Body Language

I was having a crabby episode this Friday morning.

I was running late.  It’s ridiculous to admit. I didn’t have any appointments, but I just had hoped to be downtown already, and everything about the morning seemed to add to my sense of gloom:

  • The car was in the shop.
  • And so instead I was at a bus stop.
  • A rain-snow mix was falling intermittently, quite picturesque if I hadn’t been too busy rebelling against the big flakes that kept landing on my face.  I love that sensation (usually).

I was pacing about in the general vicinity of the bus stop.  It’s such a low-traffic street that you can wander into the middle of the road without fear.  That absence of any kind of traffic usually makes it a wonderful place.  Of course when you want a bus to appear,  deadly stillness only punctuated by wind whipping through the trees does not precisely betoken the imminent arrival of a bus, nor any other Deus ex machina rescue from this winter pastorale.

I didn’t just stand at the bus stop.

I am not sure why I was pacing.  Partly it was impatience.  Partly it was because I was not alone, and so I stepped away from the bus stop to show that I didn’t really need to be there.  I’ll show you, bus, I don’t need to stand here, where there’s no bus anyway.  And then I’d saunter back to the stop and…

As I’d started walking to the stop I’d seen people coming towards it, from across the street.  We were all converging on the same spot.  They were so cheerful they were like a party, while I was solitary crabbiness personified.  They didn’t seem to care whether the bus came, because of course they were obviously having a nice time.

I think I’ve already said that their mood was more or less the opposite of mine.

They were older than me.  I should probably pick my words carefully, as they were to outward appearances chronologically of an older age; but at the same time, they were having a good time, and I wasn’t.  In some ways I was the one acting out the part of the crabby old man.

One of them had been at the bus stop already, and had greeted the other three as they crossed the road to get to him.

The other three? Two women and a man, all white or gray-haired.  The women seemed to be watching over the older man, who walked with some difficulty. The women seemed very protective of him.  They spoke in a friendly tone, while admonishing him about various sorts of things he should be careful about.

I had been silently present but not really grasping more than a tiny bit of the subtleties of their dynamics.  I think I may have been scowling.  The wind whipped the melting precipitation into my face, while the foursome had their friendly encounter on the street before me.

I suppose I was jealous, feeling left out. This may be my home neighbourhood, but i felt like an intruder.

The older man was closest to me.  Our eyes met briefly, and he said something non-committal.  He was concerned that the bit of grass upon which he stood–right beside the bus stop—had a slope, or at least that was the conversational gambit whereby he spoke to me, admittedly a scowling curmudgeon who may have been raining on their parade.  So he met my eyes and said something about worrying that he might slip.

I smiled and nodded and said good morning (or something… i can’t recall).

I looked up at the weather falling and blowing about us, probably looking like I hated it.  I think I’d made a face in response to his remarks about slipping, but come to think of it, I guess I wasn’t really sensitive to his difficulties walking, and the real possibility he could fall and seriously hurt himself.  He didn’t look very fearful, smiling and chuckling, because in response to my glance at the sky, with a bit of a grimace that was meant to be empathetic, his next comment surprised me.

“It’s so beautiful”.  True enough, even if I’d been fighting it.

He probably said something else, although I don’t remember it because I wasn’t yet fully paying attention, but still in my head, wondering when the bus would arrive.

He looked at me and made a movement with one of his arms.  He looked up, while he lifted his hand over his head, then as he looked at me, swirled his hand a bit, and said “he’s up there you know…(?)” it was half a question, but sounding very knowing.

“He lets us do what we do.  But when we wants us….(?)”  And he made an ironic face, of the futility of challenging this fundamental rule.

He finished the gesture, and then explained it.  “…we’re there.”  The hand movement was really showing us being called I suppose, but subtly, reminding me –in retrospect—of a good conductor.  His fluid motions were a bit like what I saw from Ivars Taurins Wednesday, conducting Händel’s Messiah.

I smiled back… I suppose I said something banal and weak-assed in response, but I was thinking about what he’d said.  This seemed to be a knowing voice however much of him was already re-called.

I recall him smiling, and turning back to his companions.  Shortly thereafter, the sound of a bus could be heard, and there it was; and so we got on board.  My day was now righted in every sense, as surely as if the conductor had brought me back into alignment with the rhythm of the bigger ensemble.

When I pondered our encounter later I thought of Wordsworth’s Resolution and Independence even though this was a different kind of encounter.  I suppose that in writing it down I’m trying to understand, and trying to pay it forward.

Friday turned out quite nicely.

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