Blocking my face with the bus stop stand from the swift wind caused by the oncoming traffic and the winter weather, I almost missed the little boy standing with his arm outstretched in his tiny business suit. He approached the advancing bus with such ferver that I thought I would have to jump out to save him from getting decapitated. Luckily, he was more adept than I was at that age, and stood resolutely and confidently with one arm up waving down the bus driver. The bus dutifully stopped in front of him, and opened its doors.
This boy was so curious with his tense shoulders and direct, no-nonsense stance. He was like a new breed of eight year old who I could have easily mistook for a 38 year old. But once I boarded the bus, I promptly forgot about him as I fumbled for my change and tried to remember which coins were worth what amount amongst the millions of British silver and copper in my pocket. Once I finally dumped what I had on the driver’s lap and let him deal with it, and the passengers behind me did their best English grumble and tut-tut, I headed to the upstairs level. Double decker’s are the best.
The eight year old had taken my favorite seat right in front of the window, so I grabbed my second favorite row in front of the stairs and stared out the window. The bus took off, Bristol passed me by and my mind wandered. A rumbling of paper turned my attention back to the boy. I watched him as he unfolded the paper, carefully fluffing out the pages as I saw hundreds of other commuters do five times his age. I still didn’t know how to correctly fluff the pages of a newspaper, and I certainly wouldn’t attempt such a thing on a bus of all things. People would laugh, children would cry, and I’d probably get a paper cut.
I got off before the boy did, but he was still reading his paper. I couldn’t get him off my mind, so I told Jock about this strange, abnormal android of a child. Jock laughed, and said, “Yeah, we learn to read the papers at a young age. I remember reading it at his age.” When I asked him about traveling on a bus by himself at that young stage of life, he replied that children don’t have school buses, so they have to learn to ride public transportation. I am still baffled at this when I think back to my days on the school bus, chanting nursery rhymes, making up songs and blowing spit bubbles – for that, was as far as I got to reading a newspaper. (Unless my mom kindly tore out the comics for me – Brenda Starr was my fave!)
Another cultural difference identified.
(Sidenote: I was a little concerned that he may have been reading the Sun newspaper, in which case he would have had full frontal in his face right on page 3. Still don’t understand how the British see nothing wrong with having breasts in their newspapers – but then again, that’s just my Puritan roots coming through….Luckily, it wasn’t the Sun.)