Bus driver, I have sinned
Though the role of religion in Dutch daily life has decreased significantly in the last centuries, some traces of the religious backgrounds are still noticeable in the Netherlands, even in the most unexpected places.
Despite having been a resident of Tilburg for over two years now, my roots still lie a little more northbound in the Netherlands. So northbound in fact, that in eighty years of war in the sixteenth century, the Spaniards never quite managed to reach it. And so the north of Holland remained mostly protestant, as opposed to the southern, catholic parts of the Netherlands.
The trouble is, Protestantism is not the most festive of religions. It lacks the taste for excessive golden decorations that Catholicism is so famous for. But, more importantly, it lacks the therapeutic value that comes with catholic confession. Though several variations of Protestantism have come and gone in the northern regions, they all seem to have the common theme that we are probably all doomed anyway, but you should still try your best to be a good person on the off-chance that you are still in the running to end up in heaven. As you can see, it is not the most optimistic of worldviews.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that there has always been a slight feeling of envy towards the catholic south, where sins could simply be absolved through mere confession. But rather than throwing their beliefs overboard, the people of my hometown have found a different, rather peculiar way to find relief in their confession. Namely, the bus-confessional.
“Next time you’re on the bus, take that confessional seat”
I first started noticing the bus-confessional a couple of years ago. Its presence is subtle, but once you have noticed it, its unwritten rules become obvious. It works as follows: if you have ever been in a regional bus in the Netherlands, you’ll know that there is one particular seat that is right next to the bus driver. You may have thought that this is just an ordinary seat, but in my hometown, it is much more than that. It is a free space, a room for confession and relief. Whoever takes this seat, young or old, male or female, is expected to share their life-story with the bus driver, who in return will nod in agreement and in some cases, even gives some life advice. When an unknowing soul takes place in the bus-confessional, the driver will throw persisting glances of anticipation. After a period of silent anticipation, they might even start asking you questions, force you to open up and feel the sweet relief of confession.
In my opinion, this phenomenon does not have to stay above the rivers. It is a great, atheist alternative for the confessional and it is highly efficient. After all, you get transportation and spiritual relief all at the same time! So, next time you’re on the bus, take that confessional seat. Share your life story. Use this space to open up your heart. Let’s use the bus for what it was made for: spiritual relief and free therapy.