My friend Jason and I, since he has become a student at the Baptist Theological College with me, catch the Gautrain together often. This has become a regular part of our lives and I guess the ‘novelty’ has worn off and it is now just our regular mode of transport.  It’s a time for occasional work catch up, reading and more often than not, chat time. Our trip back to Pretoria, particularly, usually comes with its share of stories and laughs from the days lectures and retelling of events (if you know me well, you’ve already read into that statement and understand it better than others would).

Yesterday was a day like any other.  We left College, waited a few minutes at the bus stop, then boarded the bus which makes its way to Sandton station. As always, the lunch time bus was virtually empty with only two other passengers. As always, we chose seats facing each other and chatted about a few things. There was the occasional laugh, the occasional silent moment and a fair amount of chatter. Enter “miserable old lady”.

While mid-sentence (literally) M.O.L interrupted us, reprimanding us quite angrily for speaking on the bus.  “The rules say you’re not allowed to and I don’t want to hear your conversation” she says.  Now, let me confess at this point: I’m bad in these situations. I’m quick with words, and could very easily turn this into a nasty situation. However, I took a breathe and said “Are you having a bad day, mam?”. “Yes, I am” she said. “I’m sorry to hear that” I said.

That was all. We didn’t speak again on that bus journey. Yes, we joked a little about it on the train on the way back to Pretoria, but for all intents and purposes, M.O.L got her way.

Here’s why this event is making it onto my space on the world wide web: I have no doubt that Jace and my talking on the bus had very little impact on her.  We were not the issue. We simply were at the right place, at the right time and became a good target of her frustration.  By her own admission, she was having a bad day, and clearly needed to take that out on someone. Somewhere, deep down in her psyche (I hope it was deep down and not a conscious decision) she decided: “I’ll just take it out on you”.

Which brings me here.  How do YOU vent? In most cases, outbursts like this, ones that make little sense in the context of the event, come as a result of our consistent suppressing of the things that concern us.  Rarely do we vent without a buildup that gets us to a place where we, like M.O.L, can no longer take it and freak out at some people having a conversation on a bus.

I’m not qualified to answer this question. I have experience alone to go by, and experience tells me that communication is key.  Many factors have stood in the way of true, honest, helpful communication. Pride says “I can’t be honest about what’s going on, or how I feel, because I’ll be judged/mocked/ignored”.  Insecurity says “If I talk about what’s going on, I’ll lose a friend/other significant relationship”. Scepticism says “what will it help communicating about this? It won’t solve anything anyway”. Arrogance says “If I speak about my issues, they will attempt to give me advice, and there’s nothing they can teach me about this”.  And the list goes on. And on. And on.

I experienced the opposite yesterday. A friend communicated. Shared. Spoke. Vented in a safe space before the issue could become bottled up and end up in a ‘freak out’ on a bus in Sandton.

This is healthy.

So if this is a struggle for you – if you don’t communicate, don’t speak about things as they happen or as soon as you ought to, if you don’t allow others in to be part of your journey – here’s my plea: Start. That way, friends on a bus get to finish their conversation.

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