Sunday, December 13, 2009


BUS STORY # 163 (Ain’t Nobody Gonna Take My Joy Away)


It’s the first cold morning of the season – 26 degrees according to the Weather Channel. When I arrive at my stop at Yale and Central, I’m surprised to find no one else there.

It’s only a minute or two before I see Lilly* come out of McDonalds and start crossing the street towards me. When she gets to the curb, I tell her I don’t ever remember seeing no one at the stop at this time of the morning.

Lilly says everyone else is still inside McDonalds trying to stay warm. Then she launches into a story about what just happened to her across the street.

She was sitting at a table with some other folks when the manager approached them and told her she wasn’t allowed to sit there if she wasn’t buying something.

Now, I’ve heard about this policy from folks who’ve been catching the 50 here for a lot longer than I have. And I can understand the manager’s plight. This area has an above average concentration of the homeless and the uninstutionalized. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand what would happen if the manager started cutting one or two unfortunates some slack when the weather is hostile outside. Pretty soon, word is out, and he’s looking at a half dozen or a dozen or who knows how many clogging up the tables and the bathrooms (and you don’t even want to think about that one), and there’s always the guy who breaks out in a shouting match with his personal demon. Most customers are gonna find somewhere else to go.

Lilly tells me she let him know she wasn’t one of those. She let him know she had already bought her breakfast and had eaten it and was only waiting for the others to finish before going over to the bus stop. The other folks at the table vouched for her. He apologized and told her he hadn’t seen her earlier.

She isn’t in the mood to accept that apology. Why, she asks me, did he tell her she couldn’t be sitting there if he hadn’t seen her earlier? How did he know she hadn’t bought something earlier? That apology don’t mean a thing. One thing’s for sure: she ain’t gonna be buyin’ no breakfast at this McDonalds from now on.

I suggest that maybe from now on, she’ll be fine whether she buys anything or not. He’ll surely remember her from this morning’s encounter and leave her alone.

No, baby, she ain’t gonna go back in there for nothin’, not with his attitude. And he’s gone and tried to put that attitude on her. And here she got up this morning feeling full of joy. She was in church yesterday till five o’clock – yes, sir – five o’clock, because everybody was feeling too good to go home. They was standin’ and kneelin’ and talkin’ in tongues and laughin’ and cryin’ and everybody went home full of joy. She woke up this morning still full of joy, and then he shows up with his attitude. Well, she is not gonna let him ruin her morning. Ain’t nobody gonna take her joy away.

Lilly is still picking up steam.

You can’t have a heart full of joy and have the attitude he has, no, sir. That’s the devil workin’. He don’t want no joyful hearts, he can’t do his work in joyful hearts. God don’t want people with nasty hearts. He wants people with good hearts.

There are about a half-dozen people at the stop now. Most have come from McDonalds. A couple have come from one of the Rapid Rides. One of them is a young girl with black frame glasses and a white hoodie. She steps closer to Lilly and tells her God wants everybody’s heart, and He can change those nasty hearts.

That’s right, baby, that’s right, Lilly responds. She knows that’s right because she used to have a heart like that. But her heart changed when they put her in the water. She could see how clear the water was and the fish swimmin’ around her feet, and when they put her down, her heart changed. She felt so good, she didn’t want to get back up. They had to lift her up and haul her out of there.

Her heart came out soft, just like the lining on her coat here. (She opens her coat to show the plush.) It made her heart soft, so she could feel other people’s pain. And she can feel her own pain, too, like she did this morning with that manager and his attitude.

But God takes care of his own, she continues. You put yourself in God’s hands and ain’t nobody can touch you. They can go around you, but they can’t touch you. You can’t mess with God’s people and get away with it. You wait. Somethin’ bad is gonna happen to that manager today because he tried messin’ with one of God’s own. You don’t mess with God’s people and get away with it, no, sir. There’s gonna be a reckonin’ today, and he's brought it on himself.

Lilly sounds like she’s just seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

The bus arrives. We board and take our seats. I sit almost directly across from Lilly. Her eyes are still flashing, but it seems she’s gotten most of it out of her system.

When she exits, she tells folks ya’ll have a good day now, just like she always does. She reaches over and touches me on the forearm when she says this, which is not something she does every day, or ever before.

I have little doubt the manager will find himself dealing with some unexpected unpleasantness today. I am less sure it will be because he messed with one of God’s people than I am it will be because he’s the manager of the McDonalds at the corner of Central and Yale. I figure he did bring that last one on himself.
__________

*Real name changed.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant writing, your ability to remember color and phrasing amazes me.
BBBH

8:48 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you for your kind words, Anonymous BBBH.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Nathaniel said...

Hey, Auckland Bus Stories here - well done. I'm struck by the positivity here at your bus stop, and your ability to describe it. Keep writing, you have inspired me. Thanks!

4:38 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Nathaniel, thank you. Judging from your latest post (December 11) and my newest one (December 20), we may have even more in common than a bus blog with regular posts and a positive outlook. (By the way, I think you’d find Bus Story # 128 of interest. Check the archives for April of this year.)

I’m delighted to have found your blog and to feature it here on Bus Stories. I look forward to your future posts.

6:36 AM  

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