Sunday, April 22, 2007

A post for John B

I don't remember the exact date I found this him on blogspot but it was awhile back. I was doing a blog on 360 about lurking and I did a Yahoo image search for the word lurker. I wanted to see what came up for the word lurker. One picture was a comic book character looking guy that I liked. So I clicked on it and it led me to a blog....I was like....hmmmm interesting. So I clicked on the blog to read it. I noticed the whole blog was based on this guy's travels on the city bus. I used to love riding the bus just to watch people when I lived in St. Paul. So I read his blogs and loved his style of writing and his detailed accounts of riding the bus. I was hooked and bookmarked him. That was JohnB. The only person that reads me here that is not from my 360 world or my column. You will have to check him out one of these days. So then today, I realized I wrote a story of riding the bus, but it is kind of sad. I remember when I wrote it I was looking for a picture of a view from the bus window and I couldn't find one anywhere. But I noticed John has some pictures from the bus window on the side of his blog. They are awesome, I could smell the deisel when I look at them. Anyway. Before I copy and paste my story I wrote back a year ago I will tell you the day it happened I was narrating it as if it was written and I was reading it. I do that sometimes, I'm weird. So like it was the saddest day in my life, so I will tell you a funny story of riding the bus, well it's criminal and funny. My boys and I wanted to go to the mall and we hurried to the bus stop, so we didn't hit the rush hour fare. I had the exact change figured out and when we jumped on I put my money in. $1.25 for me and 50 cents per kid. Which was $ ma'm it's rush hour the asshole driver told me. I was like WHAT? I look at his digital clock and the minute changed over so it was just now rush hour when I put the money in it wasn't. Rush hour was 1.75 per person, even if you was a newborn! I owed like $4.25 more and he was looking at me like the Grinch that stole Christmas! All I had was a ten and he said "You know I don't make change!" So I threw the whole ten in there, because the people behind me were cursing under their breath. I swear I could hear the words "hoochie mama." I sat down pissed off because I was ripped off. So we go to the mall and I forget about the Grinch. I played it out just right so we hit the route when rush hour was over. I had exact change and I jump on the bus. It was the Grinch again, he smiled and said it's still rush hour. I was like WHAT? I look at the clock and it is 1 minute BEFORE Rush Hour is over. I just stand there waiting for the clock to turn. The Grinch was like WOULD YOU HURRY UP! PEOPLE ARE BEHIND YOU! So I put my $2.75 in and tell him I have to look in my purse for more money. All I have is a twenty. I immediately start asking people for change. Most ignored me but one lady asked me why and I told her as I avoided the Grinch's glare in the mirror. Just jump she said, he's an asshole. I was like WHAT? She said he won't chase you and smiled. I was like OMG and she told me lots of people do it. Especially since you put extra money in before I would if I was you but thats me and I ain't you. I thought about it. I had like 95 cents in my pocket. So when we get to my stop he looks at me through his shades and says "You got the money." like he was pushing drugs or something. My kids are off the bus, waiting for me. I put the 95 cents in, look at him and say Sorry and jump off the bus before he can grab me. I tell my kids..."GO!" and we walked real fast to our apartment. I told them we just broke the law. So yeah I am horrible and after that, everytime I got on his route he made sure I had ALL the money in. So that's my first bus story and here is my second. Written a year ago.

Views From The Bus Window.

She watched the familiar corners and storefronts pass by with a heavy heart. There was the diner she thought she would someday get off at that stop and have a lunch there. There went the quirky furniture shop she had always meant to go in. The antique store she actually did go in and buy vintage postcards. All of it went by the bus window that she leaned her head on. Her 3 year old son was also looking out the window, but his heart probably isn't heavy, she thought as she pushed his hair down, only to watch it stand up again. That was worth a slight smile.

"Randolph." The bus driver shouted.

"Let's go, that's us." She told her son and they got off the bus to wait for the 21 bus.

"Where we going, Mommy?" he looks up at her with his puppy eyes.

"To my school baby"

"Am I going to sleep on the floor again?" he asks smiling, guilty because everytime he went to her art class with her, he fell asleep.

"No baby, mommy is done with school now ok. I am not going anymore" she says and swallows the lump in her throat.

The 21 bus pulls up and the girl gets in with her son. The ride is only a few short blocks but, she wasn't in the mood for walking today. Remembering when she started, she would always choose to walk, with a happy skip to her step. She lets her son pull the string to stop and they get off.

"The campus is still so beautiful," she thinks as she looks at what has happened in the 2 weeks since she has been there. The art building has decorated and there are about a hundred carved pumpkins on the steps. There was no Oil Painting 101 today and that is why she chose today to collect her things. The room seemed so dark, even with the skylights, maybe because it was empty. The smells, the oils, the turpentine, she never thought she would miss that. As she packs her paints and brushes, she thinks of the first day of school.

