A Love Story
By Tabatha Deans
He began as number eight.
The first one was old, fat, and declared he would never go hiking with me, but would gladly drive me up the mountain and watch me hike.
Number two was unmemorable, other than his comment halfway through the date that “a lot more alcohol was needed.”
Number three stormed out after 45 minutes, when I told him to stop trying to touch me and there was no chance he would ever have sex with me.
Number four was nice, but didn’t speak enough English to carry on a meaningful conversation.
Number five began by showing me photos of his recent oral surgery, and ended with throwing a napkin at the table next to us in a fit of rage.
Number six didn’t even pretend to be interested in anything I had to say, and had to cut our date short because he had a tee-time.
Number seven was already drunk before the date, and repeated the same thing over and over again.
AND THEN THERE WAS NUMBER EIGHT…
Number nine was a comedian who wasn’t at all funny, and regaled me with gory details of a recent blocked intestine surgery.
Number ten, well there was really no need to continue after number eight…
Twenty-two years had both flown by and dragged on. Jessica’s college graduation was a day I only vaguely remember thinking about, so many years ago. When she finally walked down the aisle in her long black gown, I realized her life was only beginning, and I had succeeded in raising a beautiful human being.
And I realized that my life was half over. And still my soul mate and I had not found each other. Always the romantic at heart, with the ability, nay, the need, to see the world through rose-colored glasses, I had spent the past twenty years being the strong, free-willed, really cool woman. It was tragically romantic, but also lonely.
Oh, I hadn’t been completely alone, it’s not like I didn’t have any relationships. In fact I had several. I knew every one of them would not truly suit me from the beginning. But I worked really hard at forcing each man to be my true love. The love I had carried in my heart from the time I was a young girl. Sadly, life has not been good to my past suitors. One is certifiably crazy, one is dead, the other is near-dead and I’m pretty sure the other one is in prison. They came in all shapes and sizes, tall, short, fat, thin, painfully handsome, ugly as a fence post, smart, and dumb as a box of rocks.
But none was the one who truly loved me.
Or whom I could love.
It wasn’t like I had a bad life. I was an established writer, I enjoyed plenty of adventures and diversity, I had the respect and admiration of my peers and friends. In fact, I would dare say many lived their lives vicariously through me. However, the accolades forced me to keep my deep, dark secret. The secret that I longed for the man who loved me to share it all with. I longed to climb into bed at night and share my stories with someone who cared. I longed to squelch the lonely thoughts that screamed I was wrong.
But I began to realize there was no such man. This was all I would ever have.
The love of my life was not coming.
DARE I DREAM?
But then, I met number eight.
In honor of my 44th birthday, Jessica gifted me with a three month subscription to Match.com. I promised her I would go on one date a week, for a total of 12 dates, and in exchange she would never harass me again about my social life. Although I had resigned myself to the fact that my soul mate was a myth, I thought I might at least make some new friends.
The first six dates were tedious, and I was honestly counting down the weeks until I had met my commitment of 12 dates and could be finished. Having postponed date number seven, I found myself in the tiresome position of having to go on dates seven and eight back to back. Date number eight and I had not officially scheduled anything, and after another brutal date with number seven, I must admit I was a bit disappointed when number eight called and firmed up plans for the next day.
I had mixed feelings about number eight from the beginning. He was the only one of all the men I’d corresponded with who actually proposed an activity for our first meeting. We were meeting at the park for a walk. He scored points for that, since I told all of them that I preferred physical activity to drinks, dinner and a movie. Number eight also asked for some talking points about myself, that he might be prepared for our first meeting. His thoughtfulness impressed me, but then I found out he was a doctor. Negative points. Since I was diagnosed with diabetes 12 years ago, I have not had any positive interactions with anyone in the medical community, and was not only expecting judgment from him, but was prepared with my own tirade to put him in his place before executing a dramatic exit from the date.
Armed with Pop-Tarts and my tourist sun hat, I waited at City Park for Robert to arrive. Stuck in a traffic jam, he arrived a few minutes late, wearing a ball cap, khaki shorts and a blue Hawaiian print shirt. Not exactly what I’d expected from an evil doctor, and surprisingly I didn’t feel uncomfortable after shaking hands and beginning our walk. We began with small talk; the weather, the park, the children in the park, and advanced to talking about ourselves. What brought us to Denver? Where were we from? Siblings, parents, jobs. I was impressed that he actually responded to my questions and answers—we were actually engaging in a conversation, rather than just talking at each other. We continued to talk and before I knew it we had circled the entire park and more than an hour had passed. I was really enjoying his company, but could feel my blood sugar starting to drop, and knew the Pop-Tarts would be inevitable. We stopped to rest on a bench, look over the pond and watch the ducks and geese.
I nonchalantly opened my Pop-Tarts and started nibbling, deciding it was time to pop the Diabetes surprise on him, waiting for the judgment that would surely follow. I pre-empted my revelation with questions to him about his thoughts on personal accountability for our physical health, versus taking pills or relying on medications to keep us healthy. Surprisingly he agreed that we should take care of our own bodies, and revealed to me that doctors kind of got a bum rap for not being able to magically keep everyone healthy and happy. Hmmm. I hadn’t thought about that point of view.
