Sunday, June 05, 2011

BUS STORY # 239 (Grocery Cart)


She’s an overweight, older woman, with long hair dyed a muddy red-brown, and overgrown gray roots. She’s struggling to get a granny cart up the steps of an old 300, and even with someone behind her lifting the other end, it’s not easy.

She’s talking out loud, half to herself, half to the driver and us. She’s explaining this is the first time she’s used the cart, and now she knows she should have removed the contents, folded the cart up, and then got on board.

What she’s really doing is apologizing to the rest of us for holding things up. Because the logistics of removing her two reusable cloth grocery bags and one gallon jug of milk from the cart and leaving them all on the sidewalk, folding up the cart, then carrying the cart on board, opening the cart back up on the bus, then going back out and retrieving the grocery items from the sidewalk, carrying them back on the bus and putting them back in the cart, makes no sense at all.

(Reusable cloth grocery bags? Not the plastic bags that come from the store? The detail will nag at me, but that story will get away.)

Once she’s backed up past the fare box, she continues backing down the aisle, pulling her cart with her. Her breathing is labored.

The cart is unusually large, and that’s part of the problem. All the riders except one have emptied the two elderly/handicapped bench seats and have moved toward the back of the bus.

The rider who remains is a blind guy. Once he figures out what’s going on, he tries pulling up his legs so his heels are on the seat. He’s an older guy, and I can see this is an effort. He ends up having to twist in his seat and pull both feet up on the seat next to him.

She gets past him and drops into a seat on the same bench, the seat next to where the blind guy’s feet were.

The cart takes up most of the aisle. She tries turning it to one side -- I can hear her grunt -- but it is a square cart; there is no gain. The other boarders have to squeeze by.

Old women with grocery carts have been using the bus for as long as I’ve been riding. But until today, they’ve managed to stay under my radar. This one’s got my attention, and now I’m trying to imagine what it must be like.

I make myself another ten-plus years older -- slower, creakier, more easily tired, enduring accumulated aches and pains and maybe a chronic illness, wrestling that cart onto a bus which doesn’t really have any accommodations for it, then lugging it home for a city block that might as well be a mile, and the whole time feeling in the way; a widower; carless; without the financial wherewithal to take a cab; without family in town, or maybe with a family that is unavailable for one reason or another, or maybe just can’t be bothered; without friends to take me shopping or to pick my groceries up for me because they are too old or infirm, or because they are not here for whatever good reason.

Or maybe because I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.

If they were invisible before, they aren’t any more.
__________

The photo at the top of this story is titled "Pushing Through" ⓒ All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the kind permission of antonkawasaki. You can see this and all antonkawasaki’s photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/antonkawasaki/3383111934/

4 Comments:

Anonymous Brenda said...

I read your blog this morning and then again just now. Sometimes there is just too much to say or perhaps no words with which to say it. Another thought provoker...

8:29 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

I’m having the same thoughts about how to respond to your note. I think you must have seen her, too, much like I did, and had a similar reaction. Once I got past the details of what I saw, the rest was harder to write.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

Seems to me the bus driver should see a cart and handle like a wheelchair; isn't this the purpose of a lift gate?

11:39 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Good point, Jody. The new buses "kneel" easily and quickly, whereas deploying the lift on the old 300s takes several minutes. Also, the mindset for the lift is "wheelchair." I'd bet those are the reasons the lift didn't come into play that day, and a lot of other days, too.

6:36 PM  

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