Sunday, February 24, 2013

BUS STORY # 329 (True Grit)

Elizabeth Marvel playing the character Mattie Ross, all grown up, from the Coen brothers film True Grit. by busboy4
Elizabeth Marvel playing the character Mattie Ross, all grown up, from the Coen brothers film True Grit. Downloaded from Kelli Marshall’s December 26, 2010, post “True Grit: Give Me A Different Ending And Some Freakin’ Contractions” from her website MediAcademia.


It happens. The northbound Rapid pulled up at a red light at the intersection of Louisiana and Lomas, and the eastbound 11 rolled past the front windshield and pulled into the stop. That was supposed to be my connection.

The woman across the aisle from me groaned out loud, then jumped up and asked the driver if he could let her off right where we were. No surprise that he did not. We had to wait tll the light turned green, then the bus to start up, then pass through the intersection, then pull over to the stop on the other side of Lomas where we would disembark and wait for the light to let us walk back over to the other side. The 11 would be long gone.

“That’ll be another 20 minutes,” she said out loud to no one in particular.

“I feel your pain,” I told her.

She smiled at me, then told me she’d been lucky all week. She guessed it was just her turn to be out of luck.

I told her I was sorry she hadn’t been out of luck earlier in the week instead of today.

We got off across the street and headed back toward the intersection. She took off east, then jay-walked across Lomas when traffic permitted. I stayed at the corner until the signal said “Walk.”

When I got to the stop where she was already waiting, she laughed and said she hadn’t realized on the Rapid that the 11 was my bus, too.

“I told you I felt your pain,” I said.

“I thought you were just being sympathetic,” she replied.

The bench was wet from an earlier rain, so we stood in front of it and waited and talked.

She reminded me a lot of one of my sisters-in-law.

I don’t remember exactly how we reached the subject, but she asked me did I know that if a person has a diagnosis of PTSD or some other “mental problem,” they can’t be turned out of their apartments or fired from their jobs?

No, I didn’t, I told her, and asked her how she knew this to be the case.

Because she had a lease on an apartment downtown, and when it expired, they told her they couldn’t renew it. But the guy in another apartment who sometimes did a little shouting at night, or who sometimes threw things out the window, they had to keep him as long as he wanted to stay because he had some kind of diagnosis and was “on government support.”

And when she worked at Goodwill, they told her it was a shame she didn’t have some kind of diagnosis so they could keep her on when her year was up.

She told me this was a subject that really irritated her. She’d been raised to work hard and make her own way, to take responsibility for her life. It galls her to see how some people work the system to get on whatever kind of support they can get and not have to do anything for themselves.

She told me she thought this was a generational thing. She doesn’t see any evidence of these values in young people today. She didn’t use the word “entitlement” when she talked about young people, but that is what she meant. I suggested there are still some kids around who were raised like we were. She conceded “maybe one in ten.”

Over the next 15-to-20 minutes or so, I asked more questions, and she told me a lot of her story.

She didn’t offer me any details, but I gathered she found herself in an untenable family situation and realized she needed to cut all ties, including with her grown children.

In the process of cutting her ties, she made herself homeless. She found shelter in the Barrett House. It took two years, but her case worker there found the apartment downtown for her, and arranged a one-year lease.

That same case worker got her a three-month job at Goodwill. After her three-month evaluation, they kept her on for the rest of the year. Apparently, this was meant to be a starter job with the goal that she would have earned income while she worked on finding a permanent job.

Again, her case worker provided her with some leads, and one of those panned out. She is doing “temp work,” now, but her employer has been arranging for her to get more training for better work opportunities.

She told me it had been really hard, and that she was getting by just “by the skin of my teeth.”

She did find a new place herself, where she is still living now with her cat. “It’s good to have a little company,” she said about the cat.

She babysits her grandchildren from time to time, but keeps her distance from the rest of her family -- except for a son.

She explained “they will probably have to hit bottom” before they realize they need to address their problems. But she believes that, quite recently, God has touched the heart of her son, just as He had touched hers. She is optimistic about him. There was joy in her face when she told me this.

“I’m not a Bible-thumper,” she told me, “but I know there is a God, and He works in mysterious ways.” She also gave a lot of credit to Barrett House.

I told her that I understood social workers like her case worker often get burned out because they rarely have clients like herself who are both able and willing to take advantage of the opportunities they’re given, and pull themselves back up on their own two feet. I told her she was probably as much a gift to them as they to her.

It was obvious she was touched.

So was I.

When the bus came, we shook hands. I thanked her for sharing her story with me.

The bus was pretty full, and we both ended up sitting on the bench seats facing the rear door.

We made small talk. She asked me how far I had to go, what kind of work I did, if I had any children, and so forth. When we got close to her stop, she again shook my hand, and thanked me. And then she was gone.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet story, and well told. I wish her well.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Gene said...

Enjoy these stories very much! Thru them, I get to "see, hear and read" about people and situations not in my current world view.

Gene

9:00 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thanks for writing, Gene. It's always nice to hear from folks who share my interest with life beyond the familiar patterns.

7:07 AM  

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