began to wiggle her hips and sway from side to side whilst holding on to the handrail.
She was dancing.
Dancing on the bus during rush hour on a Tuesday morning.
A smile crept across my lips.
I looked away pretending I was really engrossed in the newspaper. I wondered if any of the other passengers had noticed what was going on. Then It started.
At first I thought I was losing my mind. I could hear singing. It was faint at first but then increased in volume. It sounded like the voice of an angel. I looked up and to my surprise that voice was coming from the old lady.
She was singing “Careless whisper” by George Michael.
“I feel so unsure, as I take your hand and lead you to the dance floor…”
She was in her own world. Her eyes were closed whilst she sang. She was happy and content.
I looked around. The group of schoolboys had ended their discussion. The arguing couple were silent. The baby stopped crying.
The bus had gone quiet and everyone was watching her.
“Is there a party going on back there?” The bus driver chuckled.
The atmosphere on the bus had changed. As I looked around I noticed that one by one, each passenger began to smile. Before long, everyone was smiling. The passengers were talking to each other. Strangers were conversing with other strangers.
Suddenly, the group of schoolboys joined in to sing along with the old lady. Soon the entire bus was singing along.
“I’m never gonna dance again, guilty feet have got no rhythm…”
It was amazing.
The bus pulled in at another bus stop and new passengers got on. They’re initial shocked facial expressions turned into smiles as they also took part in singing along.
“…Should’ve known better than to cheat a friend, and waste the chance that I’ve been given, so I’m never gonna dance again the way I danced with yoooooou!”
I’d never seen anything like it before.
Who was this old lady? What magical spell did she cast upon everyone? Sadly I never got to find out as I had to get off at the next stop.
What I learnt that day was invaluable. This lady had the ability to create her own happiness. So much so that others joined in. At times we look to others to make us feel good but seeing this lady weave her magic made me realise that each of us can tap into our own pool of joy also.
Happiness is contagious.