Friday, May 15, 2015

A guy named Mike

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (and thank you by the way, you make my train rides more enjoyable with your tweets to my tweets) know I recently divorced my morning GO bus and have hooked up with a local Durham Region Transit (DRT) bus. It's not as sleek as the GO bus and it's rough around the edges, but the ride is pleasant. It's actually quite the winding tour of Courtice, and the back streets of downtown Oshawa. Every day has been a different driver. DRT must have this thing against groundhog day.

This week, I met Mike. Mike is 91, and widowed, but his son lives with him so "he's not really alone". Mike will break your heart with his sweetness, and blow out your eardrums with his yelling. He's my newly adopted great-grandpa.

Mike gets on many stops after me. During the Tour de Courtice, it's just me and the driver. Once we get to the Oshawa border, Mike gets on. Mike likes it when the drivers are late, and I mean, ONE minute late. If it's two minutes late, you can see he can hardly contain himself because he likes to take jabs at the driver. "You're late," he yells as he boards, but then he smiles real wide, an amazing toothless smile (I told you he'll break your heart) and claps the driver on the back, or pushes his or her arm gently, shouting, "Don't worry, I forgive you!" Mike could be the reason for groundhog day actually.

Mike just noticed yesterday that I am a "new regular" after he's realized he's seen me more than once. "Are you new to the area?" He asked me, after he gave me his GOOD MORNING! greeting. I told him I am taking advantage of the new bus routes to get to work. He loves that I work downtown. "That must be something, huh? Going into Torunnah e'rey day, eh? I could never do that. All that people! I would be so tired every night." Mike is a smart man.

Mike likes to acknowledge everyone who gets on the bus with a "GOOD MORNING"! When he first said it to me last Friday, I was feeling miserable and tired. But it was such a genuine greeting that I smiled at him and immediately said it back.

Yesterday, when he greeted this high school kid, in uniform, the kid walked right past him, ignoring him and sat down. It was like Mike didn't exist. I watched Mike for a reaction but his face gave away nothing. Mike fought in World War II. I'm sure the fact that a teenager ignored him pales in comparison to what he's experienced in his past, but it infuriated me. It was rude. Then, a young woman boarded and he also greeted her and she slid right past him, eyes glued to her phone, and pretended he didn't exist. I mentioned Mike is loud, right?

As passengers board, and I noticed this earlier in the week, only those in my age range (say over 35?) and older wish Mike a "good morning" back. The college students act repulsed.

And this is why Mike breaks my heart. It's not his smile or his overall grandpa friendliness, it's the fact that this man, this man who has lived almost a century, is ignored for his rare act of kindness.

As @GTAMOVEnetwork wrote on Twitter, "No one ever went broke by giving of themselves."


Peter said...

We need more Mikes in this world. There is so much youngsters could learn from Mike. It's sad they didn't take advantage of the gift that was presented to them.

Skin Man said...

One lesson all of my children learned very early is manners...please, thank you and you're welcome....maybe I should add, "always greet politely"?!? They're getting old, so may be too late...I'd like to put them on the bus just to see what they would do.

It is very sad that he is ignored, even once. I make it a habit to always acknowledge everyone, even those who might be begging....they are people to.

I remember one older woman, outside Union on Station street, who asked me for money and I said, "Sorry, my love, none today". Her face lite up with joy and bewilderment. Made me feel pretty good too.

Bicky said...

Geeze, there should have been a hanky alert attached to this story.

And I ditto Peter's comment. :)

Anonymous said...

I think younger folks are afraid of crazies. But in reality most friendly people are just, well - friendly. I remember riding the bus as a student. I'd go walking in the hills around Yorkshire, England, and ride between the small towns. I always ended up talking to some old guy. I learned so much just listening to them and watching them. Their faces alone tell a story. Kids are missing out if they shut out the oldies. It's their loss.

PS I love your writing style. You brought Mike to life :)

Anonymous said...

As a college commuter into Toronto, I would probably have the same reaction as the teenager. I feel like we don't respond because we just don't expect that thing to happen to us. We got shocked when people are overly nice to us. One time I was on the 31T and the driver actually said good morning to me, I was shocked!!

C.J. Smith said...

Before you ask, yes, I do say hello and good morning or hey to kids and teens.

Usually if I say hey to teens near my house, they look at me strangely. IT ALL MAKES SENSE.


Anonymous said...

I guess what we all learned when we first started taking the train is to ignore everyone and don't make eye contact with anyone lol.

C.J. Smith said...

I loved your story Skin