After I’d moved back to PA, my “city mouse” friends drove in to see me. They were totally intimidated by the beautiful back country roads they had to drive to get to my house. Though the rolling hills of PA are quite scenic in the daytime, the shroud of darkness changes everything. These poor girls trying to negotiate the unlit roads would have been hysterically funny if it hadn’t been so very dangerous riding with them. They all but stopped at the crest of every hill because they couldn’t see down the other side. Every twist and turn of a country lane made them panic. The poor “country mouse” drivers behind us must have been ready to pull their hair out.
As much fun as we had together, I think they were very anxious to get back to the lights, the horns and the traffic of the city. At least there they could see what the obstacles were. In Chicago, even the alley ways were lit by streetlights to help decrease the crime rate. In my little hometown, not even all the streets were lit, let alone the alleys.
I found it surprising that the “city mouse” people at my bus stop could stand with the same strangers, to get the same bus, at the same time Monday through Friday and never introduce themselves to each other. Trying hard to fit in, I observed the unspoken rule until one night as I was walking from the bus stop alone, I met up with my next door neighbor. He was an old gentleman who, if you asked me, had too much time on his hands. He’d retired at the young age of 55 with enough money to live the rest of his life without working. Apparently, now being well into his late 70’s, he employed his time with lecherous thoughts of the young women who passed by his home daily.
He and a friend were chatting about a block and a half up the tree lined street from our apartment. As I approached he extended his hand to me. I thought that he wanted to introduce me to another neighbor. Foolish “country mouse” girl. This dirty old man pulled me in and kissed me, right there in the middle of the street with his old friend right beside him. I was speechless!!!!! It was then I decided never to walk that street alone again. The next morning I was on a mission. As soon as I got to the bus stop, I introduced myself to the first person who showed up. The next day I introduced myself and my new found “city mouse” friends to each other. Ultimately, there were five of us who walked the same way every night, but now we weren’t alone. There really was safety in numbers and great friendships developed.
Another rule for fledgling “country mice” is the requirement to enter and exit public transportation promptly. No dilly dallying is permitted. You jump on, you jump off, or you miss your chance. Whatever you do, you must keep all pieces and parts together. Don’t let a straggling parcel behind because it
will be taking a ride without you if you do. On one sunny afternoon I arrived at my stop after a rather rainy morning. With purse and umbrella in hand I marched to the back of the bus.
Unfortunately, as I exited the bus my umbrella somehow got stuck in the door and the bus pulled away to the next stop. Being married to a full time student didn’t leave a lot of extra money in our wallets at the end of the week and buying a new umbrella was not in the budget. I did the only thing I could do, tightly budgeted “country mouse” that I was. I chased the bus down the street trying to make it stop. Once again the “city mice” looked on in stunned disbelief. Their deadpan stares followed me as I jogged down the street in my three inch heels for the sake of rescuing a nondescript umbrella. Not a smile was broken. When the doors opened two blocks away, I retrieved the stuck umbrella and left my dignity behind as the doors closed.
You might wonder what I could have learned from the bus chasing exercise. It’s this: Don’t take yourself too seriously. I learned to laugh at myself. I may have been just a blip on the “city mouse’s” nightly ride home radar, but perhaps when they thought about it later, it gave them a smile. That’s okay with me, a smile trumps a frown any day of the week. I don’t set myself up to be a buffoon, but it’s okay if you laugh WITH me.