You Are a Bus

[We took our grandsons to see Inside Out, the recent Pixar movie. It was entertaining with a good message about the value of our different selves. I was reminded of a device I invented years ago to help explain myself to myself — described below. I call it the Bus Lecture.]

bus 8-2015I’ll let you in on a little secret. Maybe it will help you sometime. This is the way it works. Imagine you are a bus – not on a bus, but you are the bus. You can be whatever kind of bus you want. You might choose an ancient Blue Bird school bus, now part of the Guatemalan bus system, chugging up hills, puffing blue smoke, grinding gears, festooned inside with silken fringes, Virgin Marys, Mickey Mouses, and lots of ignored signs about not standing in the aisles or talking to the driver. Or, you may be a Greyhound Scenicruiser, with big high stairs, air conditioning, a lavatory in the back, and seats that recline with that material like a very, very short crew cut. Or, you may be a private coach, like Willie Nelson has, a huge van equipped with everything, including beds. Or maybe it’s a good, solid bus from the Transit System, reliable, clean, swift, efficient, with plenty of ads to read on the ceiling above the seats, and environmentally responsible, running on natural gas or even electricity. My only advice is that you choose a roomy bus. A mini van will not do. Trust me.

You will need a bus with a lot of room because that bus has got to hold all of you, every one of the you’s that are inside of you. Here’s my theory. Whoever we have ever been in this life, we still are. It’s just that most of them don’t show up during an ordinary day. At any given time, certain ones of ourselves dominate. At work, I am a professional, and she is generally a pretty competent, successful person. She earns money. She takes herself pretty seriously. On vacation, another me may emerge for awhile, one who likes to be fed, who likes to sleep, to forget responsibility, to laugh with her friends. When I ski, there’s a wilder me, more reckless, careening through the trees, and so on. The point is that there are many me’s and many you’s.

double decker busNow it gets a little more complex. Sometimes you may notice a totally unexpected behavior or reaction in yourself. You’re suddenly wounded, like a four year old who has been told her painting should look like a tree, when she thought it did. Where did that come from? Who is that? Well, it’s very simple. It is a wounded four year old. She’s there, on the bus, too. And so is a two year old, exhausted and needing a nap, and so is a fourteen year old obsessed with an incoming phone call that never comes, and so is an eighteen year old driving much too fast, down those rain slicked hills, in the notoriously dangerous Corvair, with a few beers inside her besides. And it goes on and on. You know them, your cast of characters — I know mine — and I can assure you that they are all there, from all periods and roles in your life. You might think, “Well, that was then, and this is now, and I’m certainly glad I’m not like that anymore.” Well, think again. Where do you think she went — that one that you’re glad you are not anymore? I’ve got news for you. She’s on the bus!

Yes, all these people — probably at least a dozen — are passengers on the bus. But a critical question is who is driving the bus. The driver should be licensed, sensible and sober. Hopefully, there will be two or three among yourselves capable of handling a bus maturely. But, if the other passengers become discontent, restless, irritated, or worse, rebellious, you can have real trouble on your hands.

Let’s say you’re at work, managing a difficult situation, and suddenly you lose your temper, and insult your boss. That is a major clue that someone on the bus is not happy. The fourteen year old perhaps was feeling particularly ugly and pimply that day, and she bolted down the aisle and grabbed the wheel from the unsuspecting driver, the competent workplace you. If you’re cruising along the Interstate at 75 or so, this can be a real problem. Bus swerves, driver loses momentary control, and temper as well, shouts at fourteen year old to sit down and read her teen magazine; the two year old’s ice cream falls out of the cone onto the seat; the baby who was napping in the back wakes up, is frightened, and starts to cry; the mother jumps out of her seat, runs to comfort the baby; the four year old is jealous, and trips the mother, and so it goes. You’ve got bus chaos, and that bus has blasted right through into your difficult situation at work. You insult your boss, you don’t know why. You should apologize, but you’re suddenly feeling ugly, frightened, jealous, worried, and a lot of other inexplicable feelings from the bus.

Now, of course, there will be incidents on the bus all the time. There are a lot of needs to be met. To differing degrees, and at different times, the passengers need excitement, security, freedom, boundaries, entertainment, rest, laughs, cries, love, the list is endless. The trick is to keep them all content enough so they won’t cause danger to the bus as a whole, which of course is really you. You must stop for rests and outings. You must keep the temperature comfortable, let them open the windows, but not hang out of them — and give them plenty of ice cream. They all like ice cream. Well, perhaps there’s a righteous dieter in there who will abstain, but anyway the point is to keep them happy. Keep your eye on that rear view mirror and they will be a good bunch of travelers to have along with you. They will let the driver drive. They will keep things lively. You will never be bored.

transit busOne more thing, and then I promise to let you load up your bus and be off. No one can be kicked off the bus. You will be tempted, I can tell you from experience, but it can’t be done, and shouldn’t be tried. I don’t care how bad, ugly, evil, mean, selfish, boring, fat, lazy or profane she may be. I don’t care if she sings “Rubber Ducky” nonstop for days at a time. She is one of you. She’s a passenger and she’s there to stay. So, give her some special attention. Stop the bus occasionally, pick a nice rest stop, and spend some time with her. She’ll be okay. She’s just a little needier than the rest.

I hope that you will find the bus a useful concept as you drive through life. All aboard and don’t forget those rest stops.

