Sunday, August 04, 2013

BUS STORY # 352 (Can You Say “Sequestration"?)

The Storm Is Coming by busboy4
The Storm Is Coming, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

We’re under the hot July sun, sitting on a bench and waiting for our bus. She’s got three big plastic bags of groceries which she has pulled in close so I can have a place to sit.

She also has a wide-brimmed straw hat which she tells me she always wears whenever she’s outdoors. She grew up here, and she spent most of her childhood outdoors. But the sun is different now, she says. More intense. She can tell.

The hat is why her skin looks as good as it does at her age, she explains. She’s 60. She gets teased about being brown everywhere but her face, but she prefers looking younger.

She is Native American, or possibly a Native-Latina mix, and I don’t see any difference between the coloration of her bare arms and her hat-shaded face. She’s wearing a Blue Oyster Cult T-shirt, a double strand small bead necklace, and a cross with a turquoise stone.

She tells me she has never owned a car. All her life she’s either walked or taken the bus. She uses the bus to do all her business: groceries, pay the light, pay the phone, everything.

The bus arrives, and there are two empty rows, one behind the other. She and the groceries take the first row, I the second. She turns in her seat and we continue our conversation.

She’s coming back from shopping at Walmart. This isn’t where she usually shops, she explains. But she was short of cash, and she asked a neighbor if she could front her some grocery money. The neighbor agreed if she would also pick up a few things for her at the Walmart.

She normally takes the bus clear across town to the “Mexican market at Atrisco.” I ask her if she means the Ranch Market. A few years ago, there was a rider on the 11 that used to go from near the end of the eastbound route clear on over to this westside grocery because, she told everyone within earshot, the prices were so good.

That’s the one, says my co-rider. She goes there twice a month. But the last time she was there, she had "a stroke." She was waiting in line and worried about whether she had enough money for her groceries.  She did, by exactly 99 cents. She remembers feeling a great relief, and then a sharp pain in her chest. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the hospital with seven doctors looking at her.

“They told me I was lucky to be alive.”

She isn’t sure what caused the stroke since she is careful about what she eats, and she doesn’t smoke or drink. Maybe the stress of not knowing if she had enough money.

But if stress was the cause of her stroke, she’s in real trouble now, she tells me. She’s just heard she might lose her home because the government is gonna stop funding HUD. She asks me if I have any idea how many people will end up homeless if this really happens.

I have no idea, of course. But assuming any truth in what she is telling me, I’m thinking this has to be fallout from sequestration.

(I will, of course, google later this day. I will type in “sequester, HUD, New Mexico.” I won’t find anything specific to New Mexico, but I will find what the HUD Secretary told Congress about HUD and sequestration in an article written in June in the Los Angeles Times:
--About 125,000 individuals and families to lose assistance from a housing voucher program, putting them at risk of homelessness.
--More than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans, to be removed from housing or emergency shelter programs.)
She continues to talk about people losing their homes, and I can see she is getting worked up about it. So can some of the other riders. I think about her stroke and wonder if she’s taking anything for her blood pressure.

We reach her stop before she gets too wound up. She tells me it was nice talking with me, then reaches out her left hand (she has groceries in her right). “My name’s Bella.”* I shake with my left hand and tell her my name. She gathers up the rest of the bags and heads for the back door. Before exiting, she says, “May the Creator bless you.”

“You, too, Bella,” I manage to say.

May the Creator bless us all, I think to myself.

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*Real name changed.

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Thanks to Muni Diaries for this week’s featured bus story from Kate.

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