I hurried out of the house onto a slick sidewalk, eager to catch the 3:24pm bus. As I speed-walked in the ever present Auckland rain I asked myself the perennial question, why didn’t I just leave the house a few minutes earlier? If I missed this bus, there wouldn’t be another one for 20 minutes, and I was anxious to get to the Art Gallery before it closed at 5.
I made it to the stop and a minute later the bus came whipping around the corner. I smiled at the driver and got on, choosing a window seat on the nearly empty, quiet bus.
We trundled along calmly and then pulled up in front of a school where a couple of boys and young men piled on. Some of them didn’t have correct change and were being impatiently jostled by their mates behind them, who were eager to tap their bus passes and grab a seat. I looked back out the window, momentarily amused before my mind wandered back to whatever was preoccupying me that day.
We pulled up to the next bus stop and I turned my head, catching sight of a massive group of boys in uniform shouting and squeezing themselves onto the bus. I groaned on the inside, and I’m pretty sure I could feel the rest of the adult passengers groaning too.
After much commotion, all of the boys were sardined into the bus, chatting, cursing, laughing and scheming. With fat raindrops smacking the windshield and gears noisily grinding, the packed bus heaved itself uphill and I felt my annoyance grow. I was eager for them to get off the bus so I could finish my ride in peace.
Then, a small boy who had been squished among some of his bigger mates began to sing. His voice was high and clear and beautiful. He was singing in Māori (I assume) and it was a slow melody that sounded a little sad.
Half the bus turned to ‘SHUSH!’ him, and he stopped. A few minutes later, the singing started up again, and this time his mates joined in. They harmonized, low barely-pubescent voices complimenting the higher ones, and sang their lovely song until I got off the bus.
I rang the bell at my stop, and the little man sitting next to me immediately moved aside to let me pass. As I went down the aisle, the boys politely made room, apologizing if we happened to bump into each other.
Once I was off, a boy standing in the door spoke. In a baritone that will no doubt deepen and be his pride and joy one day he said, ‘Peace and love’ and with that, the bus rolled away. I laughed, and with a bounce in my step, strolled to the art gallery in the rain.