Sunday, February 22, 2015

Idealism, Identity And Purpose In Life

I just came to the realisation last night that there are a couple of things that define a person. Yes, this is another of my philosophical posts...

Usually, we live our lives in a seemingly stable way. It doesn't really seem like taking away or adding a few things might change a lot. We think we are strong and have a lot to live for.

But the question occured to me last night: How much does it really take to change a meaningful life to a meaningless life? Let's assume, for instance, that the three (four, five) most important things of my life were taken away from me - how much would this affect me?

  • To some people, their profession means everything to them
  • To some people, their relationship means everything to them
  • To some people, their religion means everything to them
  • To some people, their ideals and values mean everything to them
  • To some people, their wealth means everything to them
  • The list goes on...

And of course there are things in between. Some people will go into deep depression if a spouse or other family member dies, while there is still a perceived "10%" left somewhere else, for example in money or religion or perhaps another family member or friend. It could be anything.

The vast majority of people will not depend 100% on one thing. But it is likely that most of us, I assume, will depend on perhaps three or four things. If you take these away, suddenly life is not worth living any more, you might be surprised to find out. The house of cards collapses.

Right now, this is just a theory, but the thought has occured to me that I might be right about it.

If I had to define what the most important things in my life were, it's not even an easy question to answer. Not only do I have to define what means a lot to me, but also how I would react IF these things were taken away from me, to which I might actually react differently than I think I would.

But anyway, just for the sake of curiousity, let's assume that these are my three "things":

  • My love relationship
  • My ideals, the moral values that define me
  • My financial security and accomodation

If you need one more thing, add health. Because you would be surprised how much things change for you when your health declines seriously.

The interesting thing about my life is that it doesn't need to feel special and still feels worth living. For example, I've been playing the same video game since 2010 although it's pretty pointless. But still, there are things that make me want to live. Just to give you an idea that my priorities and demands are not too extreme.

So let's assume that I lose my most important things... how will this affect me?

To be honest, I think that there isn't a lot that would keep me strong. In other words, I might lose my will to live.

Then again, if I only lose ONE of these things, does that mean that everything is still okay? No, I might be one third dead, for example. And losing two of three things makes you more dead than alive, I guess.

So recently, there has been a thing that's been bothering me. I would rather not mention it here because it's a forbidden topic, but it has to do with "my ideals, the moral values that define me".

I am not one of the people who define themselves mainly through their work, and I can also stay home most of the time and not lose my life's meaning at all. But when it comes to my values, I take much more pride in them than most people would be able to understand. I'm very idealistic deep inside and I can accept that nobody gets this.

At the moment, my values are under siege by a very dark force. It's trying to corrupt what I stand for. The dilemma is that I can't just defend the attack without losing something else in return. So whatever I do, there is a risk I lose something.

If I "sell" my values and make a joke out of myself, I will not be the same person any more.
It's ironic that "changing your name" is sometimes both a metaphor for and an actual part of losing your identity, but I digress...
Integrity is important to me: to not only believe, but to act according to my beliefs. When I watch the news, I want to be able to have my own opinion about the news and at the same time know that I LIVE my opinion, too.

We are not mere animals. Animals just live, follow their instincts, and do what is necessary to protect themselves and their species. They don't require a deeper meaning or agenda for their existence. But I do.

I have values. And if I give up my values, what am I then but an empty shell? Yes, I would still have a heartbeat, and I could still silently whisper to myself what I think, but I would know deep inside that I never even stood for my beliefs. And every time something unjust happened in this world, I would know that I couldn't be the one to make claims, because hey, I can't even follow the rules I set for myself.

My ideals define my identity. It's what makes me "me". I decided not to live for my job, not for a child, not for my country. But at least I want to be able to have my freedom and take pride in it.

If I lose my ideals, then I'm wondering what's even good enough any more. THIS is the reason why I can't sleep well at night.

This is a principle that people should be able to relate to. Here are examples for this:

  • Why play a game that's so easy it bores you?
  • Why turn on the computer if it only crashes?
  • Why care for a pet that only bites you, is afraid of you and will never build a relationship with you?
  • Why keep a job that only frustrates you?

I'm scratching the surface of some of these questions. I don't feel obliged to keep my empty shell functioning if it's only for the sake of other people - to make them believe I'm still okay, still a normal person, still willing to live.

