The bus stops. Its doors slide open. A loud beep-beep sound fills the air. Like automatons, the five persons sitting on the front seats get up as one person, and move to the back. Simulateously, a metal ramp lowers from the bus door to the ground outside. The driver gets up, and folds the five empty seats back against the wall, making a wide space. Seconds later, a disabled person propels himself inside on his motorized wheelchair. He moves himself to the empty space. The bus-driver, commenting on the nice/nasty weather outside, pulls out three thick heavy red straps, and hooks them onto the wheelchair, so it doesn’t move around too much. The disabled person makes some joke. The driver goes back to his seat, and the bus moves on. The same little scene plays out in reverse when the disabled person wishes to get off. The newcomer tries not stare, but her jaw has hit the bus floor.
For one would never, and I mean NEVER, encounter this kind of simple daily courtesy, this simple humane attention to the physical needs of others by a anyone -let alone by a public servant- in Tehran. It’s not just that the buses are crowded, as the saying goes, like sardines packed in a tin. It’s not just that Tehrani people generally snap and snarl at each other when outside, hurrying as they are to get somewhere and do something else. It’s not just that our public servants have cultivated a reputation for curtness, rudeness, inefficiency, and dare I say it? corruption. It’s just that there is a whole ethical system of humane values written into that small scene in the bus, which is glaringly lacking in daily intercourse in Tehran. That it should be written into the job description of a public servant that he/she has to get up and strap in a wheelchair boggles my mind. That the public servant should actually conduct this duty cheerfully and respectfully- no, I am sorry, I am sorry for Iran and us Iranians, but I simply cannot see it happen in the next million years in Tehran.
We get nuclear technnology. We get metro systems. We launch satellites. But we simply cannot have this fundamental decency and respect. It can’t be bought on the black market from old Soviet parts, it can’t be developed in our universities. so we will just have to do without it.