Fun encounters on the bus

7 01 2012

A woman sits next to me and sees that I’m reading in the dimly lit bus.  She’s older, around 60 or 70, and when she says to me, “You shouldn’t be reading.  Not enough light”, I hear an accent– possibly Filipino.  It’s hard to understand her because she sort of mumbles the words in a noisy bus, in addition to her accent, and I find myself saying, “Sorry?  What was that?” on more than one occasion and leaning in closer and closer to her while she repeats her words in the same monotonous fashion.

“I like reading,” I reply, with a smile.  “And there is some light.”  She doesn’t smile back, only proceeds to tell me it’s bad for my eyes.  After a few seconds, I don’t feel like reading anymore, and pull out my cellphone from my pocket to delete some old text messages in my inbox.  When I’m through, she mumbles something like, “Technology is ruining the world.  It’s driving people apart.”  I have no idea what to say or do, so I nod and “Mmm hmm” a lot to her.  She asks me quite suddenly, “Where are you from?” and when I tell her I’m Canadian, she shakes her head.  “No.  Where are your parents from?”

Just for the record, it really annoys me when people ask me this question.  If people asked me where my parents were from, that would be fine.  But to ask me where I’m from but to really mean “Well, you’re Asian so you can’t be from Canada.  Somewhere along the way, you immigrated here.”  And yes, although that may be technically true, I myself was born and raised here in Canada.  My race shouldn’t have anything to do with that.

I fight the urge to roll my eyes or get annoyed at her for asking me that question, so I tell her that my mom is from Hong Kong and my dad from China.  She proceeds to tell me how she and her family is from the Phillippines  (I think.  My memory is fuzzy now).  Before technology arrived (the Stone Age?), her family was connected and there was love.  Now, the evils of technology have driven her family and relatives apart.  No one talks to one another (phones apparently don’t exist there?).  I agree that technology can do that, but in some ways, it brings people together too.  I mean, we can have video calls with anyone in the world.  How cool is that?

She doesn’t listen to me, though.  “Technology is lust, not love.”  Um.  Sure?  I get a feeling there’s some sort of religious overture here, which is confirmed when she inquires, “Which religion do you belong to?”

And here it comes.  “I’m not religious.”  For a second, I think she doesn’t really care all that much.  The bus is at Main Street now, and she almost forgets to pull the cord for the next stop.  Since I’m sitting in the window seat, I pull it for her.  As she gets up out of her seat, she puts a hand on my shoulder.  Looking down at me, she says, “Godlessness is lawlessness.”

I blink at her.  There are so many things I could say.  More than anything, I feel kind of discriminated against.  It’s odd because atheism isn’t really a religion.  But in that moment, I feel offended.

“Have a good night,” I reply, not really sounding like I meant it.  “It’s terrible,” she says as she steps towards the doors.  I have to swivel around to face her as I call out, “Have a good night” again, my voice seething.

I texted a friend and told her what happened.  Here’s what she said:

“Should’ve told her you worship the pagan gods on the ancients and that you’re just about to nip off and sacrifice a goat and read your future from its mangled bloody innards.”

Yes.  I should have.