Tag Archives: bus

Harriet…

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Let me tell you about my friend Harriet. I met her at the bus stop coming home from Mom’s group last summer. She’s an older woman whom you might call petite if you hadn’t yet had the privelege of talking to her. She wears gigantic sunglasses, boy cut hair dyed ink black, and almost always a leopard print blazer with significant shoulder pads. Any normal person would be dwarfed by the ensemble, but not Harriet.

We began talking over my children, little conversation straters that they are, and kept chatting like this, at the bus stop, five minutes every Wednesday for a few months. She used to want to be an actress. But she became a mother and dreams changed. She became the writer of a TV show for kids and had a wonderful long career. She reminds me every time she sees me that my path might change from what I want, what I expect, but to keep writing, keep at it.

I hadn’t seen her in months. But the other day, there she was, leopard print blazer over mauve velvet pants.

“How are you doing, Harriet?”
“I’m 79.”
“Yeah?” I say.
“Well I’m feeling old. I’m suddenly old. I was middle aged for a long time but now I’m old.”
“How old were you when you began feeling middle aged?” I asked.
“27.”
“27?!”
“Yes.”
“So, what age was your zen age?” I asked, “At what age did you say, ‘ok, I’m here, finally, I am how old I feel.”
“70.”
“70?!”
“Yeah.”
“So, everybody caught up and just stopped caring,” I said.
“Exactly right,” she said, “Everybody finally stopped caring with me.”

So, take Harriet’s word for it, my people. There’s hope.

Morning Commute…

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The city, of course, puts you among people. And in the city you have to be a little richer to buy space between you and your neighbors. The less you have the more you are squeezed out and among the general populace. One great example of this is turning out to be my morning commute.

For example, yesterday I left my apartment and began walking the one and a half blocks to my bus stop. As I near the crossing my bus flies by me. I begin to run. If any aged ladies are getting on the bus I have a chance. So, my backpack is “fwipping” back and forth in that most ungraceful way we all remember from high school, my toes are trying to hang on to my cute little work flats, THEE pair of work flats, and I realize I’m going to miss the bus. At this moment some kind stranger looks up from his handheld device, notices that I am hurrying, panicked, frenzied, and then, and then (!) makes like he’s getting on the bus. He pretends to step up, he vacillates, glances forward at the driver, and steps off as I run up. “Thought that would give you enough time,” he said. “Thank you!” I said. I was on the bus! Way to go humanity.

Now, the church offices are off a lovely street called Van Ness. It happens to be a wide street and one of the main thoroughfares funneling homeless citizens toward the center of town where reside most of the “product” and the services. The five block walk to work can be, therefore, occasionally eventful.

As I’m walking the five blocks towards the offices I am paused at a crosswalk across from a colorfully dressed woman. Now, I have just finished reading an article on the new Japanese decluttering craze that judges a keeper based on joy and that’s what I’m thinking about looking at this woman, that she is dressed for joy. Every item is a different color bright against the others, artfully arranged, I smile. It isn’t until I notice the teddy bear clutched inside her arm that I also realize that this outfit is probably more appropriately chosen by my four-year old then a middle-aged woman and her teddy bear.

But I’ve been looking at her from behind my sunglasses too long. As I pass her after the light turns green she mumbles under her breath, “Keep moving bitch.” I stopped. “Are you talking to me?” I said, “Because I was just thinking…” Now, this is the part where I am going to tell her all about the new Japanese decluttering craze and how she looks like she dressed based purely on joy. Remember I have been bolstered by humanity just moments ago. But she opens her mouth and proves that there is no joy in her. I am raked over the proverbial coals. I AM the f…ing bitch. Osama bin Laden is mentioned. I’m laughing and smiling awkwardly as this woman continues on her way cursing me over her shoulder. Two cars slow down as they turn the corner to lean out their windows and ask if I’m alright. The neighbor outside his mechanic shop said, “So, I guess you got her wrath.” “Is she a regular around here?” I ask, “I’ve never seen her before.” He shrugs.

I have seen her since, trundling down the street, dressed in joy, with a mouth full of curses. Would you believe that the last time I saw her Osama Bin Laden was mentioned again?

Humanity, you contain a lot.

Jonah Moment…

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I nearly tripped over a homeless man today on my way to the bust stop from work. He was tucked up on one elbow, reading a book, and precariously wedged into the very small space available between sidewalk and parking garage exit. As I stepped broad to miss him our eyes met and he scowled at me. In my imbalance I had fumbled the unspoken cultural politeness of ignoring him in his living space.

