Learning How to Drive a Bus: A Lesson in Gratitude

One day last summer, on my way to work and dressed in my business suit, I boarded the bus to find only two other people on board: a trainee driver and his instructor sitting two rows back from him. As I boarded, I said, “Good morning” to the driver. When I walked past the instructor, he said, “It’s going to be easy for you, working in your air-conditioned office all day while we’re stuck in this thing for ten-and-a-half hours in this heat.”

Admittedly the weather forecast was for 42°C throughout the day: I did feel some sympathy for their situation and responded, “I hope it won’t be too bad for you today”.

I sat down and thought about how, despite it being the Monday after an excellent weekend, I was going to work feeling that the following week held many possible opportunities and felt quite confident. The instructor’s remarks were, however, as the arrival of dark clouds.

I sat quietly and decided not to allow someone else to choose my mood for me, so I set aside his remarks and mentally prepared for the day ahead. He concluded, however, that he wasn’t finished with me yet.

Apropos of nothing, he told me that his philosophy on life was to “Trust no bastard and hate everyone“. I had come across people that had a bleak view of humanity in the past, but few who rivalled the instructor’s point of view. I decided to listen but not challenge him politely—I could tell from his attitude that he was looking for an argument so that I could confirm his beliefs.

I’m going to be stuck in this glass chamber all day, in this heat and so will he,” he said, pointing to his student, “but I feel sorry for him: he has to drive all bloody day.”

I wondered if this man’s philosophy on life placed him directly in the middle of his current misery. Feeling little sympathy for him at this point, I was looking forward to arriving at my bus stop. I thought about what negative thoughts and attitudes I held that made me miserable. I would need to be more aware of this in the future but, my stop was approaching.

The trainer then decided to share another of his views with me, that anyone with “dark skin, slanty eyes or a straw hat had benefits handed out to them by the government and if you’re white, ya get nothin’.”

It was then that any sympathy I had for him evaporated and all my sympathy was with the driver. I wished the driver “Good luck” as I stepped off the bus.

As I walked to work, I moved my mind to the coming week and all that I might achieve in my “fancy air-conditioned office”. I felt good and am acutely aware that I have a lot to be thankful for: a beautiful family, a beautiful house, a steady job, and so much more. Today, however, I had one more thing to be thankful for—that I’m not learning how to drive a bus.

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