Haboob Manifesto, Pt. 5: Guilty

I was late.

I had set a time to leave for the meeting and had involved myself with other things; by the time I noticed the clock, I was about five good minutes off my schedule. To compensate for those “wasted” minutes, I decided to take the trolley to my destination.

My workplace is a university. In order to help faculty, staff, and students make it to their locations on time, there is a small fleet of trolleys (and one small bus) that go in a circle around and between the primary locations. The distance from my office to the farthest point I typically need to go is about one mile. No big deal.

Let me say that, ashamedly, I am known for saying that I dislike the trolleys. There is one with wooden benches; it is a very clean trolley, but it is so clean that one is apt to slide off the benches if one is not careful to grip on appropriately. The trolleys are often crowded at peak times, which is natural for a university; that means cramming in and possibly standing or sharing a seat, and we all know how much I dislike sharing. Unless it is an absolute necessity, I say, I don’t use the trolleys; absolute necessity can mean anything from the weather is too inclement to walk, to “because I chose to continue working and not paying attention to the time, I would be sweating like a lumberjack if I took off and walked now.”

Notice the incongruity here. I say I dislike the trolleys. I don’t use them unless it is an absolute necessity. Put a pin there; I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Like this morning. I walked swiftly to the trolley stop closest to my office, which is to say over the river and through the woods. As I approached the half-the-first-block mark, I see the blue trolley at the light; if I was close enough to dash across the street before the light that would allow the driver to make his/her left turn toward the next stop, I could probably get on it. However, I was too far away. Knowing this caused me a bit of irritation. However at that time of day the trolleys (and one bus) are running every few minutes. I watch the blue trolley go past and I begin to get concerned as I approach the traffic light; what if I get stuck and the next trolley comes? I won’t make that one and will truly be late to my next thing. The irritation grows. However, as I push the button to cross, there is no trolley in sight. I then begin to wonder when the next one will arrive; will it take a while, thus again putting me in the penalty for on-time arrival? I get across the street in time to see the tan trolley making its way toward the stop. I am safe, I am on schedule to catch it, and it’s not the trolley with the slippery-clean wooden seats. Score.

To top it off, when the driver pulls up to allow the three of us at the stop to get on, I see that the trolley is nearly empty. Score again. I get a front seat and proceed to sit directly in the middle. The next stop is the one I need, the trolley has plenty of room for the other two people getting on with me, so it is not necessary for me to move all the way in. I will be right on time for my meeting. Score trifecta.

As the light changes and we get underway, my usual reaction to the trolley comes to mind: I say I dislike the trolleys. I don’t use them unless it is an absolute necessity.

And I immediately was overcome with guilt.

How many times is this the attitude we take toward activities and people? How many times do we express our dislike, only to use them when it is convenient for us?

Yeah. Guilty: Big. Time.

As I rode the trolley, sitting alone in the middle of a front seat, thinking about how I was so concerned about getting where I needed to go, I realized that while there was nothing inherently wrong with me not being fond of the trolleys, it was completely wrong of me to use abuse them. For the most part, the folks who drive the trolleys have, in my time here, been super ultra-dedicated people who love what they do and love the people they serve. At holidays, the drivers take time to decorate. You can sometimes find photos of students and their families, which they have given to their favorite drivers, posted in the front of the trolley. The trolleys are pretty okay, and their drivers are top-rate. For me to go around saying I dislike them is to slight the people who pour their hearts into getting everyone me where we I need to go safely.

I walked back to my office after my meeting. I took the time to consider how fortunate and blessed I am to have a choice: I could drive, walk, or take a trolley to any campus location I want. As I walk on any given day, including today, I pass a number of people who walk much farther than I in order to buy groceries, get their medications from the pharmacy on the corner, or to buy clothes in the strip mall. They have push-carts (some real and some homemade), which suggests that driving or taking a bus to those locations may not be an option. I watch as one trolley driver goes to the back to engage the ramp for a student with physical limitations; this particular student doesn’t have the option to walk that mile like I did to and from that campus location.

Before that epiphany, it was okay for me to turn my nose up and poo-poo the trolley, unless it was raining or cold, or unless I was late getting somewhere, or unless I just didn’t feel up to walking or driving myself.

I had to think about the times I mentally poo-poo’ed a person, only to talk with them if I needed something from their office.

I had to think about the times I thought one way about a thing, only to act differently in a particular circumstance.

I had to own my guilt, then get over it with a vow to do better next time.

Pertobatan bukan satu momen di kehidupan.
Itu perbaikan bertahap dan berkesinambungan,
sebuah proses yang berlangsung seumur hidup.

(Repentance is not a moment in life. The gradual and continuous improvement , a process that last a lifetime)

Toba Beta

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  1. “How many times do we express our dislike, only to use them when it is convenient for us?” Disliking something is not the same as boycotting it. I hate getting mammograms. I understand their usefulness but it doesn’t detract from how immensely uncomfortable they are.

    1. Amen! I completely agree. I think the balance comes in understanding when we outwardly “complain” about something, only to use it when it seems advantageous. I too find no enjoyment in mammograms, except that my technician is one of the most fabulous people I’d ever want to meet. She makes even such a yucky experience pleasant by the dedication she has to her job, by the way she decorates and lights the exam room, and by the general feng shui going on in there. I am working on not lodging all my complaints and pet peeves out loud 🙂

  2. Out loud complaining is one thing. Then there is the internal monologue that is sometimes too loud and simply too obnoxious. Sometimes I surprise myself with my lack of tact (even if it is only said in my head). I have worked hard to shut up both voices and to try and focus on finding a positive. It can be hard, but I always feel better by trying. This was great – thanks!