Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Bus Family II

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.”

Hmmm….

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September 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bus Family

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.

 

 

 

 

 

August 27, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Holy Hail!

It was another scorching day in Denver. Thankfully I spent the day inside the air-conditioned donation center, and reluctantly left the cool comfort to begin my journey home for the day. The temperatures had come down a little as the clouds rolled in, and I was enjoying the change as I stood on Monaco waiting for the 65 bus. Clad in shorts and a tank top, I began to worry a little as the clouds got darker and the bus officially became late. Summer storms can roll in quickly, and I cursed myself for having switched bags and not putting my rain jacket in the bag I was now carrying. As the first rain drop fell it became a race against time. If the bus showed up immediately, I would still have time to make it to the Hampden light rail station, where there was a tunnel and shelter from the rain. A young girl with big hair joined me under the tree as we waited for the bus, and just as the rain began to really fall we saw the bus pulling up to the light.

Less than a quarter mile down the road the rain turned to hail, and within a half mile the hail was the size of my thumb. The pounding on the top of the bus sounded like the ice balls would come right through, and outside the scene was a white out, but with hail so thick we couldn’t see. The hail grew bigger and bigger, and the bus driver began pulling over to pick people up who were not waiting at the bus stop, but were just trying to get out of the brutal hail. One woman was dressed only in a small sun dress, and when we stopped for her she was crying and nearly hysterical. We stopped to pick up two women, one older and one with special needs. They had several suitcases and a rolling cart. As soon as the driver opened the doors two male passengers jumped off the bus and rushed out into the storm to help the women with their luggage.

The sound was unlike anything I had ever heard before, and as a collective people we were all stunned and unsure of what to do as we pulled into the station. Other travelers boarded with looks of fear and dismay, and one gentleman was rubbing his shoulder where the hail had hit him. We all had a hard decision to make. Should we get off the bus? Or just stay on it and keep riding around until it stopped. Myself and another young man decided to make a run for it. We had a few yards of open space, then down two flights of stairs, and at the bottom was a tunnel where we could take refuge to wait for the train. He looked at me and I looked at him and together we ran off the bus.

And Holy Hail! The first few seconds were not that bad, but then I felt the chunks of ice hit my shoulders and the back of my legs. It was a searing hot pain where they hit, and some of them were jagged so I was sure they were tearing through my flesh. Halfway down the stairs I regretted my decision. As I hit the bottom of the stairs and the entryway to the tunnel, it was like a scene out of a horror show. Dozens of people were standing just inside the tunnel, ankle deep in water and hail. They encouraged us as we ran toward them, and the masses parted to let the newest refugees into the space of safety. Some of them had looks of sympathy for us on their faces, while others clearly thought we were fools. An older man offered me his handkerchief to dry off with, and as I wiped down my arms I noticed huge red welts where I had been hit. Others gathered around to tend to our wounds, or more accurately to see the damage.

We huddled in the tunnel as the carnage continued above us, the sound was so loud we couldn’t hear each other speak. Body language was all we had to communicate. I saw young men helping the elderly people, and business men huddling with the families and little children. Two people had taken up post at the top of the stairs, and hollered down to us below whenever a train came along. As soon as they announced the E line to Lincoln was pulling up, myself and dozens of others ran up the stairs to board the train. Once again safe and moving in the direction of home, we laughed and shared our horror stories with those on the train. Despite the welts and one small scrape on my leg, it was a great experience to see my fellow humans come together, especially after all the violence that has occurred in the world lately. There was no race, sex or age in that tunnel. There were only people. People being beaten and held hostage by hail.

Amazingly, as is common in Colorado, when I hopped off the train at the Arapahoe station to wait for Robert, the sun was shining and the only reminder of my harrowing ordeal was the sweet smell of wet earth and warm summer sun.

July 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shame on Me

It is a common occurrence when venturing to downtown Denver to be repeatedly asked for money by panhandlers. When I lived downtown the first person who asked me usually ended up with the little change I had in my pocket. I used to write profiles of homeless people who were vendors for the Denver Voice newspaper, so I have come to not judge anyone, since many of their circumstances were tragic and unavoidable. There are of course always a few youngsters who are clearly on the streets because they can’t be bothered to get a job, or are living “free” like America promised them.

