Friday, May 31, 2013


There was no coffee in the house.  A bus was due in nine minutes, probably time enough to walk a block and a half to Delphina's for an Americano and then squeeze into that particular sardine can at the stop nearest the store.  And in case of a near-miss, the next bus was only four minutes behind.

The plan went smoothly.  I reached the bus stop with my drink as the bus hove into sight three stops away.

A car slowed on the far side of the street.  The driver rolled down the window and waved at me.

"I have to talk to you."

I almost trotted over.  But the bus was only two stops back, and I was stretched physically, carrying two bags and a full cup of coffee.  Plus I had never seen this guy before.  I tried to put all of these thoughts into a wave back at him.

A car came up behind the waver, honking.  He drove ahead, pulling to the curb about 100 feet away and continuing to wave his arm emphatically out the window.  

I glanced around in case something dangerous was closing in -- no.

The man kept waving.  I got bus ticket in hand as the bus roared up and, without slowing, roared past.  Funny, there were empty seats in it.  Sometimes, of course, a driver skips a stop because she's behind schedule or is returning to the garage for repairs.  Usually, I believe, the reason for passing up riders is that the vehicle is full, and this drive-by was definitely less than full.  Go figure, I thought.

As I said, the next bus was due in four minutes.

The waver drove to the corner, turned around in the intersection and headed back towards me.  He pulled up, leaned hard to put his face near the window.  The moment of truth.

"This is not a bus stop anymore."

I glanced up.  In fact, the bus stop signpost was gone.  Oh.  That’s right -- the last time I waited at the stop a couple weeks ago, there had been an announcement posted on the bus stop sign that may have said something about a change to the stop.

I looked back at my interloper.

"This is what I've been trying to tell you."

"Oh.  Thank you."

"My wife did use this stop every day.  That's how I know." 

Wow.  What a good neighbor.  His generosity suddenly sank in.  He had detoured from his trip, probably losing a few minutes from his commute to work, to save me a few minutes' trouble.  And I had tried to ignore him.

I thanked him again and ran for the next bus. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013


It was Anything Can Happen Day.  I was on the 12 Sandy bus instead of the 75 Lombard-St. John's, in the afternoon instead of 7 a.m.  I had just passed a state insurance license exam, which had been on my to-do list for many months, so I was riding the crest of an accomplishment wave on my beast of metal, glass and rubber.

Also riding my beast:  across from my mid-bus aisle seat, a woman in big headphones played a movie on a tablet. The sound track suddenly poured into the bus -- music, dialogue, effects: the works.  Heads turned, muttering comments.

She was absorbed, blithely innocent of the aural trespass.

The driver jumped in through the intercom.  "Please turn down the volume!  You are playing your device too loud!"

She didn't respond.  That was my cue.  I reached over and tapped the woman's arm.

Her face said, "What?" and I pointed at my ear and her device and mouthed "Too loud."

Her face said, "You are a lone oversensitive nuisance and I'm going to ignore you," but I gestured sweepingly, to indicate "everyone" and mouthed "We're all listening."

She took off the headphones.  The sound still filled the bus.  Glances came at her.  Her face said, "This is not what I expected."

I said, "We can all hear your movie."

She turned it off with some exasperated lip English.

Then, saying her first words, which I couldn't understand, the woman held out the headphones, inviting me to partake.

I may have laughed at her.  I know I shook my head "No" several times. 

A few minutes later on the Max train, I caught a whiff of something troublesome. I was guessing, but I'm very familiar with a revulsion that sometimes hit like a heavyweight when I was jobless for a year. It went bone deep.  And now it was nearby again.

Of ten people in my line of sight, all were male, one a boy of 11 or 12, two men of 45 or older and the rest between 18 and 40.  Six of the seven young men were wearing T-shirts or sweatshirts and jeans, shorts, or baggy pants.  Six wore running or gym shoes.  One or two of these were neat and clean enough that it's conceivable, barely, that they were on the way to work.

In other words, at least half of the adult males riding with me on a Monday afternoon in April were not working.  Nor were they looking for work, I guarantee you.  I have to guess that they were hanging out.  They were enjoying life.  As riders boarded and left, there was one constant:  half of the men of working age were doing as little as possible.  Most of them had a mobile device but not a single one was reading.

Does this seem about right?  Five of ten men who are out of the house and not at work are slacking?  If they were working, they wouldn't be riding the train, would they? (Answer:  No, they'd be working.)  Any one of them could be on vacation, having a day off, taking it easy.

Oh, hell.  Why not?  Why am I judging? Mid-day is a good time to be out doing as little as possible, especially in this fine, fine weather. I try not to judge, but sometimes I'll glance around the library thinking "At least all these homeless folks are trying to learn something."  The thought just happens.

Never mind.  I passed my insurance exam.  I helped a lady on the bus.  The world and the day are big enough to hold a worker like me and -- whatever those guys are doing, too.  Bless them.

The End