When is a streetcar ride not just a streetcar ride? When Ella arranges it. The ride started okay, block-by-block nothing except watching out the window and wondering what Ella had in mind. I figured the ride was the way to get to the different. Instead it was where the different was going to take place. Ella leaned over the back of the seat in front of me, looked me in the eyes and asked: “Are you happy?” I mumbled something like ‘sure’ and then she asked, much, much louder. “Well, are you happy?” she repeated impatiently.
I thought about it for a moment, thinking this was a serious question. It had really been a pretty amazing summer, so I answered: “Yeah. Yeah, I am. I’m happy”. Then, she said, “Then you really ought to show it.”
My brain suddenly connected the dots. My heart jumped into my throat. OMG! Memories of my childhood came flooding back. Singing songs in Kindergarten, Grade 1 and 2, birthdays with clowns and party games and sitting around the campfire with Mom and Dad singing songs into the night.
That’s when Ella told me the different. I was to break into song on a streetcar filled with strangers, in the middle of the summer with the windows wide open. Ella reminded me that I’d already sung in public at the karaoke club and then she dared me.
I looked sheepishly around the streetcar. We were about half way downtown, less than two minutes until we got to the end of the line. It was now or never. I started singing—not too loud but loud enough for the people right around me to hear. People looked around, wondering where the singing was coming from. Ella and I clapped our hands the right spot. As I kept singing, repeating the verse, the man across the aisle and his daughter—who was about 5—clapped with us. Then she started singing along. Ella joined in. Two children and their mother starting singing and then there was a deep baritone voice as I realized that the driver had joined in and was singing through his microphone.
One by one more voices joined until it seemed like everybody had joined in. People who had looked bored, or angry, suddenly seemed happy. All around us there were cameras being pulled out and pictures taken. Finally, the streetcar came to a stop and everybody cheered. What a wonderful different. And really, I was happy.
Two blocks remained until our stop. There was no quitting now. As the bus carried us through the next two intersections, people on the street stopped to stare as a bus full of strangers sang out loud and laughed together…
“If you’re happy and you know it, shout hurray”.
As the streetcar pulled up to our stop and strangers yelled “Hurray”, Ella and I jumped out into the oppressive heat of the summer and started our day, with smiles etched in our faces.