Photo by Manki Kim
There was a man in the bus the other day, who was acting strange. He sat alone and was initially musing to himself in a low voice. As more and more people entered the bus on its way to the stop connecting to the main train station, the man started to raise his voice. Eventually, he was talking in a loud voice, as in a public speech. He was a tall, strongly-built black man with rasta hairdo, dressed in loose and colourful clothes. Such a person already stands out in an European city, let alone with such an attitude.
He was addressing an imaginary person, whom he was discussing with. The main theme of his monologue revolved around ways of conducting business with textiles. His tone was derogatory, at times raising the voice for emphasis. He would swear occasionally. I wouldn’t say it was directly intimidating, since he was talking to himself but it was definitely uncomfortable. Since he was saying “hey, you” often, that could easily startle people in the bus. I wondered if he was prepping for some discussion he was going to confront, or if he was reliving or reinterpreting a tense meeting that had already happened. Maybe he was just imagining a possible situation. Some girls by my side were both amused and scared by the play.
The man seemed to be working out some deep stuff. He mentioned several times he wouldn’t be changed, condemning the low moral integrity of his imaginary interlocutor, which couldn’t be justified by the “way the world runs”. It would look like he was somehow reaffirming some beliefs of him in the process.
The man made me think, what if all our thoughts could be heard, as if they were spoken in a loud voice? What if he was just unashamed of voicing what all of us already do, but keep in secret, safely confined in our heads? Wouldn’t we all sound intimidating to people that would tune in to our thoughts?
Being exposed to his internal monologue, made me reflect about my own internal monologues, which I don’t tend to share in a loud voice in a bus ride, but they nevertheless happen in a similar fashion, sometimes as imaginary conversations. It made me realise how ridiculous it really is to run such programs in our heads, so disconnected from the present moment, from what really is. Yet so many times I find myself in a similar trance, for exactly the same purpose: to reinforce some belief of mine, which is being challenged by the reality I’m living in.
The ranting man in the bus could be seen as a crazy weirdo. It could also be seen as a mirror of our own psyches, just not inhibited by social codes of conduct, organised around the pretence of normality.