Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Driving the Bus

I have always been enchanted by buses. They appear to be so convenient. A large conveyance with comfortable seats that stops in front of waiting passengers and then transports them to another location for a small fee. The passengers don't even have to drive. The person with the real power -- who controls the vehicle, its speed and destination -- is the driver. The driver is power personified by his act of driving the bus.

"Driving the bus" is a phrase I use to describe someone who makes decisions. Driving the bus does not require a special license or even advanced mechanical skill. All you have to do is dare to hop into the driver's seat and step on the gas.

Many people are happy to discuss with anyone who will listen about why they aren't living the life they want. They can usually find someone else to blame for their misery. But it seems that passengers who are unhappy with their path and eventual destination should be driving the bus themselves.

Some people avoid taking the wheel. Perhaps they would rather spend time and energy to become like everyone else, following the same streets and stops. We tend to mimic those closest to us -- parents, siblings and extended family -- after years of exposure to their habits and tastes. Our family is supposed to like us unconditionally -- even love us if we are lucky -- so most of their feedback is hardly impartial.

On the other hand, our peers are less accepting. And unfortunately it's their approval that we usually seek and value as adolescents. Conforming eventually becomes so important that some of us forget how to regain our independence once we are adults. By then we may have lost confidence in our ability to make decisions for ourselves.

I always knew that I wanted to be the one driving the bus. Sitting behind the wheel took a little getting used to. But once having driven the bus, it's difficult to again be a mere passenger. You find yourself standing on the curb, waiting in rain and cold, for the vehicle to stop. The bus remains a wonderful means of transportation but passengers are powerless to make decisions about course and speed.

Some people never lose their need for conformity. Perhaps their hesitancy to drive the bus is based on fear. It's hard to make yourself step away from the pack that everyone wanted to join. The collective crowd, moving together over the years, has worn a significant rut into the ground, a rut created out of monotony and repetition.

Some people have other reasons for remaining a passenger. Perhaps they live in a country where freedom is not available. Perhaps there is some other traditional control that dictates they behave in a pre-set pattern without any variation. To outsiders, there is comfort and security in their way of life. The fact that they are missing out on options is something we can not comprehend.

For the rest of us, we need to try the wheel and drive the bus. We might wonder what all the fuss is about. What is lies ahead? Where does the road lead? How far can we get on a tank of gas? When was the last service appointment?

The bus driver remains the person with the power of decision. He is a natural leader among the passengers and is eager to help others find their options. No ticket required.

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