Monday Morning Commute

 

November 13, 1999

It was a Monday morning in the month of November and I found myself once again on my way to work. After I got properly situated in the freeway traffic, I started paying attention to the radio, which is generally tuned to the local PBS station. The morning business brief was on and I started analyzing my portfolio. As I was carefully treading the Monday morning commute. I found myself thinking about our newborn – our second child, and the growing needs of my family. Like a true yuppie, I began wondering if it was time for us to buy a Van, or an SUV perhaps. Suddenly I started noticing all the Vans and SUVs in the traffic.

Then suddenly my selective perception failed me and I noticed right in front of me, a rundown pickup truck. There was a Mexican looking man riding in the back of this pickup. My lips suddenly twitched in a condescending grin. My mind immediately declared – ‘what kind of an idiot would ride like this – on a freeway!’. As I was passing the pickup, I noticed four passengers in the cabin of this truck sitting in extremely tight quarters. I passed a glance at the fellow riding in the back. This time however I noticed that the man was obviously cold. I could not notice any expressions on his face. Then again, my yuppie eyes are trained not to notice any feelings in the men who come and mow our lawns or help out with household chores.

I realized that just like me this Mexican fellow was going to his work – in his case, probably a construction site, or someone’s lawn. I found myself wondering – maybe the fellow has a family. Perhaps a son and a daughter, just like me. Perhaps he finds himself wondering and planning about their future, just like I do. With every passing mile I was feeling less and less smug. I started identifying more and more with the fellow. I looked at him again. However, this time, I was not noticing the rundown condition of the pickup or his clothes or his expressionless face.

I started seeing him as a person – with a family, a job, a commute. I wondered if what seemed to be expressionless was really a truly contented face? Just like everyone, often I find myself chasing happiness in my life. If the Mexican fellow were to be given everything in the life that I have at this moment, I wondered, how content and blessed would he feel? However, my yuppie brain is not accustomed to this line of thinking, so I argued – ‘the more I will have, the more I will be able to give to my family. Better house, better cars, better education for the kids, better clothes, …’. Still, I felt something missing.

For the remainder of my commute that day, instead of finding cars around me, I started noticing people. A dad, a husband, a sole wage earner for a family of six living in Mexico…

The pickup veered off to the next exit. It did however, make my commute that morning, a little more humane.

© Himanshu Bhatt

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One Response

  1. visiting your blog for the first time today and browsed through previous posts. this one is particularly what we are becoming these days (and i wonder we are the same after 10 years of writing this diary! 99-09).

    i agree with you that we are becoming more self centric – our pains, our joys, our aspirations, our conforts and so on.. but hardly notice pain of the fellow person!! and we pass on the same insecurity, self consciousness even without knowing it!

    am touched by the content and style of the article. thanks

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