The Key

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In January this year, I made a few new friends at the bus stop in Perth City, where I catch the No.27 bus to the Dogs’ Refuge Home. We’d been taking the same bus for months and months, without ever speaking to each other. Until the day after Australia Day, when my train did not stop at its usual stop, because someone had been murdered there just a few hours earlier, after the celebrations the night before.

After waiting over 30 minutes for the bus to turn up, and watching the snarling, tangled veins of traffic moving past at a snail’s pace, I decided to take the train to Shenton Park instead, and then walk the rest of the way. 2 of the other bus stop regulars, Ida and Marie, decided to follow me to the railway station, and we became friends along the way.

Noeleen noticed us chatting on the bus on subsequent mornings, and decided to join us one day. So we became a sort of gang of four. The No.27 Bus Ladies.

Prior to this, I’d been quite happy keeping to myself and reading my books on canine psychology on the train and bus, getting some studying under my belt. Now my mornings are filled with general chit chat and talk of relationships. I do like the girls, but sometimes I just feel like doing my own thing…

Noeleen is the most outspoken one in the group. She shoots from the hip, and often tells me to “Get with the prog”…the other day she ribbed me for not knowing who the “Postcard Bandit” was. I could’ve been just as catty and asked her if she knew what a Weimaraner or Berger Picard was. But I held my tongue and let it slide.

It’s hard, though. Especially when it keeps happening. Ida and Noeleen live in a different world from me. Marie is quieter and more down to earth. But sometimes they can be talking about stuff that just doesn’t interest me, like relationships, celebrities, sports or the news. I just keep quiet when that happens.

To each his own, and let’s keep it that way. There’s no need to poke fun at someone’s purported ignorance, as it may just be that the person has other interests.

There’s also no need for everyone to be the same and fit into the same mould. I broke out of my mould ages ago, and have no intention of going back in. I happened to mention to Noeleen that Ida lives in a different stratosphere than me, she earns much more, her job is a higher profile, her tastes are more refined, she attracts a different type of man. I hadn’t even finished speaking when Noeleen said “You shouldn’t be jealous of Ida. You shouldn’t let that get in the way of our friendship with her. We are all the same. We are all at an equal level”.

Ah, but Noeleen…we are NOT all the same. And I was only voicing my observation, nothing more. I’m not jealous of Ida, Marie or Noeleen. I’m actually very happy in myself and what I do. I’m not in my line of work for the money, but for the dogs. I don’t wear makeup, for one, because I don’t like the idea of it and because I don’t want to poison the dogs who lick my face. I actually like being covered in dog slobber and going home with dog hairs all over my clothes. I probably smell of dog to the other commuters on the bus and train. Certainly Noeleen and Ida have wrinkled up their dainty noses at the smell of the doggy treats in my pockets that I sometimes go home with.

Just the other day at the bus stop, Ida said there was a smell of dog poo, and both she and Noeleen immediately looked towards me. Noeleen even suggested that I checked my trainers. I’d picked up some chewing gum from the pavement the day before, and I showed them where some bits were still stuck to my shoe, but they laughed and said it couldn’t have been chewing gum, it must be dog poo. I felt like sitting elsewhere on the bus, not with them. Again, I let that slide.

But I’m starting to appreciate the Me time I had in the past, when there was peace and quiet on the bus. I’m doing my best not to take things personally, but incessant and pointless chatter, and the occasional ribbing aren’t that easy to shut out.

I find this situation somewhat similar to what happens to the dogs at the Refuge. When they first arrive, they’re cautious, timid, hesitant. Later, when they’re accustomed to their surroundings and the people involved in their lives, they begin to show their characters a bit more. After that, the dynamics may fluctuate, with highs and lows, while they test their boundaries and limits, and define relationships. That’s when their true character starts to show. And that’s where friendships can start to fray.

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