This day was no different. I was headed to Longmont to spend the day with Jess and Petra, and boarded the free mall shuttle to take me to Union Station, where I would catch the L bus. The shuttle has a row of seats that run along the back, allowing riders to look toward the front of the shuttle. I took a seat near the back, but along the side, and made myself comfortable. Shortly into the ride, an older man who was sitting in the back seat, looked directly at me and I prepared myself for my defensive response.

“Do you have anything to eat?” He asked quietly.

“I’m sorry, I don’t,” I responded automatically. He gave the tiniest nod and looked away.

The problem was I DID have something to eat. I had a whole lunch bag full of homemade pizza with chicken and artichoke toppings. I had an entire baggy full of fresh grapes, and I had a couple of cookies and a yogurt. I had plenty of food, and it certainly wasn’t the only food I would have access to that day.

I felt horrible. I watched as he lowered his head to his chest and appeared to fall asleep. He hadn’t asked me for cash. He had only asked me for the most basic of human needs–food. I tried to remember the last time I was hungry. It was a few weeks ago, and I was certain I would faint doing the most mundane tasks around the house if I went another moment without food. I wondered if sleeping abated the pains of an empty stomach, as I watched him and fought back tears. His clothes were mostly clean, as well as his gray hair and face. He didn’t appear to be homeless, perhaps he was just hungry.

Even after these thoughts, I am ashamed to admit that I still debated at all whether or not to give him some food. I thought about what I was willing to part with. The pizza was not that great, but was homemade and looked impressive. The grapes are natural fruit, so that seemed like the best idea. The yogurt and cookies I intended to share with Petra so I ruled them out.

I continued to watch him until we were two stops away from Union Station. Sad and ashamed, I moved into the seat next to him, and pulled the pizza out of my lunch bag. I touched his hand lightly and he lifted his head, opened his eyes and looked at me. They were the watery, cloudy eyes of an old man, like those of my grandfather. I fought back tears and tried not to think about what circumstances had brought this man to the point of asking for food from strangers.

“I have some homemade pizza,” I handed him the bag. “I’m not the best cook, but it’s fresh.”

He took the bag eagerly, and carefully opened the ziploc.

“Thank you, it looks really good.” He took a bite and looked at me with those watery eyes, and praised me as if I had just served him some filet mignon. I was a fine cook, he said, in between bites, which he truly savored–I like to think it was really delicious, and not just his extreme hunger that fueled his compliments.

We chatted as he ate a piece of pizza, then it was time to get off the shuttle. He thanked me again and disappeared into the crowd.

 

 

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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 | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A MAN AND HIS BIRD

A MAN AND HIS BIRD…

               I watched the man as I waited patiently for the L bus to bring me home from an overnight visit with Jessica in Longmont. Being a conscientious commuter, I sat on the bench in front of the designated loading spot for the bus. The man was large, looked to be about 30 or so, and paced back and forth behind the bus stop shelter. I watched him out of the corner of my eye, waiting for him to swoop in when the bus pulled up and butt in line. I really am a stickler for bus protocol, and it really angers me when people just strut all around the bus stop, then jump in front of those who patiently waited in line.

               The man eventually tired of pacing and came to sit on the bench across from me. He was holding something very carefully in his hands. I looked closer and saw that he was cradling a small sculpture. About six inches around, it was a piece of driftwood with a tiny yellow and green ceramic bird perched on it, and was decorated with flowers and greenery. He held it as if it were made of gold, and I felt compelled to compliment him on his trinket.

               “That’s pretty,” I said. He smiled really big and stammered a bit when he responded.

               “Thank you. It was an expensive bird,” he said, stroking the fake bird from head to tail. “It cost me fifteen dollars.”

               “Well, it makes me happy to look at so I guess it was worth it.” He smiled again and I realized he was perhaps not the sharpest tool in the shed. His clothes were clean, and he chose his words carefully, and I couldn’t help by smile myself as he told me the story of his bird.

               “I liked this bird because he sings.” He pushed a button and the bird’s beak began moving and his tail flitting about as a chirping sound came from the trinket. “And look, he comes off the log, so if I don’t want to take him out with this, I can just take him off and put him in my pocket.” He plucked the tiny bird off the perch to demonstrate how easily he could remove it. He stroked it lovingly before putting it back on the perch.

               “Well that’s definitely work it then,” I said.

