I braved the downpour because I just couldn’t miss Spaceship. Or course, there would be other buses coming after that one, but waiting for Squeeks would be a pure gamble, and the other two options aren’t options that I would enjoy. The last bus would be too late. Spaceship was the only one I was hoping for.
I hadn’t been walking in the rain like that since ages. It brings be back to last year, around this same time, where my late afternoon rides would be accompanied by the rain, yet still I enjoyed them. It felt nostalgic, as if I was going back to the same time as last year, joking about how I reached a milestone of “10th consecutive rainy ride, on the same bus, with the same driver.”
Since Spaceship was around in the morning, I was pretty sure it would already be there at the station. I walked from the side of the station, following the front route. I saw an STC bus parked beside the office, so I wasn’t very worried when the two other STC buses that I saw earlier, parked right in front of me, were both not Spaceship. Hopping across a massive puddle, while still getting my shoes and half of my trousers wet, I continued walking with suspense, until I could read Spaceship’s plate number from behind and be sure that it was really it.
I was glad that I wasn’t wrong. With the rain still pouring heavily, I continued my steps and headed towards the front door from behind. It seemed like nobody was on board, but I was wise enough not to be very sure about that. I climbed the steps. Ironedshirtman wasn’t on his seat. I took a glance to the passenger seats. He was there, on his usual seat he had always been on whenever he’s not on his own seat. I looked at him, and he at me. If he was a friend, I would be glad to say oh hai it’s me again. But he’s not Capman.
I marched to the back, because it would be weird to sit near him while he’s there. The seats were mostly wet, indicating that the ride to town from the town at the other end of the route had been nearly empty. The windows must’ve been left opened, with no one to shut them. At that moment they were all shut. Ironedshirtman must’ve shut them one by one all by himself when he reached the station.
It was stuffy inside. The rain continued to pour, but the drops were getting lighter than when I was walking there. Ironedshirtman remained sitting. It felt weird, to be on a bus with a person who isn’t related to me in any way at all apart from being my regular driver, and we were there in silence, apart from the clink clanks of the coins he was counting, and outside, the rain was pouring. It felt like a setting of a sad novel. There’s something Murakami-esque about it.
A few moments later, he stood up, paused at the door, placed a towel on his head, and then I realised that perhaps this man doesn’t have an umbrella with him.
It was already too late to offer mine for him to borrow though. He left with the towel on his head, using that as the only shield against the rain that was now falling lightly.
I was left completely alone. On Spaceship. Alone. On my favourite bus. It rarely happens, so when it does, I have to admit I makes me feel happy and calm, like I’m being in a state of meditation after a long day.
Ironedshirtman returned not long after that. I was still the only passenger. He collected my fare and gave me my ticket, but no words were exchanged between us. It felt as if the person who sang Tidak ada olanggg last month was a completely different person altogether.
It was still 10 minutes early before the scheduled time, but Ironedshirtman was ready to leave the station. I thought for a while. I didn’t feel like remaining on my current seat, the one after the middle door. There’s no one else on board. If a creep boards the bus, I’d be too far from Ironedshirtman. Plus, why waste that chance to be on the Elite Passenger Club Member Seat 2.0? So I gathered my stuff and casually headed there.
We left the station, just me an Ironedshirtman on board, with me feeling like a VIP on a limousine. We passed by one stop after another, yet no other passengers were there to be picked up. Traffic light stops were long, yet I had nothing to say or ask. Opening another topic about the bus and asking about how long would it be around would be a repetition of the previous interaction I had with him. Talking about the weather would be an empty talk. Asking him how many years he had been driving buses would be an abrupt question to open a conversation with. So in the end, I stayed silent. It wasn’t because I had nothing to say. The hesitant part of me was stopping me again. I wished Squeeks would pass by and that could be a topic opener.
But I lost my chances, eventually. I was the only passenger for quite a long distance from the station, but it all had to come to an end. At the hospital stop, we finally had three or four other passengers coming on board (all of them were over 50…) so there goes my chance to be in the Elite Passenger Club Level 4, all gone. And to make matters worse, just a few metres after that, Squeeks passed by on the opposite road, coming down town heading towards the station. Just imagine if it passed by earlier. I’d definitely be able to say something about it.
Miles after miles, the rain slowed down, and eventually it stopped. The bus was slowly filled in with more passengers, yet there weren’t many of them. It was a peaceful rainy ride, a bit nostalgic, a bit of the kind of ride I enjoy despite having to wipe the raindrops dripping on my arm. I was drenched from my knees to my toes, and sitting on the earlier seat that was a bit wet had caused my butt to be wet as well. None of these were enough to bother me much though. I was on my favourite ride, having my most meditating hour of my day. What more could I ask for?
I opened the window in front of me, allowing the cold breeze to gush in. Nobody was sitting at the frontmost seat, the single seat directly in front of me that I used to call the Elite Passenger Club Member Seat. It was empty for the whole ride, which was something rare. Maybe nobody wanted to sit there today because of the rain.
There were no familiar faces around, except for a man who I sometimes see on my ride home on other buses. I’m beginning to recognise him now. I’m pretty sure he had been around for a long time, just that previously I hadn’t really noticed him.
The ride itself was plain as usual, of course, but there’s a certain quality in it. Even though Spaceship is my favourite bus, I do admit that most of the time I only get normal rides that don’t really make much difference in my day. Today’s ride felt different because it had been a long day for me with a lot going on. In the past week it had been a bit crazy for me, chasing deadlines and trying to communicate with people as part of a responsibility I had to handle, so everything was a bit too much. I lost quite a lot of time that could be used as a time for reflection because I was too busy chasing deadlines after deadlines and making sure everything was done. It made me realise that I do not want to live my life in a fast-paced environment. Not having any time at all to pause and reflect has taken a toll on me. I came to understand that I am more comfortable of living a slow-paced, simple life that allows me time to stop, reflect, and write. And Spaceship somehow made me realise about this. Just being on the bus, doing nothing apart from reflecting and looking at the things and people around me made me feel calm and happy.
Nobody stopped at the stop before mine, which was a bit of a rare thing. A majority of passengers on a usual late afternoon ride would consist of people from that stop, but it didn’t seem so in today’s case. At the side of the road before my stop, a woman hopped on board, and a few metres after that, I was ready to press the bell. I was very near to the front door, but I didn’t want to assume that Ironedshirtman would remember to stop for me.
A bus was coming from the opposite direction, also stopping at my stop, but of course at the opposite side. Ironedshirtman stopped after I rang my bell. When I got up and was ready to leave the bus, he wasn’t looking, but instead was looking on the opposite side, probably exchanging bro-gestures with the other driver. I almost didn’t feel the need to leave a thank you because of this, but it would feel weird to skip a routine, so I did so anyway, this time a bit louder than usual because if I wasn’t loud enough he wouldn’t know I was saying thanks to him and that would be a bit awkward for me.
Mak seh! I exclaimed, and without waiting for any response, hopped of the steps one by one. I heard his equally loud response, OK! and I’d rate that response with a 4 out of 5.
I then heard something bump or knock and as I took a look back, I saw another man hopping off the bus. I was a bit surprised by this, not noticing that actually I had a companion at this stop today. Spaceship then drove away and was out of sight in a matter of seconds.
And that was my one hundred and sixty-first ride of 2017.
Seat: Elite Passenger Club Member Seat 2.0