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day 18 – tales from the bus, act 2

November 18, 2008

homeless

Whether it be the 211, 80, 535 express, la 51direction ouest, Greyhound, Air Canada, orange line or green line… it seems I’ve always been rather partial to writing on the bus, metro, train, plane and even the occasional automobile.  I call it the PT (Public Transport) experience (not really, but all the kids are acronyming these days and I’m running with it, DMC style.  Yes, that is correct, you did just witness two lame jokes in one sentence… I know, it takes skill).  Moving along…

In continuing with yesterday’s theme, I recently found a whole whack of journal entries written from the back of a bus (real paper journals people, filled with a strange blue substance called ink).  So I’m thinking I might have a few more PT tales to share with you this week.  If you’re not down with that… you can always go look at the cute kittens & puppies.  Otherwise, won’t you join me?  The wheels on the bus go round and round….

Act 2: Summer of 2003, on the 211

There’s this woman I see on the bus, almost every day.  She boards somewhere along Lakeshore, walks with a side to side gait (her girth doesn’t allow long strides but she manages) and sits on the front seat, hand clutched around the railing.  Same spot, all the time.  She is fairly enormous and I mention it only to compare this feature to her very small head.  She resembles a bird, with thin downward lips like the gape of a robin.  Her nose is the beak of a sharp-shinned hawk and her eyes are magnified under enormous glasses, which cover half her pale face.  She wears so many layers, she almost passes for a bum; green polyester pants, frayed gloves, a white silk scarf hiding her dirty blond hair, brittle and dry like straw.  She looks ahead, swallows a lot and blinks hard.  Because of her voluptuous size, and because she doesn’t ever take her backpack (which is covered in key chains) off before sitting she ends up at the very edge of her seat, hence the clutching of the rail.

I sound sans coeur when I speak of her, but I feel a strange kind of affection toward her or the character I think she is.  She looks at everyone that steps off the bus, up and down, up and down, no shame, don’t mind if I stare.  She cocks her head, stares sideways and swallows and blinks, which further magnifies her robin-like looks, one pecking for worms after the rain. When children board, she smiles and I see through her brown translucent teeth, kindness.  And I see beneath all those layers, a gentle, glowing heart.   But nobody ever looks back at her.  In a culture obsessed with perfection and super model beauty, nobody every smiles at the so-called “unfortunate-looking” ones, which is sad because they are beautiful too if you take the time to look at them; they too are part of this masterpiece called life.

So I smile her way as I get off the bus and I almost say “see you tomorrow” but the words somehow stay stuck in my throat.

We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.” – Mother Teresa

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Alison permalink
    November 19, 2008 6:18 am

    I don’t know why we so often double guess ourselves when we have in mind to perfom an act of kindness. It’s like there is a fear that the receiver will somehow be offended or think, that’s wierd, why did she/he do that? But I think we just have to go with our gut feeling, and if we feel that someone needs for us to reach out to them in someway we ought to just go with it. We’ll feel better and I’m pretty sure they will too.
    Thanks for the lovely story. I wonder where that lady is today and what she’s doing?

  2. November 19, 2008 2:32 pm

    C’mon, DO IT! Or, you could always give her a potato.

  3. November 20, 2008 6:50 pm

    a smile is lovely i think … 🙂

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