One of my greatest idol’s, Mark Twain, once said, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”
I have always believed that one of the easiest ways to reach a common ground between someone is by using humor. Laughter brings people together, and humor connects us to each other creating an instant bond- even if it lasts for only the moment.
On the shuttle to campus it’s only in my nature to observe the people around me everyday. I even observe the drivers. It’s the same few drivers and they each drive at specific times on the same shuttle, even when they alternate- it’s usually the same driver, on the same shuttle, during the same times. I’ve quickly began to memorize their schedules. On my 10:30 AM Monday class, the same Black man who always has on sunglasses drives this route. On the shuttle he drives, it’s the one that has steps that lead up to a higher level of seating.
About a week ago the shuttle was packed tight and on the last stop, a chunky young White student got on the bus and immediately did the American “bro” handshake to the driver.(I’m sure most of you know exactly what this looks like and I apologize for not being able to describe it) He said, “Whats up man, hows it going?” I’m not sure why, but this got my attention and I observed for the rest of the 5-7 minute drive intensely. I took out my headphones and was curious to know what their conversation would consist of. The boy and the man were talking up a storm. They were laughing and cracking jokes, mainly. Which led me to the idea that humor really can be an common ground for people. Here was this older, very physically built, shuttle driver, black man, completely engaged in conversation with this very short and stubby, young, white student. The man complained about work and the student complained about school. The student stood and held the handles instead of sitting so he could stand next to the driver and talk.
I found it sweet. I found it refreshing. Mainly, I found it humorous.
The student did majority of the talking, and he was very much so a jokester type of guy. The driver mainly listened, and chuckled along with the boy.
I started to think-
This man easily drives hundreds of students a day back and forth to the campus, maybe even thousands if he works an 8 hour shift, and I bet maybe 10 a day thoroughly converse with him. As we got to the University, they did the same handshake and the student told the driver “Alright man, I’ll see you soon. Have a great day, man!” The driver replied with “Alright son, you too.”
“Son.” That made me step off the shuttle with a smile planted on my face.
I took note of this scene last Monday, January 25th, and today on February 1st, I stepped on the shuttle again ready for my 10:30 AM class- ready to observe. I greeted the driver with a smile and a “Good morning.” He nodded his head with respect and smiled back. I sat again on the higher level of seating in the back and on the final stop, a student got on the shuttle and did the American “bro” handshake with the driver again. Except for this time, the driver didn’t have his sunglasses on, and the student was Black, tall, and to my perception, possibly a little older or more mature than the previous student friend I saw interact with the driver.
This student instead of standing right next to the driver and holding onto the handles, he sat in the single seat next to the driver and held onto the poll with one hand. His body language was centered towards the driver and they also engaged in conversation the entire 5-7 minute drive to campus. What I found strange was this time the driver did majority of the talking, and the student did more of the listening. The driver talked a lot while using hand gestures and he was the one cracking more jokes this time. The student agreed and did a lot of head nodding and chuckling. When the shuttle arrived at the destination, the student and driver did the signature handshake again, and the student said “Thanks man, have a nice day.” The driver then replied and nodded his head with, “You too,” and smiled.
I have been analyzing the differences between these 2 interactions. For instance, the white student did more of the talking and made the driver laugh more often. Though, it was apparent to me the driver appreciated and enjoyed the black student’s conversation and company more. I don’t think this has as much to do with race as it does with human compassion and body language. Most importantly, how each of those are exerted.
Firstly, the white student stood as the shuttle driver sat.
The black student sat and leaned towards the driver, in other words, him and the driver were both seated. Perhaps a feeling of equality was sensed more between the 2 because both were sitting.
Sitting during conversation while the other person is also sitting generally can send the message of “I’m listening,” or, “I’m with you.” Verses standing over someone who is sitting during conversation, can send the message, “I’m here.” Or, “I’m talking.” I watch these behaviors and I make mental notes. I wonder, who initiated the relationship between the 2 men? Does the driver feel inferior when students stand near him even though he is ultimately in control and has power? Why do the students speak to the driver instead of speaking to other students they’d probably have more to talk about with?
My list of questions go on and on, and my observations become more precise as each idea passes through my mind.
There are many more observations I made, and many conclusions I can reach simply by watching this situation between the 2 different students and driver. That’s not why I’m writing this, though.
My purpose for writing this is to describe how much you can learn about society and culture if you just observe for a solid 5-7 minutes of your surroundings, and the people in it.
I’m writing this to express how whether it be old, young, white, or black- humans can find common ground and communicate in many different ways. Humor being a large and prominent way strangers can start up a conversation, listening is also a great way to earns someone’s trust and make room for a bond to grow.
As Hector concluded from the movie Hector and the Happiness project, “listening is loving.” (a quote that changed my life)
Moments of connection matter to me. In fact, I pretty much live for these moments. I love seeing people share laughter, share trust, share respect, and engage in conversation regardless of how different their social status, race, age, gender, sexuality, or occupation may be.
At some point, any 2 people can find something to talk about. They can find a common ground, and find something to laugh about.
Human communication is a beautiful thing and I encourage all to do more of it.
Talk to strangers.
Observe your surroundings, and learn silently.
Make conversation with someone who looks completely different than you, because really, what is there to lose?
Not only could it genuinely inspire you or even change your perspective on something, but even better, you could inspire or change their perspective on something.
Make someones day by being more conscious of what you do with yours.
Stop allowing awkwardness, fear, or societal norms get in the way of the ability for you to acquire more knowledge, and create potential relationships.
Remember that you are a human, and no matter who is sitting next to you, they’re just like you.
They’re human too.
With lots and lots of love,