Sunday, July 13, 2008
He Used to be a Shy Boy - Bus Stop Story 1
I was walking the pugs along one of our usual neighborhood routes in the early morning, last week. Three young black women were chitchatting energetically at a bus stop across the street. They are usually there on weekday mornings before 7:00 am. They look young enough to be high school students. The three of them had taken up the larger of the two benches.
On the smaller bench that morning were two young white guys, also in conversation with each other. Standing in the middle of the two benches was a quiet Filipino teen. Neither group was including him in conversation, nor was he attempting to make small talk with them while waiting for the bus. The mere fact that he was standing up only seemed to reinforce his social isolation, as did his stoic expression and silence.
The sight of him and his position in this tableau brought me back to my former identity as a painfully shy and insecure adolescent. I remember waiting for the school bus for what must have been only a few minutes, trumpet case at my side, but it seemed tortuously long as I huddled inside myself among the bubbly conversations around me.
I was lucky. Those few minutes were bearable because I only had to wait until I walked into my first morning band class, whether it was Jazz Ensemble, Marching Band, or Concert Band. Then I could click on and relax into my Outgoing Band Geek self.
I wondered: Does the Filipino boy also relax and open up, once he arrives at his destination? I have always been amazed at the different people we can be, depending on who else is around us, and what activity we're engaged in, etc.
I still think about a Japanese American girl in the first grade, how shy and quiet she was in the classroom, and how her forehead would scrunch up when called upon by our teacher, Mrs. Fukushima. My classmate became a completely different person when walking home from school with friends and siblings - talkative, laughing, and with her brow completely smooth and relaxed.
Maybe this is part of what it means to be an Asian American kid, that you have these Jekyll and Hyde levels of shyness and friendliness. Maybe that doesn't apply to all Asian American kids, and I know it is not exclusive to certain ethnic groups. But it's a shame that society can still be so "ethnically isolated" today, just as much as some of us felt it was twenty or thirty years ago.
I am not worried about that young Filipino man, though. It looks as if he is able to stand on his own, both literally and metaphorically, and that will serve him well whether or not he becomes more socially at ease as he gets older.