               “Yeah, there used to be a bigger bird on this stick, but I don’t like him as much so I leave him at home usually.” I raved about his bird and how pretty the set up was, and he was obviously proud of his plastic pet. After a few minutes his voice got serious.

               “I worry about this little bird though.”

               “Oh, how so?” I asked.

               “I worry that he’ll get picked on. I’m worried he’ll get bullied by people.” His concern showed in his eyes.

               “Why would anybody pick on him?” I asked.

               “Because he’s MY friend. Sometimes people are not nice to me, and I worry they will be mean to him too.”

               Luckily the short bus showed up and the big man jumped up with his bird to catch his ride. I sat at the bus stop, crying behind my sunglasses, and hoping that nobody would be mean to the little bird today…

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

PRIDEFEST STRIKES AGAIN

PRIDEFEST STRIKES AGAIN…
It’s that time of year again. Downtown Denver fills up for two days of partying, with streets blocked off and thousands of party-goers wandering the streets, listening to music, and drinking. Lots and lots of drinking. Whenever there’s a major event downtown, there is a huge contribution of “hot lunches” up and down the streets. Hot lunch is the term transit drivers use when someone throws up on their bus or train. “That jerk left a hot lunch on my bus/train.” Needless to say, I was not necessarily looking forward to my trip home Sunday.
I had worked all day, and preferred to avoid going downtown at all, but desperately needed to check my mail and see if the maintenance guy had installed an air conditioner in my apartment yet. Jess was in Boulder so I intended to pop in, change my clothes, maybe lounge in front of the air conditioner until it cooled down, and listen to the goings-on of the revelers in the alley way. I noticed something was not quite right as I approached my neighborhood. Hundreds of people filled the streets, wandering and looking bewildered. Many of them were thoroughly drunk and jovial, so I navigated through them and into my apartment building.
The problem was obvious. There was no power. Only the emergency exit lights were lit, and the air inside was stifling. Even worse in my apartment, since I have the corner with two windows. The heat was unbearable, and everyone on the street was going from bar to bar, to store, looking for someone who could serve them without power. Apparently everything is run on power, because I heard a lot of complaining from the angry drunks. I quickly changed my clothes, ditched my bike, and headed back toward the bus to work my way to the cooler temperatures of the suburbs.
I made it to Colfax before the inevitable happened. Now I don’t know what it is about gay men, but on several occasions one has stopped me on the street. Today was no exception.
“Oh, hey, pretty lady. You wanna come have a shot with us at X-Bar?” The stranger was a young man, quite attractive, with a young woman with him.
“Oh, you should totally come have a shot with us,” she said. I had never laid eyes on these two, but they were hell-bent on becoming my new friend. As I always do when this happens to me, which, in retrospect, is kind of a lot, I told them I was going to check things out downtown but might catch them later.
“Then look for us at Vinyl. That’s where the party’s going.” They said, disappointed and thinking in their drunk minds that their new friend totally planned on showing up.
I made it to Broadway before I realized the buses would be re-routed because of the road closures. I sat on the edge of the fountain at Colfax and Broadway, sipped my cold water, and pondered my choices. I try to be open-minded when it comes to LGBT communities, but I am always perplexed at Pridefest. The uniform of choice for many young men are simply their underwear and rainbow suspenders. Some get more elaborate, adding boas, chains or harnesses. But its clear that nudity, as much as is allowed by law, is the common theme for many attendees. I also spent a good amount of time trying to figure out the sex of some of the attendees. Not so I could judge them, but just so I could know. Young men look just like young women, young women look like young men, and some I genuinely have no idea what sex they were.
After too much time pondering, I decided to suck it up and use a fresh transit pass, and headed for the train station. It was the path of least resistance, and as the afternoon went on the sound of more hot lunches being deposited increased. The train was full of partyers, dressed in all manner of near-nakedness. Some plump, some thin, all nationalities, all ages. It was definitely sensory overload, especially because I still couldn’t determine the sex of some of them.
Maybe not having a sex is becoming a new breed of person. Why do we need to dress like one or the other? My mind wandered. Then they got on. We all saw them as we pulled up to the station, and we all tried not to state as they boarded our car.
I believe the tall one was a girl, but aside from her long, smooth legs I have no other reason to think that. I decided more he than she, so I’ll call her him/he. He was pencil-think, had multi-colored hair that hung in his face, with piercings in his nose and lip, and tattoos showing on every inch of skin that was exposed. He wore tight pants with tears all over them, and a tight rainbow shirt with buttons, pins and tears in it. In his right hand he held the end of a dog leash. Attached to the end of the least was a slightly plump young woman. The leash was connected to a collar around her neck, and they played up the scenario as they entered the train. She stood still and waited for him to tug the leash before she followed him onto the train and up to the front seat. He sat down, and she stood until he gave her the command to sit. She joined him on the seat, sitting straight and silent. He gave her a compliment and petted her head, and she relaxed into his lap.
There was a suburban family sitting next to me, a mother, father and teenage son. They smiled and whispered to each other, trying to be respectful but curious about the couple. The couple had taken a seat next to two young girls, who wore short shorts and bikini tops, who, until the arrival of the others, had stolen the attention of the car by making out and grinding on each other. As soon as the other couple sat down, the young girls whispered and giggled, then got up and moved to the back of the car, leaving the odd couple alone in the front.
The odd couple cuddled, and since they were facing me, I couldn’t hear what they said, but I could see their eyes. They seemed small and insignificant, at the mercy of the cruel world around them. He laid his head on her shoulder, and he suddenly seemed tired and weary. She held his head gently, bracing him up when he closed his eyes. She was his only shelter and defense from the outside world. They kissed and fondled each other inappropriately for a public place, and I couldn’t decide if they were truly tormented and ignorant of the rest of us, hiding in the dark minds of each other. Or if they were fully aware of the effect they were having on the rest of us, and were enjoying their silent F*** You to the world they hated.

