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.

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