Sunday, September 27, 2015

BUS STORY # 464 (The Evangelist)

Downloaded from Pinterist

A couple boards somewhere on Menaul. She’s not especially remarkable -- blondish hair, turquoise shirt, 30s. Her partner is: reddish long hair, stubble, and a wife-beater which shows off his many dragon wing tattoos.

They take an empty row and pull out smart phones.

There’s a guy sitting in the bench seat in front of the couple. I hadn’t really noticed him until he started talking to them. Big guy, corpulent. Blue satin basketball shorts with black on white stripes. White T-shirt. Baseball cap with “I love Jesus” along the brim.

What catches my attention is the word “Jesus” in whatever he is saying to them.

The woman looks back down at her phone. The man just stares at him.

He starts up again.

“Yeah, a lot of people think they’ll find happiness in sex or drugs or alcohol.” A pause. “Or a big fancy car.”

“This is my big fancy car right here,” says the tattooed guy.

His partner nudges him. It is not a “Good one” nudge; it’s a “Quit encouraging him” nudge. He looks back down at his phone.

The guy on the bench seat is silent for a while. Then he asks them, “Is there anyone in your family I can pray for?”

The man looks up. He stares for a few seconds, then replies, “No, I don’t think so.”

The guy takes this in and rides silently for a while. Then he pulls out a smart phone and starts working it for the rest of his ride.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

BUS STORY # 463 (It’s Not Easy Living On Your Own)

Downloaded from Hark.

There is a stream of boarders at the San Mateo and Menaul stop. One of them, a little abuelita in a black coat, swings into the seat beside me. She overshoots, a soft banging into my shoulder and thigh, apologizes, and settles in.

Then she leans in and apologizes again. She knows some people wouldn’t like being crashed into, and she understands why this is. It’s just that she has this hangover which is giving her no peace, and she’s trying to avoid taking another drink because she’s an alcoholic and is trying to kick the habit, so she called her sister to meet her at the Albertson’s over on Coors, but her sister hasn’t called her back and she’s wondering if she should turn around and go back home if her sister hasn’t called her back by the time she reaches Central.

She doesn’t want to go back home because there’s nothing to do there but look at the four walls or at television which is the same thing and which only makes her want to take a drink. So she decided it would be better to go cruising. She thinks she could make the ride last longer if she catches the 66 rather than the Rapid down at Central.

She doesn’t know why her sister hasn’t called her back. They used to live together, but now her sister has her own place. Sometimes she just goes to the library nearby and reads. That takes her mind off drinking.

She also volunteers at her church. Every Tuesday, she goes in and helps sort through and organize donations -- sorting the clothes by size, rolling the socks -- and then stuffing the bags according to the list: two of this, three of that, one of those... It’s a good deal because when they are finished, they get to take home for themselves stuff like dish soap and toothpaste and shampoo, so she never finds herself running out of stuff.

I pull the cord for the Lomas stop. She swings her legs out into the aisle to let me by, but she keeps talking. She interrupts herself when I’m out in the aisle and wish her luck. “Good luck to you, too,” she replies. I kinda wish I wasn’t leaving her all by herself.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

BUS STORY # 462 (Too Late)

Photo by Busboy

I see them through the window when we pull into the stop. She is facing him with her back toward me. He is facing her, and me. There is a large black purse between them on the bench.

Somewhere in their 40s is my impression. She is wearing a head scarf. He is balding, dark-skinned, but a gray rather than brown dark. He looks... determined? Anxious?

When the doors open, he reaches an open hand toward the woman. She hands him a bill. He takes it, then turns and stands in the doorway and says something to the driver.

I can’t hear what he says, but the driver says very clearly that he needs to have a laminated pass with a photo ID.

He responds, again out of my earshot. The driver responds: no. She shakes her head no.

I see him step out of the doorway and turn back toward the woman who is still waiting on the other side of the purse on the bench. His hand is still tentatively outstretched, with the bill in his hand. He looks... disappointed? Angry? No, not angry.

The doors close, the driver pulls away from the stop.

I am familiar with the driver. She’s no soft touch, but she is generous. She likes her riders and we like her. I am struck by the hard line of the tone she took this morning, no “I’m sorry, but...” I wonder if she’s dealt with him before and knows he’s trying to scam a ride. Or if one of the other drivers on the route has warned her about him. Or maybe she’s just having a bad morning.

He didn’t strike me as a scammer. There was nothing in his face or body language that betrayed “caught” when she told him he needed an ID. I thought of the unusual coloring of his skin, wondered if he were new to Albuquerque, maybe new to America. Maybe he didn’t understand what he needed, or didn’t understand how to get what he needed. Maybe he needed to get to the place where he could get what he needed. He just didn’t look like a scammer to me. He looked... “Defeated” is the word. Utterly defeated.

For a moment, I saw this small-to-me defeat as of a piece with a life gone utterly defeated. I saw myself too slow and too late to gamble on my impression and offer to pay his fare. Who knows? If I’d’ve been quicker, maybe the driver would have told me the story. Maybe he would have told me the story. Dear God, maybe I might have saved a life...

I’m just way too late this morning.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

BUS STORY # 461 (Patricia Just Left Chicago)

Chicago Transit Authority bus; downloaded from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration.

I’m sitting in the shelter, just waiting for the bus. A woman walks to the stop, turns around and looks back up the street, then stands in front of the other end of the bench.

She says normally, she’d walk, but it’s really hot and she thinks she’ll just wait for the bus right here.

She’s trim, with a short Afro and wraparound sunglasses. Modest tank top, shorts and sandals. A tattoo of the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon above her left breast. A script tattoo along her right neck.

She doesn’t sit. She tells me she would sure appreciate the kind of summer breeze that comes off the lake in Chicago right about now.

That’s where she’s from. She’s been here five months now, making up for lost time. She tells me it was the fear of losing her daughter that galvanized her into getting herself together and back into her daughter’s life. Her daughter’s 16 now, and she moved here with her mom. Mom is getting back into her son’s life now, and determined to be a real grandmother.

Her son has two jobs -- one for each of his girls, she says. The first girl is his from his first marriage; the second is a step-daughter from his second marriage.

She tells me how the 6-year-old just had two birthdays, because the family of the ex can’t stand the family of the second wife. So each family throws the older grandchild separate birthday parties.

She shakes her head. It’s just like Cain and Abel, in the Bible, she tells me. I’m not sure about the analogy, but I get the idea that the two families don’t get along even though the older daughter is part of both families.

She tells me that between the two families and her, those girls are well looked after. And she’s glad she’s a young grandmother -- she’s only 54 -- because she can get right down on the ground and play with them.

A car rolls by, and a kid leans out the window and yells, “Hey!” The car starts to slow.

“That’s my son!” she exclaims. She starts off toward the car, then turns back and sticks out her hand.

“My name’s Patricia,”* she says. “What’s yours?”

I tell her, and she says “I enjoyed talking with you.” Then she heads over to her son’s car.


*Real name changed.