June 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dreadful Day in the City

DREADFUL DAY IN THE CITY
The day began wonderfully. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Robert, and had several errands to run downtown, but nothing super-important. I was looking forward to spending the day riding buses, trains, and having plenty of time to finish a great book I was reading. One of the benefits of being a regular public transit rider in the suburbs, is that Rocco picks me up at Robert’s house in the short bus. Rocco is the morning driver, and Ricki is the afternoon driver. They pick me up and deliver me to the light rail station, or will take me to the grocery store if I need. It’s a great service, but I usually only take advantage of it in the morning, or when I’m carrying a lot of goods home. The rest of the time I enjoy the two mile walk from the station.
Today I had to be downtown by 10:30 to interview a homeless man for a monthly profile for the VOICE. When Rocco arrived to pick me up the air was cool and smelled of wet, fresh grass. The sun was rising, and it was shaping up to be a hot, but beautiful day. I had a moment of spontaneous euphoria as Rocco drove to the station, windows open and the cool breeze washing over me. It was going to be a good day.
Or so I thought. My interview turned out to be too time consuming and tedious. If I spend more than one hour on an interview, I end up making an hourly wage that is miniscule. The profile only entails 500 words, so a quick synopsis of their life is sufficient, mostly I need a couple of quote about selling the paper, and the point is to let readers know where to find them. It was quickly apparent that the theme of this interview was, as a man with undiagnosed bi-polar disorder, his life was disrupted and he remained homeless because he cycled through success and destruction every 4 to 6 months. I was sympathetic to his story, but he insisted on reciting EVERY detail of EVERY failure, EVERY six months of his life. I gently tried to prod him along, but he was insistent upon the details. It’s always hard for me because I do my best to respect every subject and make them feel that everything they say is of the utmost importance, but I really couldn’t afford to spend the three hours the interview was turning into.
I left a little angry with myself. Both for rushing the interview, and for letting it go on too long. I scolded myself as I walked the 1.3 miles home to my apartment. My next point of business was to renew my discount prescription card. I had let it lapse, and I only use it for certain items, my diabetic drugs I get at another pharmacy, which was my third stop for the day. So I entered the apothecary with my 15 pages of renewal paperwork, only to be told that it would not be honored. When I first signed up for the card, they allowed me to use the receipts and paperwork until my official card came in the mail. I assumed that would be the case again. Not so. For some reason, the law is that if you let it lapse there is no leeway for renewals. Why? I asked, that’s rather ridiculous. The young girls were sympathetic, but raised their arms in the air and made the statement, “We know it’s ridiculous. And there’s no reason for it. But it’s the law.” Frustrated I left. Mostly because there was nobody to rage against. Nobody to call and say “What the hell were you thinking?” It seems like just another ridiculous bit of control that is exercised against us in the name of “Medical Care.”
Between the never-ending interview and time spent arguing unsuccessfully, my bus transfer had expired, which meant I would have to spent another $2.25 to get to the pharmacy for my insulin. I get a great sense of accomplishment at planning my day precisely so I can get around with only one pass. It was already noon and I was cranky as I boarded the 52 bus bound for Denver Health. The driver was a nice old lady who met me with a big smile, and in a very pleasant voice announced every stop. I was feeling more relaxed as I got off the bus. I would pick up my test strips and insulin, have lunch, and still be able to make it home on the same transfer, since they were good for three hours. Then I noticed the nice driver had not changed the time for the hour, and my transfer was only good for two hours. Dammit!
I rallied again when I saw the line to drop off prescriptions was not that long. And I admit I rallied a little more as I listened to the man in front of me argue with the clerk about his prescription. They had the wrong units, or read the prescription wrong, whatever the problem, I heard that they were unable to give him enough insulin to get him through the month. He was a huge man, and when I overheard how much he was taking I thought it was impossible that one human could take that much and not die. I was very happy, and a little smug, knowing that my prescription included much less insulin, and, having promised my doctor I would keep a log of all food and insulin taken, I was feeling pretty high and mighty that my visit here would be much more pleasant.
