There once was a porcupine who rode the bus. He was a bright, happy guy, and a good citizen who commuted to and from work every day just like all the other animals. He was perfectly ordinary except for one minor detail that had an unfortunate consequence.
Whenever he rode the bus, the poor fella had to sit all by himself. What with all those pointy quills and all, you can be sure, and perhaps not surprised, that none of the other animals ever wanted to sit beside him. So he sat all alone, sad and lonely.
Whenever he would try to make friends, the other animals would simply shoo him away to go sit by himself, and he did, day after day, wondering all the time whatever the matter was.
One day, during his lonely commute, the bus stopped and another porcupine climbed aboard. All the other animals gasped and cringed at the sight of him because, by then, there were only a scarce few empty seats left on the bus. And the ones that were empty bordered some rather frightened-looking animals who did not like the looks of the new arrival, not one bit.
But the two porcupines’ eyes met, and they happily sat beside each other. They enjoyed each other’s company that day and sat together every day after.
Soon, the subject came up of their unusual predicament and they wondered to each other what the matter might be. They decided it was very unfair and, egging each other on as such, soon became angry at all the other animals for not wanting to sit beside them and for sending them away.
Soon, other porcupines would ride the bus and, like the first two, a similar arrangement was forced upon them as well, and quite against their will.
So as the bus full of animals went about its travels each day, many animals sat beside many other animals (often strangers even!) but the poor porcupines always had it the same, having to pair up and sit beside one another, or not sit at all.
Finally, one day, by luck or by chance, there happened to be so many porcupines on one particular bus that one could not find a seat. He stood with the eyes of every other animal upon him. But even standing near him was too much for some. One animal said, “I don’t want any prickly, pointy, porcupine standing near me!”
But, instead of being insulted, the porcupine raised his eyebrows in surprise. He looked around the bus at everyone, especially the other porcupines. All the porcupines exchange glances in great surprise, and the standing one finally leaned toward his offender and said, (but loud enough for the whole bus to hear) “We are not porcupines.”
The other animals all looked very shocked.
And then, firmly and politely, he informed everyone, “We’re hedgehogs.”
Surprised as the other animals where, the distinction was lost on them, so the porcu… ah… hedgehog demonstrated for all the passengers to see. “Touch me. See! I’m as soft as you.” The hedgehog let the other animals touch him. As many as were willing, and the hedgehog stood patiently and allowed them to touch his soft (albeit sinister looking) fur.
After that, the other animals felt rather badly about the way they’d treated the hedgehogs. All the animals agreed that they had treated them most poorly, indeed.
But things were still not well. Even though some animals were willing to sit beside hedgehogs, for the most part, things did not change. Hedgehogs still sat beside hedgehogs and other “soft” animals still sat beside other “soft” animals and tended to avoid sitting beside hedgehogs at all.
Some made an effort to make friends and sit by the hedgehogs.
Some kept to the old ways — out of old habits that they refused to break or because they still didn’t like hedgehogs even though there was no reason at all that made any sense at all.
Hedgehogs still mostly sat together, too, mostly because they were still very-much angry and didn’t like the other animals because they had behaved so badly, and because of the stubborn few who still did. But partly because they were used to only sitting beside each other and that habit, too, was a hard one to break.
Some of the animals who had felt badly, now saw that the hedgehogs didn’t like them still, and started not liking them back all over again because of that.
Some soft-furry animals, it turns out, felt particularly bad and guilty about their behavior and hoped things would be better but, even-still, did not sit beside hedgehogs because they felt sheepish, self-conscious and didn’t know how to act around hedgehogs after all that had transpired. They did not know how to talk to a hedgehog — they knew not what to say.
For a disappointing amount of time, the hedgehogs always sat by other hedgehogs exchanging angry glances with all the other animals who did the same, though there was no good reason for any of it anymore.
One day, a skunk got on the bus. An animal who stood, immediately exchanged worried glances with a hedgehog and then quickly sat down beside him.
And, at last, the two of them sat together, became friends… and worried about the skunk.