It’s not often that I am on a bus these days where the passengers thank the driver. This morning I happen to be sitting on the bus to Toronto Airport when after the bus driver’s welcome announcement, the entire bus of about 20 people, unexpected by me, let loose with a chorus of “thank you”.
Why, you ask, is this even worthy of writing about? We live in a world where people are doing things for us all the time whether it be bus drivers driving us, mall workers and toilet attendants in public spaces, ticket sellers, construction crews and more. Unless we are dealing with someone one-on-one, like a cab driver, we rarely acknowledge their work and how they impact our lives positively.
Our societies are like busy ant hives. Every single person’s individual job keeps our cities and communities humming, and while we know that everything everyone does is important, oftentimes there is only a tacit and unspoken acknowledgement of appreciation. Hey, says the brain, “it’s their job” after all. Even more likely we will actively avoid interaction with strangers, after all it can be awkward, and in some places/times, it can even seem “forward”.
If there is one place in the world that can be used as an example of a busy hive of faceless activity, it is the great Asian metropolis of Hong Kong. There 8 million people go about in the space the size of the city of Toronto. Amongst the hordes of people going about their daily business it is almost rude to look someone in the eye. It means you probably bumped them (or they into you), did something silly. You are stopping the daily rhythm of movement to “arrest” them with your eyes and cause delay.
The antithesis of Hong Kong is a place like St. John’s, Newfoundland. Walking down the street and looking someone in the eye and acknowledging their very existence is just downright friendly. Ignoring that smile and nod is rude. You can imagine how disconcerting it must be for a Newfoundlander to walk down the lonely crowded streets of Hong Kong and vice versa.
In my case, I spent my first few days in St. John’s continuously eyeing my zipper thinking that the only reason everyone kept giving me that knowing wink and smile was because my fly was undone.
The power of acknowledgement is undeniable. All of us seek it, whether it be through Facebook posts, me through this blog post or from loved ones after a hard day of work. That simple “thank you”, a wink, a nod and a smile can go a long way to making any day feel that much better.
And yet, I was surprised when a group of people thanked their bus driver.
As technology removes the need for us to talk to each other in every day circles, I firmly believe that it is more important than ever to go out of one’s way to acknowledge those strangers and neighbours that make our lives that much better. The surly garbage collector will soften their stance, the rude teller will crack a smile, and the passer by will walk away with a skip in their step. I do not need, nor want, nor expect you to tell me your life story, I just want you to know that you exist in my world and I am grateful for it, no matter the circumstance that makes you cross my path. We are not (yet) faceless automatons in our society and I would like to keep it that way. I hope you do too!