Sunday, July 15, 2007



BUS STORY # 41 (Change For The Bus)


I’m waiting for the Yale bus on my way to work. There are several of us, in two groups. The larger group is clustered in front of the bench. The smaller is in the parking lot behind the bench, catching the shade.

A man crosses the street and heads for the bench. He’s got a stack of books supported by his left hand. They look like textbooks. The top one is open. He keeps the stack together and the top book open with his right hand. He’s got a pillow tucked under his left arm. A regular bed pillow.

He’s talking as he approaches the first group, his eyes on the book. He slowly works his way across the front of the group, moving from left to right. The talking is intermittent, and I realize he must have one of those headphones attached to his left ear. But when he turns around and starts toward the group of us behind the bench, there’s no phone in sight.

I can hear what he’s saying now as he moves toward us, around us, eyes fixed on the open book under his right hand. “I need change for the bus. Change for the bus. I just need change for the bus. I need change for the bus.” And then: “I need to make a telephone call.” And then back to “Change for the bus.” If it weren't for the words, I would have no idea he is asking for change for the bus.

He’s maybe in his late 30s, clean white shirt, nice pair of jeans, loafers in good shape. His hair is reddish and he wears it high and tight. He reminds me of Dustin Hoffman’s character in The Rain Man.

Everyone is pretty much in full “I don’t see you” mode. I think about giving him some change just to see if he’ll look up from his book. Then I wonder how he’d manage taking anything with the load he’s carrying. But I don’t have any change. No change, no bills, no wallet. No need, really.

He moves on into the deli behind us. A little later, I look back. I don’t see him, but I see someone in the open doorway – a customer? a clerk? – having what looks like a perplexing discussion with someone else out of sight. I figure it must be with my guy.

He’s still inside the deli when the bus comes.

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