Feeling more comfortable by the moment, I finally blurted out that I was diabetic. I looked directly at him and waited for the judgment.
“Type one or type two?” he asked. Here it came.
“Type one.” I waited for the judgment. Instead, he extended his hand toward me for a fist bump and smiled.
“Me too.” He bumped my fist and I was speechless. He wore no medic alert bracelet. Hmmm.
“But I’m a bad diabetic,” I said, trying to draw the criticism I had been waiting for out of him.
“So, your A1c is never seven?”
“Mine isn’t either.”
What? I couldn’t believe it. He was not going to judge me. In fact, within the next few minutes of our conversation I realized he actually understood me. He was just like me. For the first time in my life someone truly understood what I was thinking, what I felt.
I ate my Pop-Tarts as we enjoyed this new level of intimacy in our conversation. It was then that I felt the first inkling of real joy, the first inkling that not only was I not all alone in this world, but that this funny, smart, handsome man might become a part of my world. I was almost giddy inside when he asked if I wanted to go get dinner, he remembered there being a nice Mexican restaurant near the park. We climbed into his Mini Cooper and headed to Las Margaritas, where I devoured the spinach and cheese quesadilla and the conversation continued to flow smoothly. After dinner he asked if I would mind taking another walk, since we had overindulged. I gladly walked him through my neighborhood, pointing out the historical highlights, having just written a story for KUSH Magazine about the Uptown neighborhood.
I think we shook hands when he dropped me at my doorstep, and I found myself smiling as I climbed the three flights of stairs to my humble abode.
“That was genuinely pleasant,” I thought to myself. I went to bed with a heart lighter than I had experienced in years, and decided I wouldn’t mind it so much if Robert called me again.
I had already committed to a date with number nine, but my heart wasn’t really into it when I went to meet him at a bar downtown. I really tried to care, but within a few minutes of meeting it was obvious number nine was not even pretending to be engaged in a conversation. He didn’t listen to what I said, every statement came back to something he had done or thought, or said, and he certainly didn’t make funny comments or make me laugh. It was painful, but I lasted an hour out of courtesy. I politely refused his offer of a ride home, and instead walked the 1.5 miles up the mall, thinking about Robert and if he would call.
I worked the next day and having fulfilled my date quota for the week and then some, I was hiking uphill to my apartment when I realized I had two voice messages. The first was from number nine. He had assumed since we hit it off so well I would be coming to dinner that night, would I please call him and tell him what kind of wine I wanted. I called him and told him I would not be coming to dinner, and had he bothered to listen to me at all on our date he would have known that I had no plans to see him again.
But the second message was from Robert. The sound of his voice made my belly flip, and I’m sure I blushed as I giggled at the sensation while I was walking up the mall. He had a dinner to attend for one of his children, but it wouldn’t take long, and if I felt like a spontaneous Friday night out he would love to pick me up and take me to the local arcade 1Up. We had discussed our fond memories of video games, and he knew where we could play Ms. Pac Man, Frogger and Tapper. I hadn’t done anything spontaneous with another person for years, and was excited at the thought of going out. I wondered if our second date would produce the awkwardness that was lacking on the first date. I called and arranged to have him pick me up in a couple of hours. Embracing the spontaneity and feeling frivolous, I skipped my sensible shoes and donned some fancy footwear, and waited anxiously for Robert’s arrival.
From the time I hopped into Robert’s car, I felt an unexplained sense of calmness. He was so easy to talk to, and so easy to make jokes with. Even when we walked into the arcade and realized we were, by far, the oldest people in the joint, he took it in stride and we set about playing games. I was relieved to confirm that I still had mad skills at Tapper, and was thrilled to see that Robert was impressed with my skill and was enjoying the place as much as I was. Feeling pretty full of ourselves, we tried our hand at Q-Bert. I failed miserably. And Quickly. Robert however, seemed invincible as he hopped from square to square, top to bottom, eventually earning the respected top score and title of Supreme Noser.
A funny thing happened as I leaned over his shoulder and watched him dominate the game. Usually very careful to maintain my personal space, since physical contact with others, especially strangers, wasn’t pleasant for me, I accidentally bumped into Robert. And it wasn’t unpleasant. I did it again, under the guise of getting excited and trying to get a better look. I liked it. I felt a bit of electricity change between us, and when I drew back it felt like a part of me had been taken away. He must have started thinking I was drunk or crazy, because I found lots of reasons to bump into him, or lean against him, or brush up against him, but he was absorbed in the game and seemed oblivious to my antics, which oddly made me feel a little sad.
By the end of the evening, I was feeling very happy, even though I had received no indication that Robert was feeling anything more than friendship between us. Friendship would be okay, especially since I felt such a comfortable, genuine kinship with him. I don’t remember if we hugged in the car when he dropped me off, but I remember I was feeling really good, and hoped he would call for another date.
Indeed he did call, although we were not able to schedule another date until the following week, when we arranged to tour the Denver Botanic Gardens. I was disappointed that I would not see him again for a while, but we spoke nightly on the phone. Robert spoke with an enchanting cadence, and our conversations went on well into the night.
I never took the other three dates. Although Robert was number eight on my list, he was number one in my heart.
And now, 4.5 years later, the rest is history.
