I ran into a friend on the morning 75 and we caught up for 10 minutes. She’s working intermittently, as a project manager through a consulting company. In both of her necks of the woods – software projects at large organizations and social justice work – money is tight. But she's working today, and seemed optimistic.
She got off at Lloyd Center. Miles went by and I suddenly noticed that we were on 5th Avenue – dang it, I got on the Green Line – and I had to get off to catch a Blue or Red Max at Pioneer Square.
Often, there’s an event going on at the Square; that morning it was quiet. I was looking around at the big buildings and imagining the waves of human intelligence and labor that created a city: those who were stunned, flung and crushed by Progress, those who swam confidently into the warm waters of the middle class or better, and the few stars who had surfed the American Dream, doing tricks and gaining glory as they went.
Two men stood in front of the ticket machine, talking. One was tall, bony and worn. The other, small, plastered in Army camouflage, held a $5 bill in one hand. He looked up at the tall man, and the way he extended his neck up and out to make eye contact reminded me of a pet turtle.
Tall One was showing a TriMet day pass and saying “Five dollars.” I could hear the rural accent immediately.
He continued, “Help a homeless feller out. Look, it’s the genuine article.”
The Turtle took the day pass, looked it over and gave it back, saying, “I’m sorry, I just don’t know. I’ve got to get to work and I can’t take any chances.”
I tried to intervene. It so happened I had a book of day passes with me. I showed the Turtle.
“See. Same thing.” But he turned away and used the machine.
Tall Guy looked around. What could I do? I had a five, which I exchanged for his day ticket.
The Tall Guy was gone and ankling down the street so quick I had to check the gray market day pass against my genuine article for signs of counterfeit.
But it was good.