I checked in with God if he had a message for this man who flipped his page angrily at me in rebuttal. I mentally sorted through the contents of my bag, if there was food or anything for him. There was half a chocolate bar, but that was for me for later, my chocolate bar. God knew his name, hadn’t forgotten him, blah blah blah. But I didn’t stop. I didn’t speak. I didn’t go back. And who would blame me, I thought. No one would blame me.

For one, it’s after work and I’m on my way to catch a bus. But two, I’m a woman and, you know, I don’t want to be unsafe, as if God has called me to safety. And three, well, I have plans for that chocolate bar.

I read the gospels over Lent which particular activity always leads to an uncomfortable stirring sensation within my too-viscous soul. And something that jumped out at me, tweaked my nostrils, and slapped me upside the head in a very three-stooges fashion was how frequently it talks about Jesus healing in response to being moved.

It’s so comfortable for me to think of Jesus as already knowing everything, no surprises, “I’m gonna heal a lame man today and I’m gonna do it like this”. It’s decidedly uncomfortable to wonder if he didn’t. Maybe he went out to preach and just happened to come across these holy prompts in their broken physical forms and healed them urged solely by a movement in his heart. How undefinable and unpredictable! No one would have blamed him if he had kept walking, would they have? No one would have blamed him. And it wasn’t like he avoided it, he went to the cities, he walked along the ways where the broken people waited, and he listened for them.

I have had Jesus in my heart for a very long time. I am becoming more like Jesus every day. I have covered the very longest of distances to get to the point where my compassion can move me to think a silent prayer on the bus.

And as I traveled home on the one-bus waiting for the massive breakdown in which I would have to yell over the screaming, “It’s me! I ignored God’s message! Kick me off the bus and save yourselves!” and return to the angry reading man and give him half of a chocolate bar, I thought, thank goodness Jesus is Jesus and not Barbara. Thank goodness Jesus is moved to do more than pray. Thank goodness he is moved to touch us, heal us, and weep with us.

This is my God. He works in me every day so that, hopefully, in another thirty years I can give away my chocolate bar.

Big…

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I remember being a little girl driving home at night with my Dad. Everything was black except for the long stream of Los Angeles highway running bright with headlights in one direction and bright with taillights in the other direction, the only demarcation of the rolling hills being the offset lines of red and white. Into this meditative silence my Dad said, “God knows all these people. He loves every single one of them.”

I had a similar moment this morning as I rode the bus to work. There were so many different people, so many different types of attractiveness, so many different ages. I was thinking about my morning as a parent getting dizzy vacillating between the emotions of only three small humans. But God is a Father to all these people. And I found myself wondering at how it must feel to wake up with the emotions of billions. How do you wake some up with singing and others to the worst day of their lives? How do you take joy in giving a tired mother her morning cup of coffee while dealing with the despair of a beloved son waking up on Van Ness in the aftermath of addiction?

God was suddenly that big again, bigger than the California-one bus line, bigger than San Francisco, bigger even than the infinitesimal system of Los Angeles freeways. He’s that big.

Parallel Parking…

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I was going to rage. There would have been spittle as I listed every reason why I should not have driven across the city. If only I had taken the bus!

Yes, if I had taken the bus I would’ve been calmer when I arrived. Yes, if I had taken the bus a certain pedestrian enjoying her music would’ve been slightly less disgruntled on arriving home from work. Yes, if I had taken the bus I wouldn’t have had to park on Van Ness amidst heavy traffic in front of a suspicious man looking boldly into my backseat. I locked it three times as I walked away. But he didn’t budge. I left him there, right next to my car, checking out the car seats.

Because really, I haven’t been driving much these days.

The other day the kids were screaming at me that we were late for soccer practice. This is funny because none of them can tell time. Nor did I see any of them cc’d on the e-mail that told when and where the practice was to be held.

But they were right and so I took the first parking spot I could find. This required parallel parking and, please remember, I haven’t been driving much these days. I corrected and corrected until further correction was impossible and I was still not correct. All this time my kids, the clock reading savants, were increasing my urgency.

And then I realized I had performed all of this very embarrassing maneuvering right in front of the new soccer team, right there, on the other side of the fence, facing me, with our new team in between, already well into their practice.

I pulled out, found an anonymous spot out of view and acted for the world as if I’ve never seen or heard of a gold corolla in my life.

So, it’s been a tender spot. And then today I had to drive across town at six pm. And I was fully prepared to swear off driving in this city forever.

Until, on the way back, I saw the 38L driving back on Geary, double bus fully loaded and packed with citizens doing their best to internalize their personal space bubbles and be okay with it.

And I was SO glad I drove.