Thank you, driver

Lisa Scott
Lisa Scott
I’m getting used to the morning commute, but I will say the old bed-to-dining-table-in-Uggs route did have a certain ease and simplicity. Now people expect to see you in real life. They want to talk to you and look you in your face when they do it. You had better be looking normal.

Back when we stayed at home, I tended to get straight into the working day the same way I did running when I ran: straight out of bed the moment I gain consciousness, tie on sneakers and go - you don’t even notice you’re running until you wake up 20 minutes down the road with sore boobs. Just so, I often didn’t notice I was still in my dressing gown, unshowered, until at least 10am and two Teams meetings in.

Now that I am being big city functional, the whole get up, dress proper, relocate to your place of employment schtick is proving a stick in my spokes. Also, I’ve gotten used to talking to Ertha Kitten the ceramic panther, and the stuff I say to her could be misconstrued if overheard by new colleagues.

Scared I’ll sleep in and look unprofessional, I wake at 4am, dress and put makeup on in the dark, drink a pot of coffee, don Red Bands and pick my way down the section carrying my work shoes, using my phone as a torch. I had demonic red eyes all last week, not by reason of tiredness but because there was a hole in my flue, which is ironic when your job involves communicating about air pollution.

Suffering mild carbon monoxide poisoning, clothes reeking of smoke, I parked at Port Chalmers and caught the bus for the first time in years. The bus driver wore boots with leopard print trim, like a foxy Sandra Bullock. I was dressed in a summer frock and sporting the badly drawn eyebrows of a blind grandmother. The driver sold me a Bee card so I can now catch the bus from anywhere for only a dollar. A dollar! I’m going to run with this like a dog that’s stolen a shoe.

These mornings, as winter throws her cloak over and I look up (carefully, lest I set off a chain reaction) as I trudge down the soft cold grass to the car, the stars have been shouting for attention. In my travels I see the first light of dawn’s orange fingers tickling the harbour. Matariki will be shining on us soon, fruitful and full of seeds for the future.

I love a bus eyed view. The navigation lights on the harbour: green light starboard, red light portside. We make great time, gently rocked, warm inside the bus, pillars of the new cycleway rising from the water. I pick out all the changes to the cityscape: empty lots, troops in orange vests and tan work boots, lines of traffic cones; buildings gone, new ones rising. I spy on my fellow passengers, as anyone who’s been living in a small town for five years would do. An elderly woman whose thin locks are lacquered into a helmet, scratching through it with a long-nailed finger like someone fishing in a bramble. Teenaged boys in shorts with plate sized knees, Fido Dido hair. A young girl with a mandala tattoo fanning out from the ear above her face mask, hair two tone black and magenta. The Pink Floyd-loving driver plays Wish You Were Here.

Getting off, passengers say, ‘‘Thank you, driver’’ - a commuter courtesy I thought had disappeared but no, people are still lovely.

I walk the rest of the way. On George St the sign banning the Mayor from buying engagement rings has been moved off the pavement into the shop while work progresses. My eye lands on Corinthian capitals, a homeless man in a doorway under a surprisingly clean duvet, the Cargill monument poking up from the pavement like the spire of a Gothic church buried under the Exchange.

I spend the day herding words, until 5pm, when it’s already getting dark again. Back over the hill in the dusk I go, fog threading across Purakaunui road. Work shoes off, gumboots on, I stop halfway up the section to chop wood and carry up an armful as a tui in the flax signs off, making his last boast of the day. I turn the house lights on and they shine out onto the garden where a hedgehog rustles in the hedge, and I know he and I are exactly where we should be right now.

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