I thought Robert was taking me to the backyard to scold me. I had been a little snappy as we enjoyed a Saturday morning with Jess, Za and Petra, so when Robert took my hand as he led me toward the back of the yard my mind wasn’t on a marriage proposal.
He said he wanted me to enjoy the morning view with him, then wrapped his arms around me from behind and pointed out the beautiful trees in the neighbors’ yard. A dark green pine tree was surrounded by the brightest yellow tree I’ve ever seen. The morning light shone through the trees, making the fallen leaves that blanketed the ground seem to shimmer. It was beautiful and breathtaking, and I forgot for a moment that there was a scolding in my future.
Robert said some very wonderful things that made me blush, about how great I was and how great our life together was. He was so sweet I began to think there would be no scolding.
“I want to change everything right now.” Robert said.
Uh Oh. And then, before I had time to think about it, he was on bended knee, ring box in hand.
“I believe in Love, I believe in marriage, I believe in you, I believe in us. I want to grow old together. Will you be my wife.” Tears flowed from both of us as time stood still for that moment. I hugged his head since he was still kneeling, and the thought that he had chosen me to be his partner in life made my heart swell. I would take good care of this man, we would take care of each other, and that felt great.
There were other words of endearment on both of our parts, but I don’t remember them verbatim. Robert says now, that it would have been nice for me to tell him it was okay to stand up, rather than keep him kneeling. I remember thinking that I should not open the ring box until we were done with the hugging and kissing, for fear it would fall into the leaf-covered lawn and I might lose it. When I did open the box, the perfect ring winked back at me. Okay, it was more a sparkle than a wink, but the beautiful yellow diamond shimmered in the sun, and it really felt like it was saying to me “we’re going to be so happy together.”
Like many women, I have certainly thought about a proposal, a ring, a wedding, etc. But on this day, when it finally happened, I felt better than I ever imagined I would. Aside from my daughter I have never consciously made such a serious commitment to another person in my life. And for the rest of my life. I’m rather looking forward to this journey. This journey of life and growing old with Robert Stewart.
Until now it has only been a fleeting shadow living in the edge of the lights cast by the Love Boat. (A term we have given our back porch, since it is lit up like the deck of a cruise ship.) We’d seen it occasionally darting in and out of the chicken shack, sneaking food and water before returning to its home, which was a burrowed out hole leading under the concrete step off the back of the garage. I’d held to the belief that it was a rabbit, and we were providing safe haven for a growing family of cute little bunnies.
The hole grew bigger, yet we were not blessed with the joy of baby bunnies running around the backyard. But we saw the shadow more often under the safe cover of darkness at night. It grew bolder and came closer to the Love Boat when we were relaxing. Then our tomatoes began to disappear, and I found half-eaten tomato carcasses at the mouth of the hole. This unwanted guest began to dominate our discussions, and unable to sustain the burden of curiosity any more, we decided on a plan of action. We would flood the hole and see what came out.
It was a rat. A very big, very wet, rat. Robert saw it in it’s entirety, I rushed to the window just in time to see it’s skinny little tail as it ran back into its flooded home. All I could think about was the cartoon version of rats—any rats. Glowing red eyes, long sharp fangs, hissing and generally looking for trouble. The rat clearly had to go. We could not cohabitate. We hatched a plan to pour a bag of concrete down into the wet hole and seal its destiny forever.
We couldn’t quite bring ourselves to do that immediately, I don’t know why. I have no problem catching mice in traps, but suddenly the thought of taking a life wasn’t so easy. We debated a new plan of action, which included setting a live trap to see if we could get it to give up peacefully. We loaded it with cheese and pepperoni, and hoped it would do the right thing.
The trap was empty the next morning as I headed out for Longmont, via public transit. I had mixed emotions about the rat as I sat waiting for my bus in Union Station. I was relieved to not have seen the rat, as the thought of it just creeps me out. But I was also disappointed, as I knew the absence of the rat’s voluntary surrender, forced the showdown closer to a deadly conclusion. I don’t know why I was suddenly worried about killing a rat. I was raised in the country and death of rodents and animals were not uncommon events, and I certainly didn’t have any feelings of affection for the rat.
Conflicted, I sat in the station and watched the people go by. I distracted myself by focusing on the sounds of the station, specifically those of footsteps. I tried to guess who was passing from behind before I saw them, based on their footfalls. There was the click click of high heels, the clomp clomp of work boots, and the occasional squeaky loafer.
I heard small footsteps approaching from behind, and guessed it must be a child, which is always a pleasure in the station because of their joy and wonder of trains and buses. I waited for the child to come into sight, and when it walked past me so I could see it, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I honestly thought for a moment I had experienced a psychotic break, or a stroke, or just lost my mind.
The owner of the small steps was a woman, about five feet tall. She wore hard-soled boots and was taking tiny steps, almost like a shuffle. She clutched a yellow stuffed bird to her chest, and she was wearing a full, furry, one-pieced rat outfit. Yup. A rat outfit. The legs of her onesie were tucked into her boots, and there was a tail dangling from her bottom. The gray fur covered her chest and ended with a hood, topped with ears. She quickly shuffled, or scurried, across the terminal and stopped to look at a schedule. A moment later she scurried back across the terminal and checked out another schedule. She scurried her way down the terminal as I stared in disbelief.
