At 8 o’clock this morning I sat bleary eyed in the waiting room for the InterCity bus station in Auckland. I’d left at ten to seven to catch two buses in and I was sipping on a mocha frappachino in an attempt to wake myself with caffeine. It wasn’t working in the slightest. My massive headphones were on and a McFly selection was playing. A lady with long blonde hair walked into the room and started chatting and laughing with the ladies behind the desk. They started comparing hairstyles and I closed my eyes and listened to the music.
Waiting by the bus to load on the backpack I watched the other passengers, trying to work out who was due to be travelling and who was there to see them off. I guessed correctly for the most part – there’s a weary resignation for those due on a 5 and a half hour bus trip. There were some wry smiles and sniggers as our driver came up to open up the bus – it was the same blonde lady from the waiting room.
She put the bags in the hold, checked our names and destinations off her list and we boarded the bus.
After leaving Auckland the driver introduced herself as Rachael and explained the rules of the bus and that she would be giving us an occasional commentary as we drove along. She told us that she wanted to clear up the misconception that many people have about bus drivers being moody and miserable. It’s more a case of being efficient and assertive, because there are working time regulations that they have to follow and being prompt is an important part of that. She said that she’s a little different but no-one in the world is the same, even identical twins are different so it’s actually normal to be different.
I put my headphones back on for a while and watched the undulating hills of the countryside roll past us. But each time I heard the microphone pipe up I took them off to listen. Racheal told us about some of the areas we were driving through –the origins of the river to the right of us, why the roads go over the hills instead of through the flatter valleys, stories of the Maori-European conflicts, trips she’d taken in light aircraft with agricultural pilots when she was younger, camping trips with her daughter’s school, waking in the night to find a kiwi pecking along her back, looking into buying a business and ending up drinking for the evening with an assortment of drag queens. She told us that she’s written 7 ebooks, 6 about her journey and one that is ficticious based on her events. She said that she gets people coming up to her after their journeys and tell her that they think she is brave and courageous but her response is how brave and courageous is it to be yourself? She has had to make many sacrifices but she is who she is.
Because Rachael is transgender and is aware of the looks, the smiles, the half hidden giggles. She does not hide the fact that she is different and that people make preconceptions and misconceptions about her. But she is interested in helping understanding.
And she has helped me to understand. If she hadn’t been giving us a commentary I wouldn’t have known why 8 mile junction is called 8 mile junction, why there are two giant metal kiwis situated at the opposite ends of a town, that one of the townships we were passing through was home to an All Black from the 1965 era and Mr Fagan, 15 time new Zealand shearing champion, 6 time world champion and holder of 6 other championships for group shearing. Without her input I would have spent my entire journey dozing in and out of sleep, reading a book, listening to music, letting the landscape pass me by. I might not remember all the details but I’ve got some things I can look up and find out more about now. Because of Dad and some of my jobs, I’m aware of issues surrounding transgendered people and now hopefully some of the other passengers are too.