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Two Stories About Going To Work

1. This morning on the bus there was a man who looked exactly like Saddam Hussein. And not the groomed-and-besuited just-a-regular-guy Saddam we've seen in recent courtroom footage, either -- I'm talkin' the bearded-and-bedraggled just-pulled-out-of-a-spider-hole Saddam.

Rides my bus
He was sitting about two-thirds of the way back. As people filed into the coach and wandered towards the rear they would see him, and then start looking around wildly for an available seat; when they spotted one they would dart to it like someone just lifted the needle from the record in a game of musical chairs. No one wanted to get stuck sitting next to Saddam.

Eventually every seat was filled except the one next to Saddam. As more people boarded the bus we craned their necks to see who was going to draw the short straw, and were horrified to see that it was the kind of charming elderly lady that puts you in the mind of gingersnaps. A couple of the men shifted in their seats as if they were going to offer her their spot and take the bullet. But in the end nobody did.

No matter. Without falter she marched down the aisle, smiled at Saddam, and settled into the seat next to him. In response, Saddam did that bus-riding courtesy thing where you kind of hop in your seat to indicate that you are scrunching over in an effort to make more room for your neighbor.

I think we were all a little ashamed of our prejudice, and started thinking that maybe Saddam Hussein was an okay guy. But we were still glad we weren't sitting next to him.

2. Later, walking in downtown Seattle from the bus stop to my office, I saw a man drop a folder full of papers. The sheets were caught by the wind and scattered in every direction, but everyone around him immediately stopped walking and lunged for whichever document was closest. Within seconds the passersby had collected all the papers and returned them to the man.

Seeing this, I was filled with boundless optimism about the essential goodness of the human soul.

But then I got to work and started surfing the Internet, and quickly returned to normal.

Posted on September 10, 2004 to Favorite Posts, Storytelling