I wanted to shake my head to get the picture out of my mind, but was afraid if I’d had a stroke shaking might make the damage worse. I just watched her. What was the universe telling me? Was this really happening? What the hell?
I guess I’ve seen stranger things in downtown Denver, but really? A rat?
I decided then and there that our rat could stay for a few more days. We would bait the trap with tastier treats, and I vowed to find a way to get it to leave peacefully. Clearly my killer instincts were not strong, and I wasn’t prepared to take a chance on doing something I would regret. So, as of this writing, the rat lives.
P.S. Turns out there is a sexual fetish genre called “Furries,” where people dress in full animal costumes for physical gratification.Hmmm…
I must admit Robert and I had a wonderful time at the Little Big Town concert. From the minute we hit the gates at the opening of the facility, the people working the venue were incredibly nice. It started with our first line, where everyone was being wanded with a metal detector. All of the workers were well into middle-aged, with some teetering on the edge of old. An elderly gent was standing at the end of the line of gates, and with nobody bothering to venture all the way down, he was obviously feeling useless. He jumped up and down, waving his arms and wand, and shouted “pick me, pick me!” Of course we went through his line.
We passed the wanding and advanced ten feet to the next person, who cheerfully asked how we were doing.
“Good. We’ve never done this before, so I hope it works,” Robert stated, as he handed over his phone.
“That’s why I’m here.” The woman said nicely. “I’ll make sure it all goes smoothly.” She tapped his phone to her machine, and it spit out two tickets, which she handed to us with a smile.
“There, that was pretty painless, wasn’t it?” Her sidekick said to me. I had to admit it was, and some of my previous anger started to seem a bit silly.
We advanced to the next person, about ten feet ahead again, and they took our tickets and granted us access to the venue. It was a typical country concert, with lots of boots, denim, plaid and beer. The evening was really cold, with a wind that made it worse, and I watched as many of the young women pranced around in short-shorts, skimpy tank-tops, cowboy boots and goosebumps. It is times like these that I am glad to be middle-aged, as we were all covered in boots, jeans and bulky sweaters.
We circled the stadium, got dinner and a beer, found our seats and enjoyed the first act. We headed to the restroom along with everyone else as stagehands went to work to prepare the stage for Little Big Town. We had eaten in a bar earlier, and I smartly directed Robert back to the bar, as I had noticed bathrooms near the rear, and was pretty sure they wouldn’t be as crowded as the general restrooms. I was mostly right, but there was still a line when we arrived.
There was one closed door with a sign for both a male and a female bathroom on it. Having been in the bathroom already, I inquired from those at the front of the line if they knew there were two bathrooms in there, and if they were both in use. Being women, being country and being a little bit tipsy, the ladies at the front of the line threw open the door and marched into the small hallway to investigate. The remaining ladies spilled into the newly opened hallway, forming a line that went down the hall to the men’s room and back along the other wall to the ladies room. Word from the front was that there was both a urinal and a stall in the men’s room. A cry went up as the first woman in line headed for the men’s room. A man came out of the bathroom with a shocked look on his face, head down and hustling through the line of ladies.
Robert was the next male in line. The ladies were getting restless and a little bit crazy, and as Robert headed through the gauntlet, the ladies demanded payment for entrance.
“Dance. Dance. Dance.” They chanted as Robert advanced.
And I am very proud to say, that not only did Robert dance his way through the line, he shook his money-maker so hard there was whooping and hollering heard all through the stadium. That’s my man!
While the $11.20 convenience fee still annoys me, watching Robert dance his way to king of the restroom was priceless.
I begrudgingly admit that technology has made a few things in my life easier. Specifically, I no longer have to pick up the phone, dial the number to my bank, then enter my twelve digit account number to get my balance. I simply pull it up online.
And over the past two days I have learned about this thing called a “convenience” fee, which implies our lives will be easier because of it. Or so I thought.
So years ago, if I wanted to attend a concert I was forced to leave my home and go to the local Smithtix, which was the service center at Smith’s grocery store, which here in Denver is King Soopers. If the ticket cost $30, I gave them $30. I took the tickets home and put them someplace safe until the night of the concert.
If it was a band I really liked, and wanted great seats, I could suffer the inconvenience of lining up at the record store at midnight the day the tickets went on sale. It was brutal standing in line with other fans, usually the band’s music blasting from a number of boom boxes. Eating and dancing and chatting about how exciting the concert would be. Oh, the horrible experience and inconvenience.
Then there was the worst possible inconvenience. I would be sitting home with a full weekend of boredom planned. Nothing to do and no money to spend. When horror of horrors, a friend would call. “My wife/husband/kid is sick and I can’t go to this concert. Do you want the tickets?” It was so inconvenient to drive over to their house and pick up the tickets.
Those days are gone now though, thanks to the concept that computers are the easiest way to do things. Here I must apologize for the length and detail of this post, but I want to make sure every single establishment that has made my life “convenient” over the last two days gets their due recognition. So here we go.
