Sunday, January 22, 2017

All the Little Things


Little things can really get you down sometimes.

Invisible motes of dust sticking together to create spoofy balls of dust (bacteria and infinitesimal specks of dry, dead skin. Ew.) – it’s like you spot a tiny brown ant scurrying on the kitchen counter and then the next time you turn and reach for the sugar tin, there’s a whole army of them marching in a line better than any you’d find in the immigration area at Karachi airport (but that is a pretty low bar).

It’s like you see a bug on the grass where you’re sitting and immediately feel itchy all over and it doesn’t even matter that you most probably do not have four beetles having a relay race up your leg, because, if you think about it, in some ways ghost bugs are worse than real ones.

Once you see that spot of ketchup drying on the kitchen floor, or a handful of different-sized crumbs lying at the base of the couch you just cannot un-see it and your eyes keep flitting back to it just like your mind keeps flipping back to the chocolate ice cream you bought just two hours ago for a rainy day.

Or at night when you can’t fall asleep and then suddenly the clock on the window sill just out of your reach starts to tick really loudly.  I mean Mr. Clock has definitely been there all day, mumbling quietly, nonstop, but just now, it decides to throw itself into your consciousness and once the tick-tick-tick-tick  starts to run around in your head, there is no way out.  The trick, of course, is to start thinking about something else, but trying not to obsess is almost as hard as doing a plank for 50 seconds.  Something about the way we’re wired, you know, one of God’s little jokes I guess.

So, anyways, I let little things get me down, sometimes.  Waking up with a cramp in my leg, or putting on my shirt inside out, or pouring too much milk into my tea …  and one tiny thing almost always leads to another tiny thing, like a yawn-reaction. 

On the flip side, little things can make me really happy too.

Like the sun colouring the clouds pink and gold, or a perfect cup of coffee or a bunch of purple tulips in a glass jar.  Or the £2 wire hanger I got that fits perfectly over my door and has helped me organize my pjs.

This Thursday I went to Birmingham.  I actually had a friend to meet! Gasp! And a female friend at that.  I was feeling quite positive about it and the misty weather didn’t dampen my spirits (seriously, what is up with the spray in the air? It’s not rain, it’s not even a drizzle – it’s more like a spritz from a perfume.  Or when someone accidentally spits at you during a passionate debate).

Whether it’s a series of little annoying things or a series of cute things … the more you start to notice something, the more of it you find.  Like someone in college who you go on a trip with and realize you’ve never seen him before – and then after the trip you run into him everywhere Or like Mr. Clock’s monologue at night.

Buses here are right on schedule – give or take a few minutes sometimes, and even that is updated in real time on the stops.  So if you’re not at the stop with your arm extended to flag the bus down, the bus isn’t going to stop.
And sometimes we see people racing alongside the bus in a hope to get to the stop in time – and usually, if you’re not in London, and the driver has seen you running, they’re likely to stop for a few extra seconds and let you huff and puff on aboard.

You know the debates about good and bad people and how most of us are constantly sliding from the bright end to the darker one or somewhere in between – well, I think you can tell if you’re mostly a good or bad person depending on your reaction to a person running towards the stop as your bus gently rolls by them – are you rooting for the person to make it? Are you silently cheering them on, hoping the light turns red at the next signal to give them some more time?  If you are, then I think you probably have a good heart.

Last Thursday on my way to the coach station, we saw this lady with white hair and a furry Russian hat jog out of her gate and turn right – oh man, you’re not gonna make it, I thought, feeling bad for her.  And then the bus driver suddenly slowed down, “where are you running to lady?” he asked and opened the doors, stopping a few yards short of the actual stop.  The drivers are actually not supposed to do that, but who was gonna complain about a bus driver that stopped a little too soon so that an old lady doesn’t miss her bus? I thought that was pretty sweet.

Later at the coach station, I was waiting to board the National Express and I saw this young mother with a baby about 6 months I guess.  She was a petite woman and I was really impressed by her strength – she held the baby in one arm and picked up a car seat, balanced it on the sidewalk, proceeded to take out a bunch of bags from the pram (why do babies need so much stuff? I mean, they’re tiny!) and then expertly folded the pram.  What impressed me more was the smile on her face.  I would be penduluming between frazzled and grumpy if I were travelling with just a baby.  People let her board first, which was also very nice.  And throughout the journey to Birmingham, I heard the lady talk with her baby (in baby talk, which is always cute when its emanating from a baby but definitely a bit weird when adults indulge in it…) and when the baby cried, she continued to croon calmly.  Finally the baby’s whining turned merry again and I saw her grinning as her mother bounced her up and down – every time her cheeky little face appeared over the top of the seat, the lady sitting behind her pretended to grab at her, which I know sounds super creepy but babies love that – this one was no exception.  She giggled every time.

Birmingham was cloudy and misty too.  The Bull Ring mall (or shopping center, as the Brits say.  How did Pakistanis get so Americanized in their language when we were colonized by the former?) is huge – I kept exiting from one door and entering a whole new side, and it took fifteen minutes to find my friend.  We decided to walk to the art gallery and tell our other colleague friend to just meet us there, but then we literally walked into her on our way there.

I love that the museums in England are free! The art gallery was huge.  I also love how there is always a Pakistani artist to be found in all these galleries and museums, and there is nothing like living abroad to make you sigh fondly over mentions of Lahore…
We also saw the library, which was nine floors high, with twinkling blue fairy lights draped over the circular banisters and rows and rows of thickly bound beautiful books, a secret garden that was admittedly a bit winter-worn but still had amazing views, and you could definitely imagine sitting on a bench amidst the leafy green plants with a book and a cup of frothy coffee…

Some Halal Subway, window-shopping, coffee, TCF-praising and much-needed human conversation later, it was time to head home.

Back at the coach station in Birmingham, there was a small child who stood by the automatic doors which opened obligingly for him – there were several adults nearby but nobody paying him enough attention to comfort me that they were his family, and then with a glance behind him, the boy toddled out of the door.  Two seconds and still no adult, and then just like that, the little critter turned and ran back inside. 

Point one for grandma standing close to the door, whose smile showed that she had had an eye on him the entire time.

Later the same toddler was in his father’s arms, pulling at his daddy’s hair.  I gave him a smile and after that we became friends.  Every 45 seconds he would wave at me, a short, quick wave that was more like tracing the shape of a hill in the air, and I would wave back. 
Once again, these are some things that only people shorter than 2 feet can do and make it seem really cute.

As I settled into my seat, I found a pack of peanut M&Ms in my bag.  Unexpected victories. 


I had two and then decided to save the rest for my studious other half back at home.  

Because you know, sometimes, the little things can really make you smile.

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