Headspace: A series in which teaching staff and students from the English Department write about a place or space they go to write, read, study or create. [Read all entries.] [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]
The arrival of my double-decker bus affords its own simple pleasure on my daily commute. I scan my Octopus card, in response the reader greets me with a monotonous Dood sound. Some five minutes left, I thought, to read whatever is in my tote-bag; to listen to songs on my playlist; to do something. It is not relaxing. Yet, the approximate time brings me certainty, a sense of relief. It is a habit of mine, as of many others, to divide time into units of five.
Once on the bus, it becomes difficult for one to tell the season, for it is always wintry. I follow the yellow or red footprint markings and climb upstairs to my favourite seat, which is right behind the stairs. Next to the window, which is sometimes misted, sometimes clear, I sit and glance at the racing raindrops or setting sun, passing trees and lamp posts, skyscrapers and building cranes. Along these moving images, I know that on this bus I have a seat of my own, safe and sound.
In the evening journeying home, a final-year student worrying about the progress of his Honours Project, while a father sitting a few rows behind makes a phone call to his baby, asking if they have done their homework. In harmony with the boisterously coughing old man in the front seat, the middle-aged ladies cheerfully announce to each other and everyone else their plans for tonight’s dinner, next to a daughter saying will be at home for dinner soon on her phone. And a little girl, in an urgent and complaining manner, describes to her mother that her classmate had a pack of 32 coloured pencils, with colours such as mango yellow and rose red, yet hers is only a pack of 16 colours. And there is a place for each of us, with varied concerns, welcoming every space and rhythm.
The familiarity of the utterance “I go to school by bus” among Hong Kong dwellers perhaps tells the interweaving story of the city’s life and its public transport. As one of the many passengers, I have spent many five minutes on a bus for daily commute: reading, dreaming, and understanding.
William Ng is a graduate of the Department of English and Department of Education (Class of 2016). [Click here to read all entries by William.]