Robert and I decided to go to the Luke Bryan concert at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. We’re not really Luke Bryan fans, but we are Little Big Town fans and they are his guests. So I go to the Dicks Sporting Goods Park website. Click on tickets. Purchase. So far pretty convenient. I am redirected to a web page for Altitude Tickets, and see that each ticket, which costs $39.50, will be assessed an $11.20 “convenience fee.” Oh hell no. I search the website for box office information, hoping I might just go down and pick some up after work. This is verbatim what I found.
“Tickets may be purchased for all events at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park through Altitude Tickets. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Box Office, by calling Altitude Tickets at 1.866.461.6556, or by visiting AltitudeTickets.com.”
Tickets can NOT actually be purchased in person. I could however buy the tickets online, and pick them up in person at the will call booth, for a small fee of $25. I carried on through the website, resigned to paying the $11.20 fee.
Turns out I had exactly three minutes to complete this transaction before the computer signed me out. This process involved answering two questions to prove I wasn’t a robot. Then entering all my personal information, then all of the credit card information and three more personal security questions. I failed miserably. Twice. Even with Robert sitting next to me and prompting me as we went, there was no possible way we could get it done in three minutes.
We realized that in order to get our tickets, Altitude was forcing us to a website called Flash Seats. So, being the relatively smart people we are, we venture into the Flash Seats website and created an account there. Then went back to Altitude and started the process all over again. Finally success!
The emails started pouring in that we now had an account with Altitude, and Flash Seats, and we had purchased tickets. And both sites had all of our personal and credit card information. None of the emails gave us an option to print our tickets. Finally we found in small writing that we now had to download the Flash Seats app on Robert’s phone in order to have access to our tickets. We followed the link they sent us, and could see our account and that we had purchased the tickets, but no bar code or option to print tickets.
Exhausted and frustrated, we went to bed. I wrote down three service numbers, a physical address and several confirmation numbers, and assured Robert I would return at the end of the day with tickets in hand.
I will spare you the gory details of my multiple calls to service centers. The end result was this: we either download the app and hope our phone has service at the venue, or bring the credit card we bought them with to be swiped, yet again, at the venue, or pay the $25 and pick them up at Will Call. There was absolutely, positively no way to print tickets. Simply couldn’t be done they said.
I get home and deliver the news to Robert, who is holding two pages of printed material explaining how and where to park, how to get there, and how if we use our new accounts we get $5 off on parking. But nowhere could they have printed a freakin’ little barcode for us to get in. And there was no sign of the app we thought we downloaded.
We clearly needed vodka. Several drinks later and unsure if we had downloaded the app, I did find a details screen about the Flash Seats service we had been forced to sign up for. There were pages and pages of how to bid on tickets, buy tickets, trade tickets, transfer tickets, search for tickets, and confirmation that no tickets were refundable, however we could certainly give the tickets to someone else, after, of course, they sign up for the service, download the app and for a fee. Finally, ten pages down, I found how to use our tickets at the venue.
So after more than two hours of work online and on the phone, this is what the convenience fee has gotten us: We arrive at the venue, look for the line that says Flash Seats. Show our phone, credit card and ID to whoever. After they have verified that we are indeed the people who purchased the tickets, they will reach down to their little portable machine and guess what?
They will spit out two ticket stubs for us.
Which we will then take to an usher and be shown to our seats.
Convenience my ASS!
Bus Family II
The O bus is always full of characters. It travels the length of Broadway, which is a major North/South road that runs from downtown to Highlands Ranch, and is full of Mom and Pop stores, bars, restaurants, antique stores and marijuana dispensaries.
I was on the last leg of my journey home, and watched as the regulars boarded the O at the Englewood station. First came the young man I call the Thug. He’s about 25 and wears baggy shorts, a funky ball cap askew on his head and walks the gangsta walk. Actually he has a legitimate reason for the walk, since he wears a knee brace that actually hinders his stride.
Next came a middle-aged man who walks with a cane. I call him Grimace, because he always has a look of pain on his face. I can’t tell if he’s genuinely in pain or just has a scowl about him. They both took a seat at the front of the bus.
Then Construction Guy got on the bus. He’s tall and about my age, and always has his orange construction vest on, shorts and dirty work boots that come just high enough up his ankles to allow room for his electronic monitoring anklet. He never smiles or acknowledges anyone when he gets on, and heads directly to the back of the bus.
We all settled into our usual seats, and politely ignored each other. A few stops down the road a young man got on, early twenties I’d say, and very, very buff. The kind of buff that not only shows muscles, but muscles on top of those muscles. He was carrying a case of water and as the bus began to move he grabbed onto the bar by the front seats, dropping his water and bumping into Grimace. He didn’t apologize, and as the bus went down the road he opted to keep standing right in front of Grimace, periodically bumping his legs. Grimace finally asked him to take a seat, and the young man bent down and got right in his face and placed one finger in front of his lips and made the “Shhhhhh…” motion to Grimace.
The thug sat up a little straighter and Grimace’s eyes squinted. I could feel the level of testosterone quickly rising. Grimace stared at Buff Guy, and the driver encouraged him to sit down. Without breaking eye contact, he took the seat across from Grimace, and again made the “shhhh..” motion. I was already sitting two rows back from the two, but at this point two other women sitting in the front got up and moved to the back, and a couple with a young child got off at the next stop. I checked both of them out to see if there was any sign of a gun, and was pretty sure they didn’t have one, so I rode it out.
