Dear Lady on The Bus,
I’ve just got back from what is probably my worst day at University. This is my fourth year at University now, so putting this right at number 1 is probably quite a statement.
No, I didn’t have a difficult lecture. No, I didn’t fall out with friends. No, I didn’t have a lecturer shout at me.
I have a back injury. It’s not an injury you are able to see. I had an accident about 4 years ago where I slipped vertebrae. At the time it just felt like a severe muscle strain. I have a relatively high pain tolerance it seems, because it got worse and worse. To the point where I suddenly realised that I couldn’t walk anymore. And so, a few high courses of painkillers, a great physiotherapist and a lot of bed rest later, I can now walk. I swim, I go to the gym and I do martial arts. But that doesn’t mean my injury has gone.
Since this pain has started, it’s never 100% left. I’ve never been cured so to speak. I’ve healed, I’ve got better. But it’s not gone.
For the last few days it has been flaring up – due to the change in weather, it’s becoming autumn here in the UK and so the sudden drop in temperatures can cause it to become more likely to slip. I woke up this morning and got on the bus. And that’s where the trouble started.
I catch a bus from the campus where I live to the campus where I study. I usually cycle the route, but due to the pain in my spine this morning I decided to give it a break, put a selection of heat pads on and dosed up on pain killers…. and set out for the day.
When I reach the bus stop, I’m early. I wait in line for the bus, it arrives. And a selection of people push ahead of me.
Today I wasn’t in the mood for a fight to get on the bus, every time someone hits my back, neck or shoulder… that’s a lot more pain for me! And so, I leave it and try to wait patiently.
The bus becomes full. And so, I wait. 15 minutes for the next bus to come. The whole time with people pushing in front of me in the queue.
Somehow, I manage to get onto this next bus. I also somehow manage to get a seat.
And finally, the first bus journey of the day is complete. I get off the bus, a lot more battered than I got on, wondering whether I would have been better off cycling.
Dear the lady on the bus, after we met, I realised I was definitely better off cycling.
I finish class and go to get the bus back. The first bus driver closes the doors and doesn’t let me on – with at least 3 seats free as far as I could see! – and drives off.
The second bus is full. There’s standing room, but I was unable to take standing today.
Finally, I walk up to an earlier bus stop, hoping that I would be able to get a seat if I arrived earlier on the route. Much later, I finally get a bus.
Where I meet the lady who sat behind me.
I sit down, I have a seat near the front of the bus. Which is useful, I don’t then need to walk whilst the bus is moving and so feel reasonably safe.
Until, the lady behind me kicks me. I leave it, assuming that it was an accident.
A few seconds later, a few more kicks. I look behind me, expecting to find a teenager or someone younger. Trying to find a reason to excuse the actions.
But no, the lady behind me was middle-aged, hopefully, old enough and wise enough to know not to kick strangers on public transport.
And so, I assume it’s an accident.
I spend the rest of the journey being kicked in 1-2 second intervals. I looked behind a few times, but every time she was looking down at a phone and wouldn’t make eye contact.
I’m not the type to confront someone on the bus, and even if I were, what would my reasoning be? If this lady was quite happy with kicking me, I’m assuming she wasn’t particularly fussed about my opinion or wellbeing.
But more to the point, I don’t look injured.
I’m not in a wheelchair. I don’t use crutches.
I had to go in today for class. But what should have been an easy day, turned into something unbearable…
By the time I got off the bus, my back and shoulders had been through so much impact from the constant kicking that I struggled to walk back to my room.
And now, I’m stuck taking more painkillers and hoping that I’ll be able to make it to class tomorrow.
So, to the dear lady who kicked me throughout my bus journey today, I might not have said anything to you at the time. I might not have been brave enough or bold enough to stand up and tell you that you were being rude and inconsiderate.
But I may not be able to make my morning class tomorrow now as a result of your actions. Something as simple as you wanting to fidget and “tap” your leg aggressively against the seat, has completely changed my day.
Please remember that your simple actions can completely transform someone else’s day.
Because I don’t want to end this post on a negative note, I want to give a quick shout out to two people who brightened my day just after these events…. to the guy who held the door open as I was searching for my keycard and my flatmate who took the time to genuinely ask how I was and ask me about my day.
Please everyone, just care about other human beings. Have some compassion and empathy. And always be aware of things which may tell you how another person is feeling.