Wrong again. I approached the window and told the apathetic clerk I would like two vials of humalog. Without checking the computer, she looked directly at me and said, “You can only get one.”
“They let me get two at a time. I do it every couple of months.” I replied. She didn’t bat an eye, and still didn’t even pull up my record.
“No. You can’t get two.” I checked my temper. It wasn’t that imperative, but since there was a minimal charge for them, it was more convenient to cover two months at a time. Whatever.
“Okay, then I just need test strips then too.” She finally pulled my record up on the computer.
“Sorry. It hasn’t been 30 days. You can’t get those until tomorrow.”
She should have thrown in some blood pressure medication for free, because I could feel my face going red and a trembling began deep inside. Deep breath, deep breath.
“I’m sorry. My doctor has instructed me to check my blood sugar five times a day. I can’t do that without test strips. Can you please look at my record?”
Her apathy was replaced with snottiness. “You can use the house phone to call him, then he can re-write the order and we can re-process the order. But no, I can’t do anything from here. You can come back tomorrow, then it will be 30 days.”
I really am proud of myself for letting it go. Mostly.
“Will tomorrow at 11 be okay to pick up your humalog?” Her apathy was back.
“No, I will wait for that please.” I said, I was not leaving empty-handed.
“Fine, it will be about 45 minutes.” She showed the first sign of emotion, in the form of delight as she informed me I would be waiting a long time. Ha! I had news for her.
“Wonderful!” I said, flashing her a big smile. “I have a good book I’ve been dying to finish, and the cafeteria has great salads.” That showed her. I marched off and went to pay too much money for a really bad salad, but dammit, I did read my book.
Insulin in hand, I got back on the 52 bus to continue my journey back out to Robert’s, where I looked forward to lounging on the patio and wrapping up some blog posts. I was in immediate trouble with the driver, as I tried to board the bus without realizing a wheel chair was trying to exit. He yelled at me to “hold up,” then I waited as he lowered the ramp and the chair rolled off. He made it a point to hold me at bay for about 30 second longer than necessary after he raised the ramp, I think just to make sure I knew he was the boss.
I took a seat in the back and looked at my transfer. It expired at 3 o’clock. It was now 2:45. We would get to the train station about 2:58, and I my stop was about 10 minutes past that. Angry at the original driver all over again, I wondered what the technicalities of the pass were. If I boarded the train while the pass was still good, would it count? Given my experience with RTD employees, it would not. But we were talking about a matter of minutes. My internal battle was interrupted by a woman in the middle of the bus yelling “This is my stop!”
“NO bell was rung!” Yelled the driver.
“I rang the bell!” She argued back.
“I stopped for the stop you rang the bell for! That was on the other side of the street! No bell was rung for THIS stop!” The driver yelled, as he slammed on the brakes, pitching all of us forward as the woman worked her way off the bus. That seemed like the final sign that this day was not the day to tempt fate. I bought a fresh ticket at the station, but was still grumbling about it as I bumped along. Then, two stops before my exit, a transit cop appeared from behind me.
“Tickets please.” I was giddy with relief as I flashed him my pass, he smiled, wished me a good day, and moved on to the next person. I looked at the time. It was 3:03.
I replayed my ridiculously tedious day in my head as I began the two mile walk home. But soon the bunny rabbits were darting across my path, the geese meandered toward me to shake me down for food, and I noticed the trees had finally started to turn green. Sure the day had cost me three transit passes, but I did come away with an interview, a bottle of insulin, and narrowly escaped a transit fine of $75. And in retrospect, I couldn’t really remember the last time I had such a terrible day. Most of my days have been good, so I shed my worries along the walking path, happy to know that I probably had another six months or so before I would have a bad day again.

