The Daily Provocations of Life

I’m routinely cheerful, until something sets me off.   The alarm faintly sounded Monday morning at 8:01am with a call from my son announcing that he and his brothers had missed the bus and “it was a long story.” 

As this was the first morning of busing to school this year, I was gleefully still in my pajamas looking forward to my couch date with a second uninterrupted, untainted by the lingering residue of vinegar in my teakettle, cup of coffee.    

For those trying to triangulate the first day of school photos over two weeks ago with the first morning of busing yesterday, the space in between is Luxembourg’s annual three week fair which takes over our neighborhood  park & ride, aka home to my children’s school bus when not busy hoisting 2 million screaming visitors into various aerial positions.  (For the purposes of this post, I will choose to remain cheerful about the fair situation just as *hopefully* you noticed I was about the calcified teakettle state of affairs.  Potato latkes lift spirits.  Vinegar lifts calcium.)

The fair is still going (it ends tonight at midnight.)  The school bus is still not in service, but after two weeks this chauffeur needed to drop down to part time.  It was agreed that the boys would take the City bus to school starting this week.  I would continue to drive and dodge the fair in the afternoon.

In general my boys understand that only in case of fire or heavy-rains-unseen-in-Seattle are they to call for a bus bailout.   On better days, I might have remembered this fact at the moment the phone rang but as it was early I hadn’t yet put my generous on.  Instead, I huffed and did that thing where you slam your hands hard down on the couch and you think to yourself “I’m overreacting” and then in your haste to dress and leave you remember your coffee – though not travel mug ready - but forget to brush your teeth.

I was able to change my attitude in route to my stranded boys only to have it undone once I got the “long story.”

So … the bus driver who saw them waiting for 7 minutes at the normal stop and who was curiously parked in the quay across the street, left the quay and then blew past them motioning to a small sign on the sign post saying that the stop had temporarily moved across the street due to construction.  All the more confusing is that the bus before (which they had just missed) and the bus after (which would have gotten them to school too late) did not abide this temporary move.  But the kicker was that the bus driver – the same bus driver that had seen my boys every day last year at the same stop, same time on their way to the school bus stop (and they are not quiet children)– stood outside across the street for said 7 minutes smoking his cigarette watching them, the only people waiting, stand in the “wrong place.”  They were in shock.  What nice human does that?  My barely brushed head was on fire.

When you are a visitor living in another country it is helpful to assume (as it will often be true) that you don’t always have all the information you need to accomplish xyz.  It can lead to a host of annoyances and re-dos and lots of apologizing, but of course not every snub can be chalked up to a visitor visa.  Unfortunately, there are mean, inconsiderate, crabby people everywhere you go.  I don’t say this with any joy, but my data sampling is leading me to conclude many of them are hiding out in Luxembourg. 

The rest of the ride to school we talked in circles about what just happened.  We speculated a few reasonable excuses, but even the boys knew it only half way satisfied for an answer.   The guy was being a jerk – to my chicks no less - and he wanted to be “right?” more than he wanted to do his job (for which he is paid well I might add.)   After fighting traffic to and from school drop off, I went to my Bible Study Group where I led us in a nice prayer all the while thinking about the mean ol’ bus man and contemplating my if-I’d-had-been-there-speech (which would have been magically translated to Luxembourgish for the full effect.)   Thankfully, God says he hears even sooty-hearted prayers.  

Normally slights like these run their course in about an hour, but this one lingered like a tetanus booster shot.   By evening, I was rehashing it over dinner with my husband and doing that thing where you try to look for the deeper meaning and there is none.  I wondered out loud if maybe the bus driver was intentionally discriminating against us as foreigners, but regrettably (for my then mental state) my husband didn’t agree to go there with me.   His assessment:  the guy was being a tool, which sounded as weak in the moment as it does in print.  Then my 7 year old suggested we stop talking about it.  He had a point.   Even if he didn’t understand the finer point that women need to keep talking it out.

Forgiveness is a big word and usually saved for big injuries, but as CS Lewis suggests sometimes it’s the “incessant provocations of daily life” that are harder to forgive.  Certainly we are provoked regularly by the ones in our circle of love, but it also happens daily with a revolving door of neighbors.   Though hard, at least with our family we have a vested interest in forgiveness.  With the large community of neighbors, it’s often easier to avoid or stoke because we can do so at a distance. 

I wonder though if this bypass of grace for small infractions puts us at danger for categorically labeling whole groups of people (ie Luxembourgish people, Smokers, Any Central European Working in the Service Industry.) It doesn’t take that many unchecked grievances by people who share something in common for us to throw large groups of mostly nice people under the bus (or so to speak.)  Cheerful or not, I sense that I’ve conditioned myself to be on the lookout for Luxembourg’s most disagreeable.  And let’s be honest, unless it’s your own, no one wants to follow a leaky resentment storyline.  (You are good sports to have listened this long.)

Today I’m better, not let’s-deliver-cookies-to-the-bus-driver better, but the boys have been off for 20 minutes now and so far the phone has not rang.  I’ve brushed my teeth just in case.