The HR Juggler

Travelling Without Seeing: A ‘Bus’ Story of My Own

Posted on: December 8, 2010

One of my favourite HR blogs of the moment is @RLSherman’s Bus Stories: Observations of a Life in Transit  The simple premise of Richard writing about his daily commute and the characters he encounters on the bus belies the intricacy of the observations, the keen insight into human nature and a changing, transitory community of strangers, some of whose faces and characteristics become familiar over time.

I find his blog fascinating on a number of levels. Firstly, Richard writes brilliantly and vividly portrays his fellow passengers with unswerving accuracy, creating characters to whom we can all relate and recognise from our own human experiences.  Secondly,  I love the idea of a ‘secret’ observer in the midst of a collective commute, who shares his observations in the public domain with all who are interested.  Is there potential for the observations to be read by his fellow passengers and the ‘secret’ observer to become a cause célèbre?  Unlikely, I am sure; however the theoretical possibility of this is tantalising.

Perhaps the over-riding reason that Richard’s blog intrigues me is the fact that his experience of the daily commute is so different  from my own.  I observe no such characters on my daily commute into London; granted, I travel by train, which perhaps accounts for some subtle differences in human behaviour, but surely these must be minor.  A train story of my own may demonstrate why our commuting experiences are so contrasting.

A couple of weeks ago I walked to the station with my husband (which is unusual) and (even more unusually), we got the same train.  We sat down opposite each other and lapsed into comfortable silence, both reading the paper and thinking about our days ahead.  People got on mostly, rather than getting off and the train became progressively more crowded until a large number of people disembarked at London Bridge.  The slow train takes around 30 minutes in total and by the time we were pulling in to our end destination of London Cannon Street, I had entirely forgotten that my husband was with me at all, despite the fact that he was still opposite me and very clearly in my line of sight, our knees not far off touching.  I gathered up my belongings, checked my seat that I hadn’t left anything behind and got off the train.  It wasn’t until my poor husband strided after me down the platform and smilingly asked if I had forgotten something, that I remembered he was there at all!!!

Luckily Mr C is an easy-going, understanding sort of husband, who doesn’t mind being forgotten every so often.  However, it is little wonder that I don’t ‘see’ characters in the same way that Richard does, when I don’t register my beloved sitting less than a metre away from me.  I have concluded from this that I clearly travel in a type of travel ‘bubble’, absorbed in my own world of thoughts.  I suspect Richard might have a field day with me if I commuted on the same bus as him….and that is why I enjoy reading his observations of others so much!

If you haven’t already, do check out Richard’s Bus Stories – they are fantastic 🙂

7 Responses to "Travelling Without Seeing: A ‘Bus’ Story of My Own"

Hi Alison – I love this. A great recommendation wrapped up in a lovely little tale. Really enjoyable and I am checking out Mr Sherman as I write. Cheers – Doug

I’m back again. You reminded me of a scary story. Before abandoning the car completely last Summer (how liberating!) I dumped the evil handsfree kit a couple of years earlier. Why? I remember leaving a customer’s premises down Berkshire way. Jumped in the car, phone rang – it was my boss. We got talking.

Next thing I know 80 miles later I’m pulling up outside my house, and we’re still talking. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the route home. I have no idea how close or otherwise I came to causing multiple pileups on the motorways and roads. Shameful.

I dismantled as much of the handsfree kit as I could straight away and chucked it. Never went back. That’s one bubble I think we can all do without. Thanks for the reminder Alison.

Thanks for commenting Doug and also for sharing your travelling tale. Its scary how we can switch off so totally from our surroundings, especially when we pride ourselves as being quite observant and people focussed at work. Good for you on taking positive action re the hands-free kit though.

I suspect we are not alone in this travel bubble!

Great observations Alison. I read your blog yesterday and again this morning on the train. Totally different reaction both times, specially this morning.
I’m always fascinated by people’s behaviour on the train/bus/dlr, and their and rather catchy conversations – it’s amazing what you can find about someone’s life on a 10 min journey.
As I read your blog, i tried getting into a little bubble of my own, not paying attention to the world around me. Lasted 2 minutes…I am that curious!
I was on my way to the coaching course and the topic today was all about Body Language, Observation and Silence. So, I described your example and how coaches can learn a lot by observing people’s behaviour & body language as we travel on public transport. It’s also a great way to practice a technique a lot of coaches struggle with – silence! Look, observe, don’t speak!
Great insights, great observations and great learning – thanks 🙂

Thanks for commenting Jose, interesting to hear about you put the ‘bubble’ idea into practice too and the learning you got from it. Always a pleasure 🙂

I have meant to add a rousing THANK YOU on here for such lovely words about Bus Stories! It took me a fortnight or so, but here I am, finally! It makes me blush and feel quite nice that there is some inspiration found in my musings, and that you are enjoying the exploration of my fevered imagination. Many thanks again and keep up the lovely blog – it is fabulous!

Best wishes,

Ahhhhh..thanks Richard 🙂 You’re very welcome and thanks for keeping me entertained. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and look forward to more bus stories in the New Year

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