Today I was met with a peculiar situation whose ending left me searching for questions for which I knew the answers.
I got onto a local bus today evening. My stop was at least 50 minutes away from then, and I was frantically waiting for an empty seat (the bus had a few standees only) as my laptop bag was heavy. A stop later I got a good seat opposite the front doorway. In the next stop an elderly man, probably around 65 years got into the bus, he had a small lunch bag and a shoulder bag in his hand. He politely asked me to hold his lunch bag and went to get ticket from the conductor who wouldn’t step down from his conductor throne.
By the time he came back I had put on my earphones like I usually do. He came and stood near the pole beside me. No interactions between us after that except one. In the next 5 minutes I had the most intense conversation with myself. As I began fidgeting the strap of his lunch bag, my mind wandered and a question rose into the void, that was my mind.
‘What would a man of 60 odd years be doing with a lunch bag? Shouldn’t he be ideally retired, or at least be at home at this age? if he is working who would he be?‘ Maybe he had his own company, or maybe his car broke. No, no, sounds too far-fetched. I tried to Sherlock his appearance and deduce his background. The Lunch bag looked like a branded one, one that middle class people could afford with some hesitation. His attire was also decent, with crumpled yet neat dress, so I was assured that he was working in some kind of office. I tried and failed guessing his exact job from his bag and his phone, which was a mid-range smart phone.
At this point almost 20 seconds had passed, believe me when I say this (because you have no other go, sorry). In the silence between the song change, I heard him cough. It was a fierce, vehement cough and there was faint scent of cigarette every time he coughed. I judged him almost instantly. ‘What kind of old person smokes even after having a cough like that. Doesn’t he realise it time he should let go of the habit’. Then I noticed his lips were darker than usual and his teeth were unnaturally yellow, which led me to the conclusion that he must smoke often or for a long time now (getting better at Sherlocking ain’t I?).
His coughs were louder now that I was conscious of this human’s presence. Now that I heard an old man in distress, my morale bot had come out, replacing the detective bot. Then began the profound conversation between myself and the morale bot. ‘You should stand up and let the old man sit, irrespective of his habits you should be kind. That is you. That’s how your parents raised you.’
I became indignant with myself. ‘Even you have shoulder pain from your heavy bag, plus with this traffic and the newfound crowd you won’t know when you’d be able to sit again next. You might have to travel for another hour (my selfish logic bot was taking various factors into account, that scumbag) Do you really want to offer your seat. If he is coughing, it is probably because of his smoking habit, why do you care about that? Just sit down. No one is going to bother even if you give your seat’.
The Morale bot used its important weapon, future. ‘Imagine yourself in the same situation 40 years later, wouldn’t you want a seat to sit, hell you we’re scrambling for a seat few minutes ago.’ (My bad joke bot tried to cut the tension by saying that there might not be bus seats in future, but it was shut off).
After an internal groan and an eye roll, I agreed to offer my seat.
He had moved to stand beside the seat in front of me, I tried to call him but he was not at arm’s length. So I got up, but before I could utter another word he turned and got back his lunch bag and asked me, “Eranga poringala, Sir?” (are you going to get down, Sir?) and got down in the next stop and went his way.
In these few moments I didn’t realise that my seat was occupied by a middle aged woman.
I was standing there staring into dead space, thinking how stupid I was to let my seat unguarded in this Warfield. After asking my Morale to ‘kill and laugh’ a few million times I stood there awkwardly looking at the woman who stole my seat. Maybe she was judging me too. ‘Dear, George R.R. Martin look at the real Game of Thrones here’, I thought.
Almost 55 minutes later, I got down and came home.
In all this ruckus, I never took a ticket.
Moral: You tell me.