Posted by: skyward | August 23, 2008

Reflection: View from a Two O’Clock Bus

(Here, I share an essay I wrote years ago. )

I took a bus from the courthouse to the law school, where I was going to spend a couple of hours doing research for an employment discrimination case. Dressed in a silky blouse and clutching a briefcase, I sat down on Metro’s hard chair. This dusty old bus made me feel nostalgic for immaculately clean buses in Japan, replete with a soft female voice announcing each stop and politely thanking passengers.

As soon as I took a window seat, I pulled out a draft of the memorandum on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which I was supposed to give my boss the next day. I started reviewing it while savoring the afternoon sunlight streaming through the windows.

I was unable to focus, feeling a little tired from attending two pre-trial conferences that morning. Looking up from the stack of papers in my lap, I studied a handful of passengers on the two o’clock bus. A plump woman wearing an orange wide-brimmed hat. A young father cooing to his toddler. A blond girl chewing gum in her community college sweatshirt.

“How old is she?” The woman in the orange hat asked the father, who was sitting across from her. He was starting to tickle the red-haired girl on his lap.
“How old are you, sweetie?” He repeated the question in an overly sweet voice. The girl giggled.
“She’ll be two next month.” He announced. “We’re gonna have a big birthday party for you, aren’t we, Madeline?” He told the woman about his mother and stepfather in North Dakota, who planned to attend the party. His mother was sewing a purple mini dress for her only grandchild. Purple was Madeline’s favorite color.

The bus soon left the downtown area full of skyscrapers. It eventually started driving through the B. District. It is known as the hippiest and strangest place in town, filled with ethnic restaurants, antique shops, tattoo shops, cafes, taverns, theaters. I saw a group of twenty-something men with spiked hair drinking coffee outside a Starbucks. I smiled to myself. I found it both refreshing and amusing to leave the world of lawyers temporarily and place myself in the larger society, where virtually no one knows what Res Judicata or the Fourteenth Amendment is  –—–and couldn’t care less.

Looking at my blouse and briefcase, I laughed at myself soundlessly. The first year of law school, when I had tearfully sought help from a physician, who ultimately prescribed a tranquilizer for my sleep disorder triggered by stress. The muggy summer afternoons when I had sat frozen at my computer, typing cover letters to law firms as my forehead glistened with sweat. Suddenly, those days felt impossibly distant. Even the employment discrimination case, which had come to dominate my life, seemed to have slipped out of mind. I felt a new longing for simple things in life —––maybe fixing a sandwich, maybe setting flowers in a vase.

But the moment the law school building came into view, I was pulled back into reality. I put on the face of a lawyer as the bus approached the stop in front of the seven-story C. Hall, where aspiring lawyers analyzed the Uniform Commercial Code and practiced for mock trial competitions.

(*To Japanese readers: I share another essay about a view from a train:)


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