The chaos on the bus this week has been multiplied by April snow and the constant, stubborn 40-something temperatures. People are restless and cranky, and I place myself squarely there as well.

To cheer themselves up, people have been especially vocal about Kiva this week. I usually sit in the front of the bus, since it provides the quickest entrance and exit, so everyone who gets on the bus walks past me on the way to their seats. When Kiva is laying down, sometimes people miss her. On certain buses, I can tuck her snuggly under the seat between my feet, so no one can step on her but she can still stare at their shoes if she’s so inclined. This week, though, with the winter-dirty bus floors, I’ve been keeping her sitting up by my side, within view of the masses. Here is what the menagerie has sounded like on a typical day this week:
“Nice-looking dog.”
“Boy or girl?”
“What’s your dog’s name? Eva? Oh, Sheeva? That’s a nice name, Sheva, you’re just so cute aren’t you?”
“I think your dog wants to lay down. She looks tired.”
“Your dog looks sad.”
“How old is your dog? … She’s too small to be a full-grown lab, she must be a mix. … Well I used to train dogs so I know these things.”
“Your dog is shivering, is she scared? Oh, is she cold? She shouldn’t be out in this wind… I’m sorry, I just love animals so much and I can’t help wanting to protect them. It’s just my nature.”
And then, the comments that don’t even make it to me, that are merely directed at Kiva:

“Oh, you’re such a pretty dog!”
“I wish I could pet you, but I can’t I guess …”
“You take care of your Mommy, ok?”
I have no idea how to respond to these comments that are not actually directed at me, so I usually don’t respond. I can’t figure out if it’s more awkward to draw attention to myself or pretend like I can’t hear them talking to kiva. It’s an extremely strange phenomenon.

A few days ago I was travling downtown in a wet, one-third rain, one-third sleet, one-third snow storm. My hair was all over the place, straggly and wet, I’d spilled a generous amount of coffee down my jacket (but hey, at least it was warm for about 30 seconds), and in reality I probably looked pretty frazzled and Madam Crabbypants-y. (Trust me, this undoubtedly stunning image will come back into play in just a few minutes.)

I was near my stop, and a couple were standing in front of me, waiting to get off the bus. I, in turn, was sitting, because standing on a bus for me results in falling on a bus.

The man and woman in front of me started asking the same old Kiva questions. I answered them, politely (hopefully), but with not added explanation or opening to continue the conversation.

“You look so pretty in purple,” the woman said, right out of the blue, while her companion continued to call Kiva by name and make cutesie faces at her.

“Oh, thank you,” I said back.

“It’s very nice,” she continued, “you’re a very pretty woman.”

I tried not to giggle, as I always do when someone referes to me as a “woman.” Will that ever feel right to me? I wondered, but then realized that before I could allow my mind to go meandering on a philosophical scavenger hunt as to why words like “woman” and “lady” make me feel terribly uncomfortable when they’re applied to me, I realized there was a gaping silence wherin I was supposed to respond to her compliments.

“Thank you,” I said again, and either because or in spite of the awkwardness I felt I added, “that’s nice of you. Everyone’s always talking to me about my dog, and how pretty she is, I mean, she is pretty but… you know… I appreciate your saying that I am.”

“Yeah, I could tell, that’s why I said it,” she replied.

Intuitive though she was, that last statement seemed rather TOO honest. Then her companion apologized and we all awkwardly said good-bye.

I relate that story only to tell you this one: this morning I got on the bus, sat down, and realized that Kiva kept turning her head to look back behind her. I could not get her focus, which usually means there is something particularly fascinating in her view. I realized what it was when people started exiting the bus, and I suddenly felt the nose of another dog against my palm, trying to get to Kiva. Kiva, in turn, strained her head to greet her long-lost friend, and for one split second, even before I informed the other blind person with a service dog that I had one too and that was why hers was pulling her towards me, I… wanted… to… pet… him. She said his name, Logan, and it was all I could do to not reach out my hand and scratch the fuzzy chin under that wandering little nose, to touch the soft ears and ask all the same over-and-over questions I get asked, “How long have you had him? Does he like playing tug? Can he read traffic lights?” Ha, just kidding, not that last one!

But, even though I had my own dog at my feet, I wanted to make friends with the other one. I didn’t, which is the only thing I did right in either of these stories. I restrained myself. I knew better. But I wanted to, and that realization taught me a little bit about humility, and made me resolve to treat strangers with a little more grace.

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