She had made this decision in life to go to college and pursue her dream of being an elementary teacher at the age of 30. "Wow, by the time I am 34 I can be someone's teacher!" the thought of it used to make her giddy. She chose The College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN. The day her acceptance letter came she was so happy, she took her children out to dinner.

"This is it boys, no more hard times. No more struggling. Your mom is going to get her college education and have a good job. No more bartending, waitressing, or anything else I hate doing."

They were proud of their mother.

She found an apartment in a good neighborhood near a huge park and zoo. The rent was double what she was paying now. With public assistance and her craftwork though, she thought she could afford it.

The day of freshmen orientation, she was absolutely terrified. I am so old, she thought. Everyone here is going to be so young and here I am, 30 and mother of 3. She was waiting in a lounge area for the orientation to start. A girl walks up to her.

"You have children, right? I memorized the names of all the freshmen who have children and seen your name tag"

"Yeah" she says, wondering if this was a game or what, because it was weird and she was already nervous.

"We are having a SWAP meeting right after orientation, right here in the lounge. SWAP is Students Who Are Parents. We get together and plan activities for the children. You are welcome to join."

"Thank you" the girl says "I will be there."

That took the girls nervous level down one notch. Soon after they sheperded all the freshmen into the Chapel. The Dean spoke and many of the faculty, various groups and the Student President. Many Alumni stood up and spoke of the possibilities at St. Kate's. When orientation was over, only the faculty was released. Afterwards, the freshmen were instructed to leave the chapel through the same exit as the faculty. The exit was a tunnel like structure that adjoined the chapel to the commons. They were intructed to leave pew by pew in single file. Upon entering the tunnel, the faculty and upperclassmen were lined up clapping. Making the freshmen feel as if all was possible.

After her SWAP meeting, life seemed so promising. "I will be sitting over on that bench someday with a group of people laughing. Just like the pictures in the brochure." she thought.

"How could so much change in a matter of minutes?" she thought as she finished packing her paints and brushes.

"Come on baby, lets go home." she grabs his hand and they walk to the bus stop.

While waiting for her bus, she thought of how tired she was. How hard she fought with welfare in the past 2 weeks to help her get her funding for daycare. How welfare turned her down, only to say she needed a job over 30 hours a week if she wanted daycare, even if she was a full-time student. How she approached SWAP to see if they had any ideas. How she marched downtown to the big social services building to give her caseworker a piece of her mind and was told to take a number and sit down. When she did get to speak her mind, her caseworker told her no daycare without a job, because you are under a sanction for not having a job. "Well thats a fuckin Catch-22 don't you think? Do you really think a daycare will take my kids for all the hours I am in school and 30 hours extra? I might as well give them away!Why don't the father get sanctioned, why can't he be punished. I feel like you are punishing me for being a single mom and I am trying to do something here, I am not milking the system like so many others!" She turned and walked out. She thought of how she wrote to her State Senator and complained. It was an election year, so she recieved a quick response. He understood her anger, when he was done with the election he would get back to her on the issue. She was saddened when he died in a plane crash just weeks before the election. She felt as though the gods were against her.

Walking away from the college that day broke her heart, all things that were possible, just weeks earlier, died that day. Walking away that day was the hardest thing she ever done in her life.

The bus came and the girl and her son found a seat by the window. She wanted to watch life go by as she went home,... from the bus window.

*God I miss the bus.


Josie said...

This is a heartbreaking story - a mirror of everything that is wrong with "the system". But I like knowing that despite this devastating blow, you carry on and are determined to return to school... you haven't given up hope! I liked the first story too - life doesn't always work by the rules! :-)

JohnB said...

It is very humbling that you would dedicate this very personal story to my name...I am glad you found my site, only because it had led me to your own containing prose so earthy and honest; written with such eloquence. You feel like an old soul Dana, truly. I know what you mean about watching "life go by" through the window...I have often related being in that to/from world of transit as existing in a 'gateway' between worlds, and that perhaps time in some essence halts its grind on us for bits of moments while there waiting for the end to come.

Oh by the way, I have yet to come across a driver as pathetic as the one forcing a splitting hairs on the rules of rush hour...I will say the drivers here in Seattle for the most part are generally an understanding "breed".

Missy A said...

its a true story isn't it

Alissa said...

I remember reading that story before at the other place. I still shake my fist at the way you've been wronged, but if it weren't for these life experiences, you wouldn't be headed into the field that you are now, and maybe you can make the difference for those that come after you...