Sunday, May 13, 2012

BUS STORY # 288 (The Continuing Adventures Of The Man Whose Chevy Nova Is A Toyota Corolla)

Happy Car. Happy Life. by busboy4
Happy Car. Happy Life., a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

He joins me at the corner of Yale and Randolph where I am waiting for the 50.

“When’s the next bus?”

I tell him five minutes or so.

He tells me he’s just come from an administration office where the city sent him to take care of two tickets after he called the number on the tickets and asked where he needed to go, only after he got here and filled out all the paperwork, they told him he was in the wrong place and needed to go to Municipal Court.

He was already irritated by just getting the tickets. One of them says it’s an abandoned car, which it isn’t. It threw a rod a while back is all. He took it to Jim’s over on Lead, near Washington -- I tell him I know the place. They’re good, he says, but pricy. They told him they could fix it for twenty-five hundred.

Well, the car isn’t worth twenty-five hundred, he explains. So he got it back in his designated parking space at his apartment where it sat until the management told him he couldn’t park it there anymore because it was a junker. Never mind he was paying for that space and it was his car. So he moved it out onto the street.

The bus comes right about here. During the break while we’re boarding, I’m thinking there is something familiar about him, but I can’t put my finger on it.

I sit on the bench seat on the driver’s side, and he sits on the bench seat across from me and continues his story.

He was sure he could either get the engine fixed for a few hundred dollars, or else find an engine from an old Chevy Nova -- or a Corolla -- they’re the same car, transverse engine --

Bam! Now I remember. I ran into him about a year ago at the bus stop on Lomas, across from University Hospital. (You can read the story here.) He told me all about his car troubles then, and it sounds like I’m picking up right where he left off.

He doesn’t look quite as dapper as he did last year. He’s unshaven. The straw hat has been replaced by a worn baseball cap. I think his hair’s shorter, too. The big sunglasses are gone, replaced by a pair of large-lens plastic glasses. He’s got a light blue denim work shirt on over a T-shirt, and a pair of pants without the drape of last year’s trousers.

I look for the missing front teeth, but I can’t see them. I figure I must have been sitting on the bench the first time and looking up at him. We’re level with one another now.

He’s been explaining how, if he could get the car fixed up, which he could do if the Feds would just give him his tax refund which he’s been trying to get since 2008, then he would have something to drive instead of having to do so much walking and waiting for the bus. Or else he could sell it.

He explains he’s been out of work, and he’s having difficulty getting financially stabilized. The last place he worked was at the Circle K which was all right until a Canadian company came in and bought up the franchise.

He also describes some regional area business deals which I can’t keep up with. One of those led to his transfer, against his wishes, to another store in town where, contrary to his understanding with his old regional manager, he was moved to the graveyard shift. When he protested, his new manager told him it was the graveyard or no job.

He worked until he developed an inguinal hernia which a fellow employee who used to be a nurse diagnosed and told him he needed to get fixed before it strangulated and killed him.

By this time, we’re at Central, but he’s not getting off, and I decide to ride on over to the campus, then walk to Lomas. As it turns out, he gets off at the same stop, and we are heading over to Lomas together.

He is describing the frustrating experience of trying to access health care in the public health environment -- lots of waiting, lots of misdirection -- until one day he walks in and they take him right in. By this time, he’s in real pain, and isn’t sure he can continue working since work involves lifting heavy pallets of soft drinks for the store room.

They work him up, schedule him for surgery. He goes to work that night, tells his manager. She says, well, he’s got a week of vacation he can use...

We are halfway to the duck pond when he tells me he’s heading to the right. He smiles, and there they are -- or aren’t: the missing top front teeth. I wish him good luck and walk on.

Somewhere past the duck pond, it suddenly strikes me he’s taking his own usual way to the same bus stop I’m heading for, the bus stop across from UNMH where we first met. I’m sure he’s wanting to catch the 5, and that I will see him again when I get there.

I get there just as the 5 does. But he’s not there. I scan the campus behind me, ready to ask the driver to wait up, there’s another rider coming. But he doesn’t show. The Blue Line comes and goes, and then the 11 arrives some 10 minutes later. There’s no telling where he went.

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