When I board the bus in the afternoons, he says “Hola.” A few days ago, after we had exchanged hellos, he asked, “Como estas?” (How are you?)
That seems unremarkable… let me back up a bit.
I grew up in a rural community so small that it was not even graced with an actual intersection. We were intersected by nothing. There was no stop light within a seven or eight minute drive and you would be hard pressed to find us on a map of the province when I was a girl. My parents joked that there were more cows and sheep than there were people in our community and, now that I think of it, there were almost certainly more barn cats than humans. This, of course, was distressing as a teenager: to live smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. In fact, we lived in such an EXTREME state of nowhere-ness that calling my best friend who lived on the farm next to us (one could use the phrase next door neighbour… but with great caution) required permission from my parents as it was a long distance call.
Yet, mixed in with my memories of growing up on this dirt road so far from everything cool and exciting, is an image of my father waving at tractors and cars passing by. He did not discriminate in this activity but waved at the drivers and passengers of every single vehicle: those that crawled by the house, snail-slow, and the dangerous pick-up trucks of my childhood that flew through clouds of dust, their back tires spitting gravel onto the front lawn. Dad’s wave is not at all like mine; there is no expansive round waving for him. He favours a slight, side-to-side hand movement as if he is bidding at an auction sale, a gesture that has been fine-tuned over decades of farm life and is probably easy to miss if you are not of the same small-wave ilk. He also nods his head and, sometimes, tips his ball cap to the passing driver. I remember asking, “Do you even know that person, dad?” I’m not sure what he said… likely a “hmmm” accompanied with a slight shrug of his shoulders and the wish that I would hurry up and get it already.
I get it.
The Barceona bus driver on the number 30 does not just say hello when he says “Hola”. He says, “I see you there, round foreign woman. I see you and you are part of my world and I am part of yours.” Like the woman in the bakery on Traveserra de Gracia from whom we buy palmeras and insanely decadent butter croissants. Like my colleagues at my little school… even the ones I do not especially enjoy. Like the scooter-girl with the lemon yellow socks and her adoring father whom I see every morning at the bus stop on that wide Barcelona avenue. The smile, the nod, the wave (however small) connect us to each other.
I have been thinking, lately, that living anywhere is difficult at times… whether your address is a dirt road in Eastern Ontario or a Barcelona flat on the third floor (which is actually the sixth) piled up on top of, and alongside, strangers. There will be challenges… the stuff that really “gets our goat”: neighbours who gossip too much about strange cars that pull into our laneway, a long commute to work, a lawn too big to cut in an afternoon, or having no lawn at all. There are obstacles to living harmoniously.
But folks like my dad and DP and this bus driver have it right… for good and bad, we are all in this together.