Don't get me wrong: I CAN sell my values at a nice price. But there is a reason why there is the term "selling your soul". It really means something, and I don't even mean that in a religious sense.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Bus Driver People

Every once in a while, on February 1st, I come up with a "people list". This is a list of different persons that are, in some way, stereotypical. See my other lists: Bus People and Grocery People.

This year, it's again about bus people, but more specifically about bus drivers. Here are the stereotypes I have noticed in my years as a person using public transport.

1. The Asshole

Let's start off with the most charming of them all, the asshole. This guy is uniquely evil. While other bus drivers may just make a bad impression by leaving people behind who are a little late at the bus stop, or who didn't press the "stop" button in time, the asshole is amazing by being just extremely evil for the sake of it.

This kind of guy does a couple of things that define him, including:

  • using impolite language ("get the hell away from the door" or stuff like that)
  • making people pick up trash they didn't put there in the first place
  • asking you to give him coins YOU found lying on the floor
  • Splashing water from the road onto pedestrians that are walking on the sidewalk (on purpose)

There are more examples and if you ever think to yourself "what an asshole", then you know which category the bus driver fits in.

2. The Fat Ass

This guy is a couch potato on wheels. And a fat one at that. This guy is so fat, it makes you wonder how he even fits into his driver seat. The guy is so morbidly obese that you get a very uneasy feeling entering the bus. After all, you are putting your life into the hands of a person who might suffer a heart attack any time.

3. The "Don't Give A Shit" Guy

This guy only drives around in a car because that's what he gets paid for. He doesn't identify with what he does for a living, he doesn't even look at you when you show him your bus ticket, and if there are dozens of people entering through the back door (when it's the policy of the bus company to not allow that), he doesn't give a shit at all.

Usually you would think that this is not such a big problem. But when you are used to showing bus drivers tickets, and some of them don't even care to look, it can make you feel stupid. Especially when some bus drivers, as you will see now, are the exact opposite.

4. The Super Nerd

This guy takes his job way too seriously. He will never allow people at the back to ENTER the bus, thus forcing people who want to get off the bus to stay inside until all the people who were trying to enter at the back actually realised they will only get on the bus by walking past the bus driver at the front.

If people ever manage to sneak in at the back door, the nerdy driver will use his microphone to scream and shout and order that person to report at the front door.

This kind of bus driver will also check bus tickets very thoroughly, even to the point where he argues about price policies and how readable your signature on the ticket looks, or how the ink looks bad and all that stuff. Hard to explain but if you have been there, you know what I mean.

5. Punctual, no matter what

This driver has some nerdiness in his genes. He will be punctual like crazy. Sometimes even over-punctual which means that you are going to miss your bus because you were not at the bus stop 1 or 2 minutes before the time the bus was supposed to be there. Congratulations.

The driver will also never stop his bus for people who are late and waving with their hands like crazy. Even when someone wants to enter at a red traffic light, the driver will not allow that, partly because "it's against the rules", but mostly because he doesn't want to risk anything.

6. Late and doesn't care

The opposite of #5 is this type of vehicle maneuverist (just trying to come up with another word for bus driver).

Do you know what it's like when your bus is definitly much too late and you're confronting the driver with this fact? If you do, then you know what the responses can be. Sometimes it's just shrugging, other times it's explainations like "tomorrow it's going to be the summer holidays anyway". Well, how does that help you when you have to go to work/school TODAY???

7. Losing his way

Despite driving around all day in a circle like a race driver, just much slower, some drivers actually manage to totally drive the wrong way. I've been in situations when it took passengers (!) to inform the bus driver that he was going the wrong way.

Sometimes the vehicle maneuverist is just too inexperienced, other times he is just a little asleep. But there is an even worse and more common way of being asleep.

8. Sleepyhead

When you want a bus door to open, you have to apply some sort of rocket science. First, you have to press the stop button anywhere inside the bus. Then, before the bus comes to a halt, you must press the corresponding "stop / open door" button at the door of your choice. Then, when the bus stopped, you must press that button repeatedly and rapidly until the bus driver opens the door. Yes, this is how I learned it.

There are bus drivers, however, who can't even master simple tasks like opening doors for passengers.

Either they won't even stop at the bus stop because they were daydreaming, or they will stop but not open the door you're trying to use as an exit. Then you have to shout all across the aisle for the driver to notice - in time - that you want to leave.

