The boy on the bus
The boy sitting at the back of the bus was maybe 10 or 12 years old. Dark haired and dark eyed, he leaned against the foggy window, hunkered down in the last seat to the right. His hoodie covered most of his face and music filtered from his mobile serenading those of us who also sat in the rear. He wasn’t wearing headphones.
It was some mix of Latino music that filled the bus with a happy beat, but as new passengers entered each, in turn, looked back at the boy. Glaring looks from passengers already seated were also directed toward the kid – it was rude to be playing music out loud. It was rude to be agitating other people with something so personal as one’s own musical selections. No one in Sweden does this.
It’s a cultural thing that maybe the boy didn’t understand. Or maybe he didn’t care. Six or seven stops later, his music still filled the rear of bus.
I understand this. And for a time, I too was a bit taken aback and I too turned to look at the boy. Not because his music was bad, or because he was playing it without headphones, but because it was something I hadn’t experienced in over four years. This is Sweden. This is a place where you don’t dare make eye contact on the street let alone assault someone with your own special brand of music.
As I sat listening to the tunes, it reminded me of days spent in New York City, Boston, New Haven, and New Orleans where music of many cultures drifted out on to the streets and filled the buses and subways. Springtime was especially alive with music and laughter in these cities. The music and people are what, in my opinion, gives a city its life. And I rather miss those sounds from all the different cultures mixing melodies and voices together.
But here in Gothenburg, a civilized silence prevails … don’t let the baby cry, don’t let the children be too loud, and don’t play your music without headphones. This is a beautiful thing. It’s quiet. It’s nice … and one can get lost in their thoughts without interruption. Music filling the streets and subways of New York City is also a beautiful thing. It’s not wrong. Or right. The two are just different.
Writer/photographer Lisa Mikulski. Available for print or online publications and business in the Nordic region, Europe, and the US. Editorial, features, and creative.