Passenger Seat

“It’s not always like this!” Sharms says apologetically about the traffic. I look out the window from the passenger seat and see uncongested streets, and commuters following traffic rules for the most part.

“Our bus system isn’t the greatest either. So sorry.”

“That’s OK. Neither is ours back home,” I say, even though part of me wants to blurt out, “Are you crazy? You should be counting your blessings!”

But then again, I remind myself that Sharms has never set foot in a third world country. She has never had neighbors, who, instead of going power walking on rainy days for leisure, need to work extremely hard for more than the usual number of work hours on less than minimum wage, just to make ends meet. She has never been in traffic jams like those I’ve experienced back home. Far from her consciousness is the poverty that I saw around me in my tiny country inhabited by 90 million people.  But by the way she’s apologizing, she must think I’m some kind of princess, accustomed to all the conveniences living in the Pacific Northwest had to offer.  It all the more endears me to this place I temporarily call my home – this gigantic, populous city, with the small-town charm.

At the next light, we stop beside a bug. A golden retriever points its wet nose toward us. The other passenger waves. Save for the bug’s noisy engine, all is quiet. There is a relaxed way about it. Can you imagine tranquility amidst numerous drivers complaining about the traffic that is not really there?  It’s unmistakably present in the leisurely stride of senior citizens on their morning walk, unfazed by the impending drizzle. It is subtle, like the whoosh of cyclists’ wheels on the damp bike path. It is ever present, in the Douglas firs that line the highways.

“We’re going to have some clouds today,” the radio deejay forewarns.

I stare out into the horizon and see nothing but clouds.

“Yup! Clouds, clouds, clouds,” sighs Sharms.

I smile, thinking I’ll be enjoying the day anyway, in my home away from home.

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