The Herd Mentality (Part 2) | To Never Judge a Book by Its Cover

I walked to the back of the Greyhound bus that would eventually take me from Baltimore to Philadelphia. This was last week, on Friday afternoon. Over the years — and especially since I’ve been in the United States — taking the bus has definitely become my principal mode of transportation. I even consider taking the Greyhound bus as symbolizing moments of change, of novelty in my life.

Weirdly enough, by virtue of having taken them so many times, I’ve developed a series of weird habits, rituals and tactics on these long bus rides. They serve primarily to facilitate them — and even make them enjoyable at times. For instance, if ever I feel the need to occupy two seats for myself, I place my largest bag or piece of luggage on the seat right next to mine, and pretend to sleep. I swear — it works ninety percent of the time. Another tactic has been to pretend I don’t speak English. I only usually reserve that tactic for special circumstances — say, when I have a fourteen-hour ride ahead of me, and I know I’ll need to sleep at some point. People usually give up trying to ask whether they can sit beside me, if they think we don’t speak the same language.

This time, however, the bus to Philly was completely full. I had actually found what seemed to be an empty row. But a very young boy was spread out across the seats, sleeping soundly. Naturally, I didn’t want to wake him up. Some parents are frightening when they feel their kids are being threatened.

The boy’s father was sitting in the front row of the bus. It was fairly weird to me — I expected for kids to be watched upon by their parents during long bus rides. I was probably wrong. Once the father picked up his child from the seat, after waking him up somewhat forcefully, I sat down. Finally.

That’s how my trip to Philadelphia all started — back on the Greyhound bus, back with myself and my thoughts, back right where I left off. And it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Philadelphia was first introduced to me by my brother. He’d spent his freshman year in college there, before transferring out. He was barely twenty years old and living in West Philadelphia. A place that can easily be compared to East Baltimore or some sections of South Chicago. Perhaps not as bad. But certainly close.

Another memory I’ll never forget was when my brother and I had gone to see Jedi Mind Tricks live on stage alongside the Army of the Pharaohs crew. I had a cheesesteak right before the concert to make the evening even more special. It wasn’t as good as I expected, but, hey, we’d made the trek down from Montreal to see the concert. Who was I to complain?

Five years later, there I was. Sitting next to around fifty other people who have their own lives, their own paths, their own quirks, and their own dreams. At that point in time, no difference separated anyone of us. We were all merely there, attempting to find experiences that correspond with longer-termed objectives. Being happy. Having a dog. Exercising often. Eating and cooking well. Whatever it may be.

Commonness, after all, is a medium of unity. Personally, it motivates me to not speak too loudly on the phone during those long, strenuous bus rides. It pushes me to act responsibly when someone is having a seizure on their seat. (That happened not too long ago and, needless to say, it was pretty scary.) It forces me to share elbow space with the person beside me, if I was forced to occupy only one seat, of course.

To not judge a book by its cover is an exercise in patience, trust, and respect. It’s to avoid being obnoxious and dislikable at all cost, without ever compromising firmly held principles and beliefs. It’s to never jump the gun, because fostering premature judgments will never be productive. Only harmful.

If you would’ve jumped the gun on me, judged me for who I may seem or look like, perhaps we wouldn’t be in contact today. And that thought is heartwrenching. So here is to a new chapter, a new playing field, and never forgetting the steps we’ve taken to get here.

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