The tension continued for another couple of stops, then Grimace pulled the cord signaling he needed the next stop. As soon as he pulled the cord, Buff Guy stood up as if he were also exiting the bus, and stood in front of the door waiting to get off. But when the bus stopped and Grimace got up to leave, Buff Guy just stood in front of the doorway, blocking his exit. Of course Grimace just pushed into him, trying to force him down the stairs of the bus. Buff Guy braced himself and didn’t budge. The Thug got up and threw his weight into Buff Guy as well, and a full on scuffle began. Buff Guy against the two handicapped men.
The bus driver stood up to help, and suddenly Construction Guy came running from the back of the bus to offer his assistance. He realized Buff Guy couldn’t be reached from there, so he came to the back door of the bus and got off, then went around to the front and pulled Buff Guy down the stairs and out of the bus. Of course Buff Guy tried to run back onto the bus, and as Grimace and the Thug made it off the bus, it looked as if they were going to go to blows.
But the bus driver and Construction Guy held them apart, and the driver pointed out that Buff Guy probably didn’t want to go to jail for assaulting two guys with handicaps. Buff Guy argued, but Construction Guy got in his face and reinforced the bus driver’s sentiment. “They’re handicapped for hell’s sake! He wears a cane and he has a leg brace!” That seemed to snap Buff Guy out of it a bit, and reluctantly he hung his head and got back onto the bus. The driver and Construction Guy made sure Grimace and the Thug were okay, then they got back on the bus. Construction Guy sat next to Buff Guy and made sure he minded his manners until he got off the bus a few stops down.
We all breathed a sigh of relief when he left, and the bus driver apologized to us ladies for having had to see such a spectacle. I don’t understand male ways, but it seemed to me that this group had created the best possible outcome for this situation.
So here’s the kicker. Buff Guy was wearing a T-shirt from some anti-violence youth campaign with a slogan printed on the back.
“Hearts not Hands. Make good choices.”
One of the great benefits of riding the bus is the chance to read a book, daydream, listen to music or just generally get inside your head. The regional buses are pretty good for napping as well, which I usually do as I listen to music on the way to Longmont every Monday to see Jessica and Petra. The humming of the tires and the swaying of the bus can have a hypnotic effect, and it’s not uncommon to be so engrossed in relaxing that you miss your stop. It’s not a matter of if this will happen, but a matter of when.
There’s a physical reaction that occurs when a stop is missed, and it’s pretty easy to spot the symptoms before the rider actually speaks out, which they always do, usually in the form of some kind of curse words. It must be some kind of muscle memory, because our bodies sense that we have traveled too far, and sends a message to our brain. The first sign a rider has missed their stop is the look of confusion as they lift their head from their book or take their earphones out. They look around the bus, then they lean over to look through the windows at the surroundings passing by. They they look to the front of the bus at the bus number and the next stop that is displayed on a lighted screen. It ultimately ends with a desperate look to fellow passengers, and the question of “where are we?”
At that point, the bus comes alive with suggestions of back-up plans. Which bus to take at the next stop, whether to ride on and wait for a turnaround, or sometimes the bus driver just stops at an unauthorized spot to let the traveler off. I once had a driver on the 27 bus who knew we would be going through a detour, but none of us did. When she left the station and turned the wrong direction, all of us reacted the same way, and as she looked in her mirror at her bus full of panicked faces, she laughed and laughed.
Last week as we were nearing my stop on the L bus in Longmont, I noticed the driver was not in the left-hand turning lane, which took us the two blocks over to my stop. I figured he was taking a detour, as he had done earlier to get us through some construction. As we traveled through the light, all the passengers looked up and took notice. We looked at each other questioningly as the driver drove farther from our stop. “Aren’t we supposed to turn here?” One asked. “I thought so, maybe we’re on a detour.” Offered another. We went another several blocks before the lady in front of me finally spoke out.
“Driver, weren’t we supposed to turn there?” Halfway through her sentence the driver let fly a cuss word. The look on his face was the same, well known look of passengers who had gotten so absorbed in their thoughts they forgot to get off the bus. He quickly pulled into the left turn lane and headed back toward our stop, apologizing all the way.
“On Hell. I’m so sorry. I totally spaced that turn.”
“No worries.” We told him. “It happens all the time. Thinking about something good?”
“Music.” He named a specific song that I was not familiar with. “I played it for my teenager the other night and he wasn’t impressed. I was trying to figure out if I played it wrong, or if I could do it better.” He apologized again as we neared our stop.
We all reassured the driver as we exited the bus that it was no big deal, it had happened to all of us, and jokingly told the remaining passengers to keep an eye on him to keep him on the right track.
Bus family, they always have your back.
It was another exciting Grammy day with Petra, and the playland at McDonalds was hoppin’ with activity. Most of the older kids had gone back to school, so the place was full of grandparents and smaller children. My little charge was sporting a new dress, compliments of her Aunt Mihyun and Uncle Nathan. Unable to decide which pair of flip-flops best completed the ensemble, she was wearing two different flip-flops, and was adamant about placing them neatly in the shoe bin.There was another young girl with an equally puffy dress, and she and Petra took turns jumping off the step and watching their dresses fly up. I think they believed they were flying. A trio of older children showed up, and the girl, about seven or so, immediately took to Petra and the other young one, and as happens with little and big girls, they quickly formed the dynamic of the older girl helping the younger ones scale the slide, crawl over the fences, and generally being at their beck and call.