A disclaimer: 

There are hazards outside the bus over which you have no control. That is called life. The driver may have some influence on what happens inside the bus, or she may not, but in any case, she certainly has no power over acts of God and Nature, or the behavior of other drivers and their buses.

26 thoughts on “You Are a Bus”

    1. Thanks, Anne, and your bus must be a very lively, imaginative one indeed….wish I could hop aboard…but that’s against the rules.

  1. Lucy, that was inspired – will be passing it along to family and friends (inside and outside the bus).
    Thanks, Cilla

  2. “Blue Bus, Magic Bus” The Who.
    I like to pull over and do yoga, as my bus is crowded like the one in Nepal where the old woman got on with her goat, sitting in the aisle on top of various bags of plants, products, who knows what.
    Outside a woman with her baby so beautiful and when I shouted that in my best imitation, Nepali, the whole crowd cracked up.

  3. A fine image of who we are! There’s an elderly curmudgeon driving my bus. In the rear view mirror are a kid with a Lone Ranger mask, a professor with leather elbow patches, a drunk motorcyclist, … overall, a strange collection. Anyone is allowed to drive, but after a few crashes, we developed a set of ground-rules and posted them on each seatback. The driver’s skill set must be matched with the immediate environment. When the masked kid drives way past the circus and over to a scene of injustice where the bad guys’ guns need to be shot from their hands, the wizard locks the exit. When the professor begins to lecture a stop sign on epigenetics, the psychologist drags him from the driver’s seat. On a twisty mountain road, the motorcyclist is the popular choice, but if he’s downed a few, his request is refused. I’m driving for now because nobody can make sense of the present environment and they assume there’s a relationship between age and wisdom. Hah! Hang on for dear life, folks.
    You’re so right, Lucy. The bus ride isn’t boring and never will be.

    1. Richard — I love the characters and hope that others will describe their passengers. But there is one more on your bus, I happen to know — a highly imaginative and dedicated writer. Don’t forget to let him drive, if the conditions are right!

  4. Lucy,
    My mom shared this with me yesterday after a particularly difficult day at work. I’m so glad she did! Thank you for making my inner teenager feel better about her hurts, hang-ups, and habits! I love the blog!
    XOXO Leslie

  5. Hi Lucy. I liked the ‘bus analogy a lot, but I have to say, having just had to entertain some old friends from years ago who didn’t behave themselves very well on a visit, that I had to go to the middle of the vehicle to dredge up my ‘best behaved person’. Then I was so tired finding that self that could deal with such circumstances, I just wanted to let the very bad me out to rampage up and down the aisles, and then go to the back of the ‘bus and sleep!
    So it is with other selves. Too many for a calm party! Often. It’s amazing how we sometimes get by. Myv.

    1. ahh, yes, the problem of finding the proper driver, especially when it’s so crowded, and when much of that crowd is out of their seats, roaming the aisle. I wonder if sometimes, before a challenging event, one could rent a small mobile home and attach it to the back of the bus and put some of those more restless ones who are likely to made trouble back there….with plenty of snacks and movies….? But maybe that is not a good precedent…maybe I am breaking my own rule of “no one gets kicked off the bus.”

  6. I’m perplexed but the number of selves on the ‘bus. Like, what about ‘shooting the fish in the pond’ to get rid of the surplus? Aren’t we allowed to discriminate between our old/better selves? I mean, I’ve tried so hard to improve!! Do we always have to live on the ‘bus together? I don’t like some of me. I think I’ve culled a bit, over the years. I don’t think everyone always has to pop up. Sick of some of them. What say you? M.

    1. oooohhh….I know what you mean, I really do. But I just can’t tolerate the idea of kicking anyone off. They earned their right to be there. They may have misbehaved badly, very badly, but they had their reasons. They were trying to survive, or numb their fears, or get attention they needed, or something. Now, maybe we could say that passengers are capable of changing. Maybe one of them can make a public apology to the others while they are pulled over at a scenic overlook. She could say that she knows she was destructive and selfish back then and she is sorry? That might make her more tolerable to the grown-up, self-improving you that is writing on the blog. Maybe negotiations can happen on the bus so that the ride is less volatile? But, “shooting the fish in the pond” — no, no, the bus author cannot condone that! You’ve got a good bus-load, Myv, just keep a firm grip on the wheel.

  7. I think at times we fail to recognize new additions to our buses and that when they appear they are driving our bus. We may banish one of our selves to the bathroom in the back of the bus, but they are still apart of the one currently driving the bus.
    So glad our buses met Lucy or in my world our islands. I think I am going to give up driving my island and buy a bus. Thanks.

  8. I Iike Woody’s radical suggestion that someone ‘new’ might take over the ‘bus, even if it’s us.
    This is very un-nerving. What to do about that person, I might ask? Banishment? Inclusion?
    Get off the bus for a short sojourn of talk and reason? Well. What do I know?

    1. You folks are in “bus graduate degree territory”! These are things that I never considered. But of course, how does a “new” you join? At some point if you become a CEO of a corporation, well, probably there will be a CEO on the bus. But how does he get on? At a bus stop? And how does he get introduced, or is he just discovered in an unfortunate encounter? hmmmm. What do you all think?

  9. Well, the bus is on a continuous journey, so it moves through different places which create new people, some of whom just watch and some of whom drive as the situation requires. Each of us stops at least once in awhile to look out the window and open the door to let in the fresh air and take on new drivers. Maybe that’s what dreams are for.
    I do know that all my passengers love the ice cream stops whoever is driving.

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