Standing at the Bus Stop.

Many years ago when I was living and working in Montreal, I stepped into an alternate stream of time. As I always did on Monday mornings, I woke up with the alarm I had set on the previous evening, got up, showered, dressed for work, grabbed a bite, and then walked to Saint Catherine’s Boulevard, a major thoroughfare that runs across the island. I turned left and walked to the bus stop, then waited in front of a store for the bus to take me downtown to my place of work.
There was less traffic than usual for a Monday morning, the store was closed, and after about five minutes, I was still the only person waiting for the bus.
Had there been a time change? Was it a holiday? But I couldn’t think of anything to account for the otherworldly quiet of that Monday morning. Perhaps I was still in bed dreaming? That seemed conceivable, since the world did feel very strange.
As my mind searched for an explanation, a woman joined me at the bus stop.
Eventually a city bus came into view and a few minutes later it pulled up to our stop. I was about to turn to the lady beside me and remark, conversationally, how quiet it was when in a sudden flash time reset and ‘reality’ rebooted.
The temporal sequence, in which I had been carried along since the previous evening, abruptly dissolved and in an instant it was no longer Monday. It was Sunday.
I had stepped into a ‘wrong’ stream of time and got trapped there. The misstep had occurred when I had set my alarm the night before, in the belief that it was Sunday night. Ever since that moment I had been carried along in a fictitious temporal branch– asleep, waking, and leaving for work—while all contrary evidence had stood powerlessly at the edge of that stream. When I did break free, it was not through a correction applied by any surrounding ‘reality’. It was because a memory of setting the alarm returned, this time linked with other memories that anchored the earlier moment on Saturday night.
I think I shook my head and felt a little less confident in a mind that was capable of being so out of it. But I also glimpsed something else: the unquestioned authenticity that I assign to my usual experience.
In my belated recognition that I had been living my life a day later than my surroundings, and that those surroundings had been unable to correct the wrong course I had set out on, I glimpsed something about how I usually live. Like the emperor who was discovered in the middle of his regal parade to be naked, ‘linear, sequential time”, was—for a moment–stripped of its claim to be ‘real’. I saw that the way I usually live is actually rooted in projected expectations, drawn from past experience, and that no matter how discordant the evidence is, a fierce momentum continues to roll along the tracks.
One could even suspect that present experience is a projection produced from a familiar past and that some reflective screen provides a surface for the projection to manifest: the ringing of an alarm clock, the turning of shower taps, the stream of water, a bus pulling up at its stop.
So what is the problem? One important one is that the screen on which past-centered expectations are projected is actually the future. And instead of looking through a window into time and seeing the infinite possibilities of an unknown future peering back at us, we see images of what has already happened playing as if they are the dance of a living present. Transfixed by convincing–but all too familiar– dramas, we are like prisoners watching themselves in a mirror. If we looked a little more closely we might see something on the other side: trees, birds, a full Moon rising over the mountains.

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