One night in Edinburgh not too long ago, my mother and I set off on an adventure. A not so overly adventurous bus ride from the top deck later we arrived at a tiny bar, The Royal Oak. We had heard from a lady on a previous bus ride who was holding a cat and who we were therefore talking to, that this place had live folk music every night. So we walked almost all the way in, heard no music, looked blankly at the few people inside and backed out. We went down the stairs instead of up, we found the water closets. Helpful but not the point. Outside on the sidewalk we knew we had missed something. Mom goaded me into going back into the bar by myself to check if there was indeed to be live music that night, so as she peered in through the cracked door behind me I walked the very few feet to the bar, upon which we heard the first strum from a guitarist in the corner, previously blocked from view. My original question obviated, I ordered one Blumer’s hard cider and two half pint glasses and made a bee-line for the stools Mom had already snagged.
How close we had been to missing out! How close we now were to the singer and the bartender and everyone else in the place! The room was about 15 x15’ excluding the bar, and the singer/guitarist was a big man with a big voice. As we were there a bit longer, and as we eventually finished the Bulmers between the two of us- never a surety- more and more people began filling in the spaces between people sitting around the perimeters. People were crowded, but they were also united. Everyone was there to listen and enjoy this man’s singing and playing. We heard Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, The Animals- and many traditional Scottish folk songs as well. House of the Rising Sun and Loch Lomond were particularly poignant spontaneous group singing experiences. At one point I was told to move forward because of my height, or lack thereof, it was really very thoughtful. The music and the confined space had brought the crowd together as a group, helped of course by the friendly and slightly steampunk-ish bar staff and teasing singer.
Crowds feel a bit different to me now, even in crowded and less friendly Boston being open to the possibility of kindness has definitely helped. Two other people talked to me on public transportation today, and both were lovely. The interaction made us smile, and I felt so lucky to have had that on the way to and from work. I can imagine now that even in the square footage of the #96 bus, all of the commuters could be happy and have a sense of togetherness. Sometimes awesome bus drivers bring this out in bus groups, but for the most part it’s how people just interact with each other. Do what you can, if you can, to make your commute better by being kind in some way to the people around you. And let me know how it goes! I would love to hear about it.