It was more than 20 minutes since the bus had moved an inch. Friday evenings were always bad and today was no different. It had been a hot afternoon and the inside of the (filled) bus was warmer than outside. He was in a habit of coming and leaving early on Fridays. But today, he was in the evening bus though he was early in office. Everyone in the bus; his colleagues and coworkers appeared to be in their own world. A few were chatting while the majority were engrossed in the evening newspaper or had their ear phones with FM radio on. A few were motionless and gazing outside the window and he was one among them.
A tiny drop of sweat rolled down his forehead and slowly disappeared in his eyebrows. He was deep in thought and continued gazing outside the window. He showed no intent to wipe his moist forehead. Every now and then he would unlock his cell phone and check if he had missed a call or a message.
Things had been rather bad in his company in the earlier two quarters. Profits were shrinking and new work orders were becoming far and few. Like most other businesses his company was also cutting costs and most measures seemed trivial except for a few which had drawn criticism from the employees. None of the exercises had really made an impact. Then, there were rumors of layoffs and the most wide spread among them was that the layoffs were happening only on Friday evenings. The chosen employees were called and were asked never to return. Though he had never himself come across anybody who was sent home, a Friday evening telephone meeting request from his manager had been enough to send shivers down his spine.
The sudden flashing lights of the ambulance, struck in the traffic next to his bus, shook him alert. The siren of the ambulance was not on but the flashing lights had been turned on. “Poor guy”, he said to himself, as he looked at the ambulance, even though he could not see anyone inside. His thoughts had changed direction and he was now thinking about the unseen patient inside the ambulance. He tried to look around to check if there was a way the ambulance could be steered into the opposite lane; but all the lanes were jammed. “Really unfortunate”, he said to himself as he slid back in his seat closing his eyes.
The sounds in the bus suddenly seemed incoherent. He could see people around confused. They were all saying something. He looked around and was in a totally different place. It was dark everywhere except for some flashing lights next to him. He could feel the pull at his shirt and looked down to see his manager struggling on the floor. He wasn’t sure what had happened but could see people trying to lift his manager towards the flashing lights. There were too many people around……….
A vigorous shake suddenly shook him awake. It was actually his cell phone vibrating with an incoming message. He unlocked his cell phone to read the message. It was a message from his manager. The message read “Meeting has been postponed to Tuesday morning. Happy weekend!”. He looked around and could see that his bus was in the same place where it was when he dozed off. The flashing lights of the ambulance showed the smile on his face; A smile, first time since afternoon.
~ Narendra V Joshi