I relaxed and sipped my diet Coke and took the chance to do some people watching. The older girl had two brothers, pretty close in age, with the older boy being around eight or nine. I think they were involved in a child exchange, as the mom sat in the lobby and the father came in to have lunch with the kids. After eating, the man stood up and announced he had to get back to work, and the kids hugged him and he left the playland.
A few seconds later there was an incredibly loud wailing sound coming from the back of the playland. Myself, and several other Grammies, instinctively covered our ears as we realized someone had breached the security of the playland doors, and the increasingly loud sound was that of the emergency alarm, letting us know someone had tried to escape. The kids scattered like rats, each one running to their guardian with scared looks on their faces. Petra immediately took a seat next to me, and looked at me with eyes that said “I didn’t do it.”
None of the kids seemed afraid, but they all seemed to naturally know that someone had done something wrong, and it was important to them that it be known they hadn’t done it. They looked at each other wide-eyed and accusingly. I noticed the young boy I had seen with his father earlier stood nervously by the door. His cheeks were red with embarrassment, but he didn’t flee. His eyes darted around to all of us, probably looking for whoever was in charge. I expected him to split as soon as no one addressed him, but he nervously paced back and forth in front of the door. I finally made eye contact with him, and he seemed relieved to confess his sin. He was clearly afraid of whatever consequences came with opening a security door.
“I did that. That was me.” He said, on the verge of tears.
“Aw, well, it was bound to happen. No worries,” I tried to make him feel better.
“I was saying good bye to my dad,” He explained as the alarm continued to blare. He stood his ground even as he looked around, waiting for the authorities to come take him away for committing such a horrendous crime. Finally, the lobby guy who cleans the playland, an elderly gent, sauntered into the playland and slowly worked his way across the room to the door. He inserted a key, turned it and the alarm ended. It clearly wasn’t the first time someone had opened the forbidden door, and I don’t think he even cared who did it.
But that young boy did. He was adamant about owning up to his mistake, and equally adamant about taking any punishment that came with it. He stood directly in front of the older man and confessed again.
“That was me. I did that. I was trying to say good bye to my dad.” He waited silently for his punishment.
“Well, don’t touch the security doors.” And with that, the old man went back to work and the young man breathed a sigh of relief and a big grin spread over his face. He had owned his crime, confessed to his sin, and was let off with a warning. He had to feel pretty good about himself. He had done the right thing.
Our country’s leaders, celebrities and athletes could learn a thing or two about maturity and integrity from this young fellow. And he wasn’t even ten years old yet.
I don’t remember how old I was the first time my parents took me and my siblings camping at Spirit Lake. I do know I can’t remember ever not going to Spirit Lake in the summer when I was a kid. So I’m going to say it’s been about 40 years that I have been participating in this family tradition. For the past 20 years I have been taking my own daughter,Jessica, and the past two years have included the attendance of my granddaughter, Petra.
Spirit Lake is not for everyone, as the air is thin, there is no running water and cooking breakfast can be a morning-long event. Coffee is made over Coleman stoves or an open fire, dinner often involves a stick and some sort of processed meat, and the main source of entertainment is a trip to the lodge to see what everyone else is up to. There is no reason to rush at Spirit Lake, and the altitude has been blamed for killing brain cells, thus removing any thoughts of stress, angst or irritation of everyday life. Life is good there, and sometime in my life Spirit Lake became “my” place. All of my friends have made the trip with me to experience the magic, at least once, although apparently not everyone is as enchanted with the place as I am.
This year’s trip began with some mild drama, as Jess and I vehemently argued with the navigational app lady who sent us circling the I-70 on ramp rather than just getting us on our way. After a little cursing, wondering and a few blocks, we turned her off and relied on Jess’s atlas. We had a relaxing drive across Colorado, en route to pick up my childhood friend Kathy. Kathy is one of my trusted “Grand Council” members, and has had a great influence on Jessica’s life. I knew this trip would not only be entertaining, it would be epic.
This trip was a “girls only,” at least for the first four days. After which time Robert and Jess’s significant other would be joining us. After stopping in Vernal for food and provisions, we headed to Spirit Lake in separate cars. I had Petra in tow in hopes she would nap along the way, and Kathy and Jess tied up some loose ends in town. As soon as I turned off Highway 191 onto the road to Spirit Lake, I rolled down the windows and inhaled the fresh air.
The next few days were pretty much the ultimate Hen party, full of hours sitting around the fire, hiking through the woods, cooking, cleaning up and generally doing a whole lot of nothing. Petra made friends with the little girl whose parents were running and living at the lodge, and we made friends with just about anybody who passed our campfire. We took our annual boat ride, which involves me protesting loudly and adamantly about my fears and the lack of safety of boats. Jessica won, as usual, and I found myself with a death grip on Petra as the four of us rowed about the lake. Naturally Petra was not okay with me holding onto her life jacket, and insisted I “move away” so she could sit by her mom and be a big girl.
