Once again, I have forgotten the cardinal rule of life without a car: gradual grocery shopping. I find myself expanded to twice my normal width, with my two reusable shopping bags (one of them features Big Bird’s grinning face) hanging off my shoulders, clutching a 32-pack of toilet paper. I think it’s the toilet paper that convinces me I will never be a cool urbanite. No one else on the bus which I’ve just waddled onto has so much toilet paper, or actually any at all. Nor do the Israelis seem to bring a carryon bag stuffed with dirty laundry as I do every two weeks.
It is at times like this when I, the plodding commuter, feel like the most mundane creature in the world.
But then, as I shlep my laundry toward the machines, I look up and see the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, majestic white columns shooting upward, or I look ahead to see the dome of the Shrine, or I look across the bright blue bay toward Akko. And it’s so dissonant: my mundane self, this holy place.
I think it’s time for some etymology. You all know how I love my words. Once an English major, always an English major.*
When it comes to describing the daily grind, mundane, pedestrian, and prosaic are close contenders. “Mundane,” from the Latin mundus or world, in its astrological sense means of the earthly world rather than the heavenly one, more than applicable to my situation. “Prosaic”–I usually dwell in a house of prose, infrequently one of poetry. “Pedestrian” as an adjective evokes its noun counterpart, the unglamorous person in T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers waiting at the crosswalk. And it’s fun to be a pedestrian pedestrian. For the word-snobs among us, “quotidian” works as well, stemming from the same root as the Spanish cotidiana, meaning everyday. Funny, all these terms are latinate. A professor renowned as the strictest faculty member in the English Department taught me that English is a bifurcated language, pulling its vocabulary both from the sophisticated palate of Latin and from the earthy mouth of Germanic. It would seem better to go Germanic to express the commonplace.
Even “commuter” finds its roots in Latin: com=together + mute=change. Changing together.
Nice, isn’t it? Six days a week, I change along with my fellow passengers. Now that’s poetical.
*Thank your lucky stars that since graduating from Mount Holyoke I no longer have access to the Oxford English Dictionary online, or this post would be thrice as long.