Grace Tu

Grace Tu

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Stranger on the Bus

As I was stepping on the bus from UBC loop, an Asian man around the age of sixty was trying to insert his bus ticket into the machine. I had observed this man for a while when we were both waiting for the bus on this freezing but bright March day. His clothes were old but clean; he was polite; he was in good spirits. Every so often he turned around to see if the bus was coming and on his face I saw peace and contentment.

The man was having problems inserting his bus ticket i...n the machine the right way - it happens to more people than one’d think. Although there is a picture telling you on which side the strip should be facing, it's not really intuitive and can be difficult for people who are new to it to do it right the first time. To be honest to this day I still have to do it more than once when I use the swipe function to pay by credit card, and just the other week someone offered me help to get my Upass from the machine because I kept inserting my student ID the wrong way.

After some 20 seconds he still could not get it right. There was a long line up after him and it had become apparent that he probably does not really speak English. He was nervous, you could see it in his posture, his hand, and the way he tried again and again without really thinking it through, his vulnerability was so out and open, but in response to which the bus driver just impatiently tap the picture again and again without helping him.

Finally I walked up and asked,
"Do you want help? let me help you." And I inserted the ticket for him. Later, he got off the bus, before I did, and, like everyone else, said thank you to the driver.

During our travels there were a lot of times when Alan and I would feel completely helpless, either because we were not familiar with the system, or because we did not speak the language. We were blessed that each time there was someone who was kind enough to give us guidance and help. When I think back on those travels, my most intensive memories are of those people who helped us and made us feel warm and welcomed instead of the food we ate or the hotels we stayed in.

And who am I to say that I will stay in an English speaking country forever? If we do move to another place with a completely new language to begin a new life, I hope that there will always be someone to give us a hand when we need them and not make us feel like we are all alone in a cold and unfamiliar world, even for one second.

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