I have a lot of respect for people in difficult jobs, like surgeons, astronauts and engineers. But being a bus driver can't be so difficult, right? Drive without accidents, stop at the bus stop, open doors, and repeat. But still, it's a task many drivers are not able to handle.

9. Corruptible

This kind of bus driver makes his choices based on the people he meets. He can be an asshole around old an ugly people, and he will be extremely kind towards other people.

Some bus drivers I know even let young female students ride on the bus without a ticket when they say they "forgot" that ticket or some kind of bad shit happened to them, whatever it may be.

But don't think these drivers will do anything for anyone. They need a needy smile from an attractive person in order to give in. The same kind of behaviour applies to situations when

  • Someone is late at the bus stop
  • Someone wants to enter at a red traffic light (not a bus stop)
  • Someone wants to leave the bus though they just entered at the same bus stop (yeah, just go with it)

And other stituations. What it comes down to: the driver will only act like a nice person if the passenger is smoking hot or very sweet.

10. The Entertainer

Some bus drivers were actually born to be entertainers, but their lack of talent and qualification brought them to the public transport scene.

These bus drivers are very relaxed and agree to weird things like young pupils asking the driver to play pop music on the bus.

Most of the time though, the bus driver will make speeches via microphone in which he pathetically says goodbye to everyone leaving the bus (after only a short trip). He will also talk about his life, his career, his company and how they are getting better, or why he had to honk and that he's sorry about that, and how much he wishes you will come back again some day. That kind of stuff. It's a little over the top, but at least it's a nice guy.

11. The Math Genius

It's okay not to be good at certain things, like talking, calculating or other things. I mean, you're just supposed to drive the damn bus and that's it. However, most jobs nowadays ask for a variety of skills, and for bus drivers, basic math is one of them.

The math genius has an interesting way of coping with the lack of skill. He solves the problem by just shoving all the coins you give him into the cash box. Then, when all the coins are inside and indistinguishable from the rest, he will tell you that you've paid him 50 cents less than needed. Well, you have been waiting at the bus stop for 10 minutes, counting coins for so long that you know exactly you had all the money with you. But the math genius is in charge and he will not hit the pedal until you give him more money.

My piece of advice: Count the money for him aloud. Maybe then he'll just go with it next time.

12. The Exotic One

Every bus company has at least one driver who looks different from all the other drivers. In Germany, a black driver is unusual, although he will of course be treated like everyone else. Then again, probably less than 1 per cent of the population is black, so it's strange that the one black person you see happens to be a bus driver, not just a pedestrian you come across by accident.

Even women are exotic in this kind of business. While it's perfectly normal to come across black people or, god forbid, a woman on the streets, seeing a woman behind a steering wheel on a bus is so strange that it's weird. I mean, it's always this "ohh... didn't see this coming" kind of reaction. That's like seeing a car and then saying "oh... a car... wow!". Just weird.

13. The Creepy Friendly Guy

In Germany, whether it's on the bus or in groceries, for example, you're used to very bad service. Everyone is unfriendly most of the time, so when you meet someone who is not just friendly, but extremely friendly, it gets creepy.

Germans are so not used to friendly service people that it freaks them out. Suddenly there is this bus driver who says "good morning" not just in a muffled voice, but very clearly. It makes you wonder whether there might be something sarcastic in the voice, but then you realise he is sincere about it. It's so surprising that you might walk past the driver without giving a response, because your brain was too busy processing all the information.

When a bus driver is this friendly, it's kind of creepy, simply because you're not used to that kind of service standard. And you're even wondering why he is so friendly... did someone force him to be friendly? Isn't it weird that we have to think that way, just because we're used to bad service?

14. The Idiot

Being an asshole is one thing, but being an idiot is yet another thing. The idiotic bus driver is famous for one thing: Driving like an idiot. Not especially fast, not especially slow, but always in a way that makes you call him a bloody idiot.

Idiots drive like this: They accelerate until old people who just entered the bus fall to their (near) deaths. On other occassions, you see that a traffic light has turned from green to red. Five seconds later, the bus driver reacts with a braking maneuver that is so abrupt that your brain wants to escape your skull. It takes a lot of physical strength to actually stay in one piece when such a driver is at the wheel. Especially when you're not sitting but standing!

These guys never learned to drive. It's sad but true. Who ever said you need a real driver's licence in order to drive a bus? Ah... fuck that shit.