Urban Journeys - We Ride The Bus

by David Rambeau

While waiting for the Jefferson bus recently to go downtown I read the Old Testament in full. On my return home from work that evening I read the New Testament. I figure in the coming weeks I'll be able to read "The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire" and "War and "Peace". No doubt my literary skills will grow while waiting for the bus now that driver layoffs have started. I may be cold, wet and windblown, but I'll be literate.

I asked one of the drivers for the new schedule. She didn't have one. She said a lot of riders have been asking the same question. Oh well, why should DDOT management tell riders when buses will arrive. Like one of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's advisors said, "If they can't catch a bus, let them take a cab." Real sensitive wouldn't you say? Reminds me of the saying mistakenly attributed to the French queen, Marie Antoinette, "Bread? They have no bread? Let them eat cake." Of course she went to the guillotine, which I don't recommend for any of Bing's advisors, but...

One afternoon I boarded the bus, took my seat, and watched a rather unusual scene unfold. This big, thick sister was running down the street trying to catch the bus I had just got on. Her hair was flapping in the wind; her tongue hanging out like Michael Jordan driving to the hoop. Peculiar thing was she was waving at the driver with her aluminum cane trying to get his attention. The driver waited for her. When the dear sister fell into her seat I thought she was going to die; she was huffing and puffing like a steam engine. I guess a near death experience is better than waiting two hours for the next bus.

She wasn't the only track star of the street that Saturday morning. Right behind her was Detroit's version of Hussein Bolt, with a few major differences. At first he was sitting in his wheel-chair pumping as fast as he could, but that wasn't getting it. I could tell from the expression on his face he was afraid the bus would leave without him, so he leapt out of his wheelchair, snapped it together, tucked it under his arm, and started hippity-hobbling as fast as he could to the bus, stumbled up the three stairs, paid his fare, popped open his chair, sat down and wheeled himself into the disabled section to be strapped in place so he wouldn't be thrown out the windshield when the bus hit a crevice on Woodward, Detroit's main street.

The other riders stood up cheering and applauded his success. One sister unzipped her tattered, plastic shopping bag, took out a laurel wreath and ceremoniously placed it on his head. Another draped his shoulders with an American flag while a quartet of young brothers sang the national anthem in four-part harmony. That done we returned to our separate cares and woes, and without further ado, the bus pulled off on its urban journey.

This was a much more successful conclusion than another not so hopeful. I was walking home late one Sunday night on East Jefferson when I noticed what I thought was another fellow in a wheel- chair at a bus-stop near the corner where I turn north to head home. And yes, when I approached, sure enough, he was sitting there looking resolutely in the direction where he assumed a bus would come from. When I got to the point where I was beside him I turned and said, "You know the bus on Jefferson doesn't run after 8:00 p.m. on Sunday. He said, "I didn't know that; I've been waiting two hours."

My heart dropped. He looked at his watch. "Look at that, it's ten thirty." I guess he'd really been out there since eight thirty. He missed the last bus by about thirty minutes. How would he know? There was no sign on the pole. He started jabboring about looking at apartments to rent in the neighborhood, and just looking around. I listened a bit, murmurred something meaningless, and thought I'd better start walking again before he asks for help or something I couldn't do. I backed up a couple of steps, said, "Yeah, yeah, that's right." I backed up some more. "I hope you can work it out." I turned and didn't look back. He was still talking. Monday morning I went to the same bus-stop. He wasn't there. I guess he worked it out; I certainly hope he did. I haven't seen him since.

Urban Journeys - We Ride The Bus by David Rambeau

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