The bubble bus

Leaving for work one morning, I emerged from my apartment into a day so dour and unpromising I was tempted to retreat. The sky was the color of an old mop, and the air smelled like one. Feeling muffled and humorless, I trudged along the sidewalk.

As I neared my bus stop, the day was abruptly transformed - by a stream of giant bubbles!

They danced across the street ahead of me like children let out of school, in a gay, wild, giddy, swirling rush. They bounced and twirled and pliantly flexed around bumps in their path. Astonishingly, they never popped. Reflected in their gleaming curves, the gray of the morning gained a rainbow luster.

The bubbles streamed on unceasingly. I'd been standing transfixed, gaping with delight. Suddenly I was filled with an urgent desire to find their source and join them in their fluid romp. The dull and heavy feeling had gone. I ran exuberantly up the street toward the bubbles.

Their origin turned out to be as remarkable as their street dance. They were brimming out the open window of a rumbling red bus. My bus! Momentarily wondering if the bus company had come up with a new means of attracting riders, I clambered aboard.

After I found a seat, I looked around, eager to discover the bubble maker. He was across the aisle, a nondescript, innocuous-looking man. Blowing gently across the mouth of a yellow bottle of dishwashing liquid, appropriately labeled Joy, he was releasing the bubbles to the morning air. I was enchanted. He was the sort of person who blends into the environment, unmemorable in appearance and demeanor. As the creator of magic bubbles, he made the environment itself memorable.

The bubbles accompanied us to work. Sometimes they raced ahead of us, especially when we stopped to pick up passengers. Usually they fanned out behind , creating a billowing wake as our bus cleaved the air.

Most people affected ignorance of the whole phenomenon. Some glanced furtively at the bubble man, tittering uneasily or smirking. No one responded visibly with the bursting delight he evoked in me except one small child, who rode with his nose squashed against the window all the way downtown, not missing a bubble.

It didn't seem to matter to the bubble man. He appeared oblivious to all of us, intent on liberating bubbles. And yet I hope there were others who rejoiced wide-eyed as the bubble bus jauntily passed.

I blithely hopped off at my stop and watched until the bus lumbered out of sight, trailing its radiant froth of bubbles through the surge and press of morning rush hour.

The clouds now reminded me of gull wings, dolphin backs, Siamese cat fur - all luminous curves - a skyful of sleek, appealing creatures. I must confess that the air still smelled like old mop. My nose is more prosaic than my eyes are. Feeling as buoyant as the bubbles, I wafted along to work.

I was a little dazzled all day. The dingy gray walls of my office seemed faintly iridescent. Everything was fresh to me. I imagined bubbles spouting from the photocopier, candy machine, executive office, reference files. I exhibited a tendency to bubble myself when anyone asked me a question. People I'd thought of as rather bland and dusty revealed new facets of themselves. Meetings and memos, people and plans, tasks and telephones, gained new charm. My co-workers and I kept breaking up with laughter, and yet work streamed through our fingers.

One result of the day was the stimulation of thoughts on what I call urban transformation. No day, no person, no place, need ever be dull. The clamor and clash of urban settings tend to cause us to shield and filter our perceptions so thoroughly that only details relevant to the everyday routine get through. The richness and abundant surprises of the city are lost as we mummify ourselves in the mundane.

Yet a grin from a baby, an overheard remark, a flower in a sidewalk crack, bubbles - anything may awaken us to see things freshly and deeply, to discover the full potential of each moment.

Our perceptual transformation is reflected in our experience. With a simple willingness to be enchanted and surprised, even the mundane can take on luster.

If we resist submergence in dailiness, we can (metaphorically or literally) blow bubbles for others as well, to open and stretch their perceptions. Our mind , heart, and vision are our bubble bottle. With the breath of inspiration and amusement and affection, we can waft shining bubbles of delight across others' paths.

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