When I worked in downtown DC,

I used to take a bus to Metro (DC’s subway system, for those not familiar with it), and then ride the train in to my workplace, usually not more than a 15-20 minute ride.

As commutes go, it was fairly easy, and while I didn’t always enjoy being packed into the bus or Metro car like a sardine in a can, I did see some very interesting people.

There was one lady who stood out.

And I say “lady,” because she was clearly from an era when the word “lady” meant something.

For those of you who are fans of The Good Wife (I love that show!), she looked very much like Jackie, the mother-in-law.

She was always impeccably dressed in a skirt-suit, she wore nylons (or did they say “hose” in those days?) even if the weather was sweltering, I never once saw her in flats, always pumps, and her handbag always matched her outfit.

Sometimes, though, I’d see that the nylons had a tear in them, and sometimes it was clear that her suit had seen better days.

She didn’t have a SmarTrip card (the equivalent of London’s Oyster card, and I forget what it’s called in New York, but it’s what frequent riders/commuters use), so she always paid her fare with small change.

But she always had a tiny smile on her face.

I used to wonder who this lady was.

What was her story?

Why was she riding the bus when she looked like the kind of person who’d be far more comfortable being driven to and fro places?

And through it all, how did she keep smiling?

I never spoke to this lady, so I never found out.

I don’t ride the bus any more, and I take Metro into DC only sporadically, but every now and then, I’ve seen her.

Waiting patiently at the bus stop, or walking towards it … and she still has that smile on her face.

I wish I knew what was behind it.

Do you ever wonder that about people you see? And people you know?

Smiles can take so many different forms, evoke so many different feelings. And sometimes, when a person is smiling, they are really crying inside.

Or doing a whole host of other things.

We move so quickly in today’s world, that when someone flashes a smile, we think, “Oh, they’re fine.”

Maybe they are. But maybe they’re not.

All the smiles you see on people’s Facebook and Twitter avatars.

Are they real? Are they really as happy as that smile would make you believe?

Or is that a way for them to face reality and get through life, one day at a time?

I would really like to know what’s behind the smile.

I would really like to know what’s behind your smile.

Image: seanbjack via Flickr, CC 2.0

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

Latest posts by Shonali Burke (see all)