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

YOUR MONEY’S NO GOOD HERE

YOUR MONEY IS NO GOOD HERE… 

Throughout my life I have had men buy me drinks, dinner and gifts. But today a curious thing happened with a gentleman on the 52 bus. The 52 serves Denver Health, which is where I fill my prescriptions. My monthly visits are always a lesson in humility, as I stand in the long line of people waiting for our drugs. There is always someone missing a leg, usually their stump is wrapped in the dirty rags of the homeless. Someone is usually talking about the cancer they got, and there is the old man or woman, skeletal and sickly, slumped in the chair while a family member waits in line for them.

Today was not so busy, the weather was bad and people don’t like to venture out if they don’t have to. My usual hour long wait took only 30 minutes, which meant my bus transfer was still good. I hurried to the bus stop and joined the line of waiting riders. An elderly gentleman stood in front of me, and he struck up a conversation immediately. His clothes were dirty, and his gray beard was stained brown around his lips from smoking cigarettes. We chatted about the weather and he asked where I was going. I told him downtown, and I was happy because my transfer was still good. As the bus approached he took out his wallet and made a motion with his hand.

 ” Put that away. Your transfer’s no good here. I got this.” I tried to explain that my transfer was valid, and I couldn’t use it any other time, but he proudly displayed his pass to the bus driver and declared “she’s with me.” I followed him onto the bus and sat in the seat opposite him.

 “I got a companion pass.” He said. “I can get anyone I want on any bus or train. You wanna go  to breakfast? I just got my social security check.”

Flattered but a little creeped out, I graciously declined and got off at the next stop. He smiled big and squeezed my hand as I got up to leave, and I suspect he spent the rest of the day bragging to his friends about the “pretty little” thing he treated to a bus ride.

 

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Haunted by the young

HAUNTED BY THE YOUNG
I made the tragic mistake of boarding the 65 bus in the early afternoon, just as the junior high and high schools were letting out. The bus filled up with young hooligans quickly, and I scrunched deeper into the corner back seat. I had deliberately chosen that seat to be isolated and enjoy the scenic ride along Monaco, with only my thoughts go keep me company. It was snowing heavily and I was slowly working my way to Robert’s house. I had spent the morning writing mindless online posts, and intended to enjoy the ride. I looked forward to the two mile walk from the bus stop to his house in the fresh air and snow.

The children were cramping my space,as three of them took seats near me and began their senseless teenage chatter. They appeared to be about 13 or 14, two boys and one girl. They looked a bit nerdy by teenage standards, the boys’ feet looking too big for their skinny ankles, which peeked out from beneath pants that in my teenage years we would have called floods. Their pants were baggy, not in a gangster kind of way, but more like they had gone through a growth spurt since the beginning of the year, losing their baby fat and thinning out, as they simultaneously grew taller.

Their cheeks were red and blotchy, not from the cold so much as that constant state of insecurity and embarrassment indicative of young males. One boy and the girl were teasing the other boy, apparently he was moving, and this was his last day at school. They were well spoken, teasing him about needing therapy without his calming presence, dramatically declaring their love for him, how could they live without him. The words were said in jest, and the young man took the good natured ribbing quietly, only the deepening red spots on his cheeks indicated he heard their words.

I listened to this banter for several miles, before the young man pulled the cord signaling his stop. They gave him a final farewell jab of love, and he silently got off the bus. He turned to wave good bye, and I could see the forbidden tears of sorrow begin to fall down his face.

April 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment