Much of the time, riding the bus is a routine event. People treat the bus merely as a vehicle to get them from one place to another. Bus riding is a passive activity in most of our minds. I try to stay away from listening to music on the bus. I believe that there is so much to miss out on if your headphones are in your ears. Sometimes when I least expect it, riding the bus makes my day.
Once entering the bus there is the important decision of which seat to sit in. I have the choice of keeping to myself and taking up the two connected seats, or sitting in the seat furthest from the aisle so that someone else can sit down beside me. It is a risk to take the second option because you never know who will sit beside you. I like to imagine how people choose what seat they sit in – whether or not they prefer to sit by people who are more like them, or if they are more introverted and prefer to sit alone.
The other day, I sat at the window seat. I was not prepared because I did not have a book along with me to read on the long ride. All I had was my purse and my Nalgene bottle.
Before I realized, there was someone sitting beside me. I thought it was odd, because this guy seemed very different from me. It surprised me that he would feel comfortable sitting beside me (I assume that most people go through the same thought process as me – as I think we are all too quick to do). He wore a bandanna on his head and a wife beater and jeans. I peered over his shoulder to see what he was reading. It was a worn and weathered hardcover book, without the cover. I couldn’t quite catch the title but it was something that I’d never read before. This made me feel a little uncomfortable until he quickly closed his book and pulled out another book. I have a great appreciation for people who enjoy reading and bring their books everywhere, so mentally I gave him another chance. Then, out of his book he pulled a sticker and handed it too me. It was a sticker encouraging people to think twice about purchasing Nalgene bottles because Nalgene also creates cages for science labs to test their products on animals.
I then realized that I recognized him. He told me that he worked with the ESPA. I had recently been a part of an ESPA event and managed a table for Ten Thousand Villages at their Fair Trade Day. It turns out he was there and had bought some fair trade chocolate and fruit from me. I was to quick to assume who he was by his appearance. It turns out we had many similar interests. We both believed in the importance of consumers having choice in which products they buy.
I told him I would check out his website to boycott Nalgene bottles, but explained my own reasoning for having a Nalgene bottle. I make my choice to use public water rather than purchasing bottled water because I believe that the privatization of water is an unsustainable practice. The goal of the corporations who sell water is to maximize profits and to keep their shareholders happy. By privatizing water, it becomes even more inaccessible to the poor and marginalized.
We had a short conversation, but I find it very exciting when I can share issues that I am passionate about with other people. You never know where you’re going to meet these kinds of people – sometimes it’s while I’m sitting passively on the bus.