People from all over the world come to Spirit Lake, and most of them begin their conversations with “last time I was here.” One morning I was taking a short cut along the stream toward the lodge to get some water, and as I came around a corner I came within about ten yards of a giant male moose. Moose are a common sighting at Spirit Lake, and my family has had several run-ins with them, but this was my first up-close encounter. I slowly backed away and headed up another trail, which took me directly through another camp. As I reached the edge of the camp I came upon two young boys, about eight or nine I would guess.
“Sorry,” I said. “But there’s a moose in my path so I have to go around.” The oldest of the two got a scared look on his face, his eyes got big and he looked toward where I had just come from.
“When I was here last year there were 50 mooses.” He said enthusiastically.
“Oh wow, that’s a lot,” I said.
“Yeah, and I wasn’t scared at all.” He said proudly. “But this year, I asked Siri about moose,” He paused and blew out a breath dramatically as he ran his fingers through his hair. “And Sheeeesh. Sheeeesh.” It was clear Siri had taught him about his previously unknown dangers of moose. He quickly went the other direction, back toward his camp and the safety of his father’s supervision.
The trip gave me plenty of time to ponder. Mostly about my life. My life now, my life when I was younger, and my life when I was young. There was a moment when Jessica and Petra were standing out on the dock looking into the lake, that it was clear to me each phase of my life, at least vicariously, was present at Spirit Lake this year. I remembered being there as a child, then as a young mother in charge of a child, and now as a grandmother in charge of a young mother who is in charge of a young child. The dynamic kind of blew my mind, and brought tears to my eyes. It’s long been said that “the minute we are born we begin dying,” and naturally as I grow older I can’t help but fear my ultimate future, which, like everyone else, ends with death.
But watching those two–my child and my grandchild–standing on the dock, I was overcome with a sense of peace, almost joy, as I realized that ultimately I will never be completely dead. I caught a glimpse into the future, and saw generations upon generations standing on that dock. Parents holding their children’s hands, and the little one saying “Mommy, tell me again about Grammy Deans…”
Every time I take the 66 bus I can’t help but ponder the meaning of courage. Or, more specifically, my lack of courage.
The 66 serves a route that is heavily populated by blind people. (Or visually impaired for the PC Nazis.) Nearly every stop from where I board on Broadway to the Littleton downtown light rail station involves a blind person getting on the bus. They all seem to know each other, and which stops they get on, because they greet each other and take seats in the front as they discuss their plans for the day, politics, tell jokes or even trade friendly insults with each other. When we arrive at the station, they all pile off the bus, thrust their white canes in front of them, and march across the busy street to get to the light rail. I used to be frightened for them, now I am just in awe of them.
And I can’t help but wonder if I would have the courage to wander out into the world without being able to see my surroundings. I’m pretty sure I would not. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong person. I can get stuff done and I can handle a lot of situations, but I really don’t think I would prosper if I ever lost my vision.
Today I boarded the 66 bus an hour later than usual, and the blind people had already been delivered to their destinations. I sat alone on the bus, wondering about their daily lives and a little sad I’d missed them. Then we pulled up to a stop on Littleton Boulevard, and I saw the tip of a white cane come through the front door of the bus. The woman who stepped up was one I’d seen before. She was pretty and usually laughing. She carefully tapped her cane along the seats before settling in the front.
Today, there was something different about her. It struck fear in my heart, while at the same time bringing a tear to my eye at the thought of her courage. She had her usual heavy backpack on, but strapped on her stomach was a baby of about 8 or 9 months old. The baby was facing toward me, and was adorable. I noticed the woman took a little more time settling in, mindful of the precious package she was carrying. The baby had a lot of dark curly hair, and large brown eyes that seemed to take in everything around her. She was seeing everything her mother could only hear.
I immediately had mixed feelings. How safe was it to take a baby out into the world when you couldn’t see? What if they got lost? What if she stepped out in traffic? How could she possibly keep that baby safe? What if?… Well, obviously my prejudice was showing, and I reasoned with myself pretty quickly that like any other mother she was capable of taking care of her child. Perhaps she was even more aware of the goings on around them, due to a heightened sense of hearing and smell. Perhaps she was even a superior parent because she could sense dangers long before we ever would. She nuzzled her nose in her baby’s hair, and the baby smiled and cooed. Obviously they loved each other. I wondered if the mother knew she and her daughter didn’t share the same color of skin.
When we exited the bus at the station, I was worried about them crossing the street. I hung back and followed them off the bus. This time, instead of the woman sticking her cane out into the street and heading boldly into traffic, I followed her as she walked down the sidewalk to the crosswalk. She stopped, unaware that I was stalking her. Where I would look both ways for cars, she did the same, only with her ears. She tilted her head slightly toward the left, then toward the right, listening for the sound of cars. I sensed her hesitancy, and jumped at my chance to help.
“Are you crossing here?” I asked. She seemed relieved.
“Yes. Funny how the cars never seem to stop.”
“Yeah, but we’re good to go now,” I said and she followed the sound of my voice into the street. “Your baby is adorable. She’s made my day,” I said.
“Thank you,” She said as we hit the other side of the street. She was beaming like any proud mother, and I was suddenly just a little bit jealous of the adventure they would be having for the day while I reported to the office for mundane labor.