Home > Life > Self-Perception Through the Eyes of Another

Self-Perception Through the Eyes of Another

During my journey back east a few weeks ago to visit my ailing father, I met an amazing woman. Bus trips are very useful for gathering character studies, scenery, dialogue and bits of business.

The lady of whom I speak hailed from Finland, just outside Helsinki. She traveled alone and had been journeying across the US for a month and had another week of travel to go. When I departed at my destination, she was headed for Boston. She’d not been there before.

The soon-to-be retired (she had 5 years to go) single mother will remain in my memory for many years. Many words described her: intrepid, curious, insatiable  concerning knowledge, well-traveled, adventurous. Probably the most obivous difference between this European and the American riders was the fact that she traveled with only one small leather duffle bag (read gym bag here) as luggage; that and the clothing she wore were her only encumberances.

When she spoke of her travels, she told of things seen and marveled at as well as those missed for various reasons. She told of other countries explored, which were many and varied, as seems the case with many Europeans.

Her soft reddish-blond hair seemed electrified with a life of its own and the acompanying whispery voice gave the impression of calm acceptance while straining at a leash.

She exuded a sense of assurity and peaceful resolve that rarely shows itself. Even during a time of frustration, delay and disuption, she remained herself and stood to the side to watch the unfolding event.

From her I gained a new perspective of our country and our people. We fascinated her as much, I think, as zoo specimens fascinate school children on a field trip. Yet she voiced no judgements. She did occasionally ask for an explanation. Her formal command of English necessitated concentration on my part to find common words she would understand to give answers that would satisfy.

For example, she couldn’t fathom why the bus line would continue to transport someone exhibiting all the characteristics of a paranoid-schitzoprenic. I’m not sure where he’d begun his journey, but word from one of the younger men aboard was that the diminutive handicapped rider had a wad of tickets, some valid, others not. The man would pull out one and hand it to a driver. If the driver didn’t like that one, the man would allow the driver to pick from his assortment wad. This rider had been on the same bus as me from Ft. Smith, AR and left on another route at St. Louis. Oddly enough, no one who’d been on our bus had ever seen the man eat, drnk or present any money during his wandering. He carried no luggage, wore warm clothing and rugged boots and carried an MP3 player with earbuds. BTW, the drivers did find him to be a handful.

My new Finnish friend couldn’t comprehend why he was out in the general populace and not being held in the appropriate medical facility for his own safety. The more she thought about it, though, she realized that she’d seen other examples during her sojourn of disturbed individuals out and about. She didn’t enlighten me as to her conclusions concerning this American practice. And I can’t say that I thirsted for her appraisal. I don’t care for my own opinion of the matter, either.

This pleasant, insightful lady glided into and out of my life without leaving me her name. Yet her impact will continue to create ripples in my approach to living. It’s not often that I pinpoint the exact moment of a life change. Therefore, I tend to relish those few I’ve managed to knowingly witness. They make great memory companions that act as coatracks on which I can hang a piece of future.

When I left the bus, she roused from her nap to wish me well and say how pleased she was to have met me. I realized in that moment that I’d not given her my name, either. I’d like to think that I gave her a pleasant memory to match the one she left with me.

We all have these types of encounters from time to time, but how we choose to revisit them is different for each of us. Here’s hoping that all of yours take you on wonderful walks through memorable thoughts and leave you wishing you’d been able to spend more time with them.


Categories: Life
  1. December 6, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    I really enjoyed your post, thanks for sharing. I sometimes think these wonderful opportunities only come to those who choose to really ‘see’. I bet her name was something wonderfully ethereal like Gossamer.
    maureen. http://www.thepizzagang.com

  2. December 7, 2009 at 11:27 pm


    That was quite insightful. I wish I could have met your Finnish friend as well. Thank you for sharing. It is definitely great when we can witness our on learning 🙂


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