Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose

May the bird of paradise fly up your nose, may an elephant caress you with his toes…” Those were the lyrics of a song by Little Jimmy Dickens that my parents used to listen to when I was growing up. I’ve always remembered the words to this song, and as an adult I realized this song was all about Karma. And if ever there was a time to call upon Karma, this morning was it.

I hiked to the bus stop on Broadway to catch the 0 bus to work, and as I approached the bus shelter I saw a man I have come to refer to as our local Camper. He’s older, and sleeps along the canal road in a small shelter he made for himself out of branches and logs. He’s always been respectful when our paths cross. He’s never asked for money, and is always up early to break his camp and get on the road. Usually I see him tramping up Broadway with his backpack, I suspect heading nowhere in particular.

Occasionally he was at the bus shelter before I arrived, and was always courteous as I approached. If he was smoking a cigarette, he would step around the back of the shelter so I wouldn’t have to smell it. If not, he would stand up and move out of the shelter, insisting I take the seat to wait for the bus. He never spoke, but I got an occasional grunt and nod in response to my greeting.

Today he was standing next to the shelter, and two young men were sitting on the bench inside the shelter. I greeted the camper as I approached, and he nodded silently. He seemed out of sorts, at least as out of sorts as a stranger can be. I noticed immediately that the two young men also appeared to be homeless—their several layers of clothes were filthy, as were their hands and the white plastic bags that held their belongings. They sat on the bench inside the shelter, smoking cigarettes and talking. Their conversation was laced with expletives, and they acted as if they hadn’t noticed my arrival. I wondered how, and why the Camper came to be hanging out with these two. Clearly they were not of the same caliber of people he was.

The Camper seemed frustrated and a little embarrassed at the behavior of his two friends, and avoided making any eye contact with me. I stood to the other side of the shelter, trying to avoid the cigarette smoke, vulgar conversation and general stink of these two youngsters. When the bus arrived, however, the Camper stood up and took the front of the line, they motioned for me to get on first. I thanked him, paid my fare and took a seat near the front.

The stinky young men flashed their transfers and headed to the back of the bus, where they continued their awful interaction. I was glad they hurried to the back and hopefully, after putting on my headphones, I wouldn’t have to listen to them anymore. After fishing my headphones out of my bag, I looked up to see the driver and the Camper in a discussion. The Camper’s eyes narrowed, and he hollered at the two men in the back of the bus.

Hey man, I need that transfer you promised.” That explained a lot. He was hanging with them because they promised him a free bus ride, probably downtown to a food bank or shelter where he could get something to eat. I suspect he traded cigarettes for the promise. Downtown was a good five or six mile walk. I couldn’t fault him for that exchange.

Dude, sorry. We only have one for two of us.” The two laughed at having fooled the old man. The Camper’s eyes glowed with rage, and I could tell he would love to get them alone in a dark alley. And I kind of hoped he would someday. He couldn’t mask the shame he must have felt, as everyone on the bus looked at him, knowing he would be put off the bus because of lack of fare. The pride on his face at that moment reminded me of my father. A man who was proud of who he was, regardless of circumstance.

I pulled out my book of transit passes and walked up to the driver.

I’ll pay this fare.” I said. The Camper looked me directly in the eyes and gave me a slight nod. I don’t know which was harder for him to accept—being duped by a couple of stinky bums, or having to accept my help. I smiled at him and hoped he would go directly to the back of the bus and confront the little snots, as their laughing had died down when they realized he would be riding the bus with them after all.

But he didn’t. He took the first seat at the front of the bus, placed his backpack at his feet, and silently faced the front.

I, however, invoked the power of Karma. “May the bird of paradise fly up your snotty, stinky, horrible little noses.

January 13, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: